Heading into the 2013 offseason, New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora could test the free agency waters as he attempts to find a starting gig.
Although he has made it clear that he wants to stay with the Giants, Umenyiora also isn’t ready to settle for a role as a backup. The 30-year-old pass-rush specialist knows that if he stays with the G-Men, he likely will have to take a backseat to defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck, serving as a situational pass rusher.
Meanwhile, there’s another team that could use Umenyiora’s talents. Apparently, the veteran defensive end wouldn’t mind staying local and joining the New York Jets.
“Rex Ryan, when I was coming out of college he was with Baltimore at the time and he came down to work me out at Troy, just me and him,” Umenyiora said. “We had a pretty good time out there so I’ve always enjoyed him as a coach and as a person. That might be a good fit.”
Seeing as the Jets finished the 2012 season with only 30 total sacks, adding Umenyiora could be a significant boost to their pass rush. They used their 2012 first-round pick on defensive end Quinton Coples, who showed some promise but failed to prove himself as an instant contributor. Fellow end Muhammad Wilkerson is a strong defender against the run, but hasn’t been able to provide consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
This past season, Umenyiora managed six sacks in only four starts, lifting his career total to 75. Still, Umenyiora believes that he can be an elite-level pass rusher.
“I feel like I’m a Pro Bowl player and I feel like I’m a starter in this league,” Umenyiora said. “Obviously that might be difficult to do in New York. But the door’s still open there. It’s something I would really relish that opportunity to finish my career there.”
Unless the Giants and GM Jerry Reese offer Umenyiora significant playing time and a reasonable contract, there’s a good possibility that he seriously weighs other options when free agency begins. If he does test his value on the open market, don’t be surprised to see the Jets and Ryan put his interest to the test.