There is no question the New York Giants need depth at the linebacker position but the Giants haven’t spent a first round pick on a linebacker since 1984 when they selected Carl Banks. In 1984 the Giants ran a 3-4 defense so a greater emphasis was placed on linebackers at that time. Now, GM Jerry Reese knows the pass rush is still the lifeblood of his team and the defensive line could take priority come draft day as the Giants try to fill the void left by Chris Canty and Osi Umenyiora.
Instead of spending their first pick on a linebacker it is very likely the Giants will try to find linebackers in the bargain bin or later in the draft. It is possible that the Giants re-sign Chase Blackburn and Keith Rivers, whose first year in a Giants uniform was plagued by injuries much like his entire NFL career. Blackburn has been a solid contributor for the Giants for years but has really become an integral part of the defense since being signed away from his substitute teaching job in 2011. As long as the money works out for both sides Blackburn should be back in a Giants uniform next season.
However, even if Blackburn is re-signed the Giants still need to add depth. There are just too many questions at the position. Can Mark Herzlich step up and become the player the Giants had hoped for when they signed him as an undrafted free agent a couple of seasons ago? Will Spencer Paysinger continue to improve? If Keith Rivers is re-signed there is the question of his health and whether or not he can stay on the field.
Adding a linebacker through free agency is a real option and Daryl Smith could be a viable option for the Giants. Smith, who will soon be 31, is the Jacksonville Jaguars all-time leading tackler and is coming off an injury plagued 2012 season, playing in only the last two games of the year last season because of a groin injury. Smith could be an excellent insurance policy for the Giants, a proven performer who could be looking for a make-good contract to reestablish his value.
Like with any free agent, the price has to match for both team and player. Smith shouldn’t be asking for a ton of money and would be an excellent stopgap or insurance policy in case the Giants younger linebackers regress or injuries hit the unit hard again.