Here we go again with Osi Umenyiora and the New York Giants.
After getting the Giants to allow him to seek a trade in the past, Umenyiora has switched agents, undoubtedly signaling that the free-agent-to-be is once again seriously considering changing teams next.
And, the Giants should let him, by revisiting Umenyiora’s earlier request for a trade.
While Umenyiora, who will enter the final year of his current contract next season, has largely outperformed the way New York has compensated him, the Giants should take a page from the organization they beat to earn their past two Super Bowl titles.
Whereas the Giants got the best of the New England Patriots in those meetings — with Umenyiora playing a big role in that success — they haven’t been nearly as consistent on an annual basis over that time.
One of the biggest reasons New England remains a top Super Bowl favorite each year is that the Patriots are rarely loyal to a fault.
They have no problems moving on if a talented player wants more money than would fit well into their future plans, or if that player is a problem in terms of team chemistry.
The latter isn’t the case with Umenyiora, but the former might be for New York.
Essentially, the Patriots stay successful because they often put their system ahead of even a key player, and that approach usually works. And, the Giants have already done the same (see the departure of wide receiver Steve Smith or tight end Kevin Boss in favor of Victor Cruz or Jake Ballard, to name but a couple of several examples).
Umenyiora’s 75 sacks and 32 forced fumbles are more than New York could have expected since the Giants drafted him in the second round out of Troy University in 2003.
Yet, each one of his biggest years has been followed by a sharp downturn — from a career-high 14½ sacks and four forced fumbles in 2005, to six and one during an injury-plagued 2006; from 13 and five the year after that, to seven and four, two years later, after missing 2008 with knee surgery; and from 11½ sacks and a career-high 10 forced fumbles during a terrific 2010 season, to nine sacks and two forced fumbles in nine games during an injury-shorted 2011; to finally coming back for a full year in 2012 and producing just six sacks and two forced fumbles.
Perhaps Umenyiora’s best years are behind him as he will turn 32 in what will be his 10th NFL season, and maybe his typical rollercoaster of production from a solid, useful player to dominating defense force won’t take another upswing from here.
What makes it easier for the Giants to bank on that happening is the generally good track record of general manager Jerry Reese, who has routinely turned even lower level draft picks (like the Giants might get for Umenyiora in a trade) or selections from lesser known schools (like Umenyiora’s Troy) into key pieces on championship-caliber rosters.
With so many holes to fill now, whether at linebacker spots, in the Giants’ secondary or on their offensive line, Reese should trust in his own ability to again follow the lead of the team he’s beaten in the Super Bowl before.
New York’s depth at defensive end with proven former Reese picks Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul — even though their production, like Umenyiora’s, sagged in 2012 from earlier lofty heights — also figures to help in making that decision.
When it comes to free agency, the Patriots usually sell high, get the most value while they still can, then retool, and it almost always pays off for them. The Giants have followed that path before, and with Umenyiora it might very well be time to go that route again.