The New York Giants and Justin Tuck have been engaging in a diplomatic game of cat and mouse all offseason. Tuck initiated the verbal joust by first saying he wants to stay a Giant, later admitting he wants to test NFL free agency and then almost immediately backtracking and offering effusive praise for the Giants organization. Most recently, Giants general manager Jerry Reese encouraged Tuck to test the free agent market and pursue the best available offer.
So what does it all mean? I think that ultimately Justin Tuck will re-sign with the Giants for a hometown discount because doing so is in his long-term best interest.
Tuck is too intelligent to overlook all of the perks he enjoys in New York. He’s the defensive captain of the team and his well-mannered and thoughtful demeanor makes him an easily marketable guy in the nation’s premier media market. Over his career, Tuck has landed prominent endorsement deals with Subway, EA and Nike.
Tuck’s ex-teammate Michael Strahan used the high-profile New York market to launch a successful second-career as a television host. If Tuck finishes his career in New York, he’ll remain relevant in the public eye and offer himself the opportunity to make a similar transition.
Tuck’s also heavily involved in philanthropic events, and the annual fundraising event Tuck holds for his charity, “Tuck’s Rush for Literacy,” benefits from the relevance New York City provides. Tuck’s not going to find an equal stage for his good works elsewhere, and he knows it.
Re-signing Tuck would benefit the Giants organization as well. This past season, Tuck put together a consistent and impressive campaign, remaining injury-free and collecting double-digit sacks for the first time in three years. His above-average play against the run makes him a quality three-down defensive end.
If the Giants lose Tuck and don’t fill the position through free agency or an early draft pick, their pass rush becomes a liability. Jason Pierre-Paul is returning from injury and Mathias Kiwanuka is likely to be cut. Tuck’s eventual replacement, Damontre Moore has shown flashes of athletic brilliance on special teams but does not yet possess the football maturity to be a starter.
Bottom Line: The Giants should offer Tuck a three-year, $11.5 million contract with $5.5 million guaranteed. He still has a couple productive years left to offer, and the young Giants on the defensive line (Moore, Johnathan Hankins) will benefit from Tuck’s veteran leadership.
If Tuck’s demands ultimately exceed this assessed value, the Giants should let him walk and wish him well. Tuck’s best years are behind him, and New York would be better served spending salary-cap funds on Linval Joseph.