One of the main preseason storylines for the Giants last year was Osi Umenyiora’s contract situation and resultant holdout. Osi, who had two years left on the 7-year, $41 million deal he signed in 2005, insisted that in April 2008, Jerry Reese promised him either a new contract or a trade, a claim that he took to court in Brady v. NFL—the then-decertified player union’s antitrust suit against the League.
Osi never got his new deal, but he put his issues aside and was a key contributor in Big Blue’s Super Bowl run—especially in the postseason, where he recorded 3.5 sacks. Everything was copacetic: Osi, criticized in training camp for his “selfishness” and ill-timed knee surgery, had disregarded his contractual issues and played 13 games of Pro-Bowl caliber football. More importantly, he got a ring out of it.
Just two months later, the post-Super Bowl feel good period is over and Osi’s contractual issues have resurfaced.
The 2003 2nd-round pick ended his holdout last season mainly because he realized that not playing would diminish his chances of cashing in on a new deal in the future. But with just one year left on his deal, Osi will be even more adamant about having his contract addressed this time around.
The Giants began offseason workouts last week, and—to no one’s surprise—72 was not at the facility. He has not shied away from the contractual questions that figure to hover over Big Blue for the second consecutive preseason. Here’s what Umenyiora told the Star Ledger last week:
"It would be a wonderful thing to do to start your career with one team and finish it with one team. I would love to do it.”The drama will only increase as we approach the Fall.
"Is it realistic? Is it reality? Who knows. I don't like being a backup, I can tell you that. So, who knows how that is going to shake out. Hopefully I'll be able to stay here and finish out my career, but I just don't know.”
Osi wants to be paid like one of the top pass-rushers in the league, and he probably deserves it: 9 sacks in 9 games (plus 3.5 in the postseason) while playing in a backup role is no small feat. The man can rush the passer. But the Giants simply can’t afford to reward him with the type of deal that he wants.
Reese said that he is open to working out a contract extension with the defensive end. But when you take into account his asking price and the Giants cap situation, keeping Osi in New York won't be easy.
Big Blue is working with about $2.4 million in cap room, which means that a major contract re-structuring project would have to take place before Reese even thought about re-signing Osi.
Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul aren’t going anywhere, and neither is Mathias Kiwanuka, who should see more time at defensive end this season with new signee Keith Rivers lining up at weak-side linebacker.
With that in mind: Could the Giants use Osi? Yes. Do they need Osi? Not necessarily.
Osi is 30, but did nothing last year to make anyone think that he’s going to slow down any time soon. There is a premium on pass rushers in today’s NFL, and Osi is a unique talent—a speedy, powerful force on the edge who not only gets to the quarterback but often finds a way to make him cough up the ball, too.
The Giants would probably get a second-round pick and another late round pick in exchange for Osi if they dealt him before the start of training camp—and before his current contractual dissatisfaction evolves into the kind of highly-publicized holdout drama that will drive down his trade value. In other words, if they’re going to trade him, better sooner than later.
I’m not saying that the Giants have to trade Osi or that they will trade him, but they probably should.