Justin Tuck has been a leader on the New York Giants defense ever since Michael Strahan retired following the team’s 2007 championship run. However, in the past two seasons, Tuck has managed only nine total sacks, a far cry from the 11.5 he recorded in 2010.
The New York Giants, whose pass rush was supposed to be their strong suit, struggled all year against opponents’ passing games, allowing almost 255 yards per game through the air, the 28th worst rate in the NFL. A lot of that can be attributed to the Giants’ failure to get to the quarterback.
This season, Jason Pierre-Paul led the team with just 6.5 sacks. Osi Umenyiora finished second with six sacks. Tuck managed just four sacks this past season and five in 2011. Now, with Umenyiora all but gone and the Giants owing Tuck $4.5 million, the Giants must decide which direction they want to take their defensive line.
With the Giants a little over $4 million over the cap next season, it is feasible that they may ask Tuck to restructure his deal given his performance the last two seasons. Whether or not he will is a much different question.
Tuck is about to turn 30 this coming March and it is clear injuries and age might be catching up to him. He missed four games in 2011 because of neck and shoulder ailments. This season he played in 15 games but was clearly not the same player he was from 2010.
Would the Giants consider cutting Tuck if he doesn’t agree to restructure his deal? It is possible. While not an ideal situation given the question marks surrounding the Giants all along the defensive line, Jerry Reese will need to look at making his team a Super Bowl contender again in 2013. That could mean cutting ties with Tuck if the defensive leader doesn’t agree to restructure.
Of course, the Giants could look to corners elsewhere before asking Tuck to take a cut in pay. Chris Canty, for example, is scheduled to make a base salary of $6.25 million and missed quite a bit of time due to injury this season. There are other contracts the Giants will look at restructuring or ridding themselves of before they tackle Tuck and his salary.
The Giants do have options to replace Umenyiora. Adrian Tracy and Adewale Ojomo are two players currently on the roster whom the Giants believe can take the next step. There is also the possibility of the Giants moving Mathias Kiwanuka back to defensive end, a position he seemed to excel at before the Giants made the decision to convert him into a linebacker. Then, there is always the likely chance the Giants will use the NFL Draft to bring in some fresh talent on the defensive line. However, can the Giants really afford to replace both Umenyiora and Tuck in the same off-season?
I would be shocked it Justin Tuck weren’t a Giant next season. However, in today’s NFL, nothing is outside the realm of possibility.