Over the next few weeks, "Shutdown Corner" will pay homage to "Office Space" (TPS reports) as we take a quick look back at each team's 2012 season and a look at what lies ahead for the 2013 offseason. We continue in the NFC East with the New York Giants.
2012 record: 9-7
What went wrong: A 6-2 record at the midway point of the season had the defending Super Bowl champion Giants poised to walk away with the NFC East and defend the Lombardi Trophy in the playoffs. The Giants would lose three of their first four games to start the second half of the season, including a 17-16 loss to the eventual NFC East champion Washington Redskins on Dec. 3. After a blowout win of the New Orleans Saints the following week, the Giants were shut out 34-0 by the Atlanta Falcons and lost 33-14 to the Baltimore Ravens, putting them in a situation where they needed to beat the Philadelphia Eagles and have three teams lose and/or tie to make the playoffs. The Giants won, but two of the three teams they needed to lose in the regular season finale won their games, eliminating the Giants from the postseason.
The Giants' problems were largely on the defensive side of the ball. In terms of raw numbers, the Giants allowed 383.4 yards per game, which ranked 31st in the NFL, ahead of only the New Orleans Saints, who were historically bad last season. The Giants were 25th against the run, 28th against the pass and ranked 30th on third downs. A pass rush that posted 46 sacks in 2010 and 48 sacks in 2011 had just 33 in 2012, posting one or no sacks in seven of 16 games. Defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora, who had 25.5 sacks combined in 2011, had 12.5 last season. The lack of a pass rush contributed to a pass defense that yielded 60 plays of 20+ yards and 13 plays of 40+ yards.
What went right: Offensively, the Giants ranked seventh in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted team DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) metric, ranking fifth in rushing and 11th in passing. Ahmad Bradshaw played through chronic foot issues to lead the Giants with 1,015 yards , while Andre Brown had a team-high eight touchdowns before landed on injured reserve in late November. Brown landing on IR and Bradshaw's injuries led to first-round pick David Wilson emerging from his fumble-caused exile to Tom Coughlin's doghouse to carry the ball 43 times for 285 yards and three touchdowns in the final month of the regular season.
Victor Cruz topped 80 receptions and 1,000 yards for a second consecutive season and set a career-high with 10 touchdown grabs. The Giants also got a productive season out of tight end Martellus Bennett, who had 55 receptions for 626 yards and five touchdowns to go along with some high-quality blocking in the run game. The Giants offensive line allowed a league-low 20 sacks in 2012, finishing third in the Football Outsiders' "Adjusted Sack Rate" metric.
The Giants ranked 10th in Football Outsiders' special teams DVOA metric and were the best in kick returns, where rookie running back Wilson averaged 26.9 yards per return and had a 97-yard kick return for a touchdown in the shellacking of the Saints.
Coaching/front office changes: No changes to Tom Coughlin's coaching staff, but the front office did lose senior pro personnel analyst David Gettleman, who is now the general manager of the Carolina Panthers.
Estimated 2013 cap space: $4.518 million
Victor Cruz could cash in this offseason (USA Today Sports Images)
Possible cap casualties: The Giants were well over their adjusted 2013 cap number (~$122.1 million) before releasing running back Ahmad Bradshaw, defensive tackle Chris Canty and linebacker Michael Boley, and restructuring the contract of cornerback Terrell Thomas. The Giants are likely not done making cuts or restructuring contracts before the new league year begins on March 12.
A prime candidate for release is offensive tackle David Diehl, who started nine of 13 games in 2012 and is due $4.825 million in cash in 2013, including a salary that escalated to $4.475 million after the 32-year-old played a certain amount of games at left tackle in a previous season. Diehl is entering the final season of his contract and the team could double their cap space by releasing him. Cornerback Corey Webster is coming off a rough season and is scheduled to earn $7.25 million in cash compensation, including a $7 million base salary, in 2013. With the Giants wanting to re-sign players like Victor Cruz, Will Beatty, Martellus Bennett, Lawrence Tynes and Chase Blackburn, Webster, who'll turn 31 before the new league year, could be released or asked to restructure to allow the front office to address those free agent priorities.
Other restructure candidates begin with quarterback Eli Manning, who is scheduled to earn $13.5 million in cash and has a cap number of $20.85 million this season. Guard Chris Snee is due $6.75 million in cash with an $11 million cap figure and could be asked to rework his deal. Same goes for safety Antrel Rolle, who is due $7.25 million in cash with a $9 million cap hit.
Unrestricted free agents
Ramses Barden, WR
William Beatty, OT
Travis Beckum, TE
Martellus Bennett, TE
Rocky Bernard, DT
Chase Blackburn, LB
Kevin Boothe, G
David Carr, QB
Domenik Hixon, WR
Bruce Johnson, CB
Sean Locklear, OT
Kregg Lumpkin, RB
Kenny Phillips, S
Keith Rivers, LB
Justin Tryon, CB
Lawrence Tynes, K
Osi Umenyiora, DE
Brian Witherspoon, CB
Restricted free agents
Andre Brown, RB
Stevie Brown, S
Victor Cruz, WR
Ryan Torain, RB
RFA tender amounts in 2013 are:
• $1.323 million for right of first refusal and/or original draft round compensation
• $2.023 for right of first refusal and second round draft selection
• $2.879 for right of first refusal and first round draft selection
Franchise Tag candidates: Even though he's a restricted free agent, the obvious choice would be Cruz, who has 168 receptions for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns over the last two seasons. The Giants and Cruz have been working towards an extension that could happen before March 4, the deadline to use the receiver tag – worth an estimated $10.373 million, based on a projected league-wide cap number of $121.1 million – on Cruz. Even if a deal could not be reached, if no team was willing to sign Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace to an offer sheet when he was a restricted free agent in 2012, it wouldn't be a shock to see the Giants gamble and place the first-round RFA tender on Cruz.
Beatty, a 2009 second-round pick out of UCONN, finally stayed healthy and, with his rookie contract expiring, started the final 15 games of the season at left tackle. To use the tag on Beatty would cost the Giants $9.676 million in fully guaranteed base salary in 2013.
Previous installments of the "Offseason TPS Reports" series:
AFC East: New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns
AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys