In just about a month's time, Justin Tuck could be set to hit the free agent market and see what kind of drawing power he has as a veteran free agent coming off an 11-sack season and two Super Bowl victories in his tenure with the New York Giants.
This time last year, it was Tuck's old teammate and friend, Osi Umenyiora, who was in the same exact boat that he was in, as the pending free agent looking for one last potential payday. However, their status with the team when they got to free agency could not have been more different.
Tuck has been on very good terms with the Giants, seen as the team leader, long-time captain, fan favorite and someone that people feel would potentially take less money in order to stick around because his fingerprints are all over the defense and team.
Umenyiora, though, as popular of a player he was with the fans and a very good pass rusher, was looking elsewhere to play in 2013 considering he turned down a chance to stay with the Giants as he rejected a three-year contract offer to stay and instead, may have took a little less money when he signed his two-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons last spring. That rejection of the deal may have been due to the bad blood with him and Giants general manager Jerry Reese over the fact that he didn't get a new contract during the 2009-2010 time and almost considered sitting out if he didn't receive it; Umenyiora never sat out and played through for the Giants until 2012.
Now coming off a disappointing season with the Falcons in which they finished near the bottom of the NFC, Umenyiora spoke about Tuck's pending free agency and felt that it was best for his former teammate to remain with the Giants for as long as he can.
"I've talked to Justin and I told him he should try whatever he can to stay in New York," Umenyiora told The Star-Ledger. "Because he is New York. Jerry Reese, I’m quite sure is going to try and do something to take care of the situation as the management should because he’s been a great player and he’s been a great, solid individual for New York,” Umenyiora said. “Why not try and take care of a guy like that?”
If Tuck were to join the free agency class in March, he's joining a rather deep pool of solid defensive lineman; Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings, Michael Johnson of the Cincinnati Bengals, Brian Orakpo of the Washington Redskins and Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers are just some of the players out there who teams could be offering big money to; and someone like Tuck might not be the first guy teams look at and could wait a while on the market, just like Umenyiora did last year when he was a free agent for over a month before getting his two-year pact with Atlanta.
“Justin and I have talked a little bit about it. I think guys deserve to go out and see what the market is when you reach free agency,” Reese said. “It’s hard to reach free agency. When you have a chance to get there, you deserve to see what the market is. He deserves to see what the market is. It should have been a whole lot better for me personally, and for us as a team,” Umenyiora said. “I wish I could have done a lot more. But, sometimes, that’s the way it happens.”
From the sound of Umenyiora's remarks, he sure sounds like a guy with some regret over leaving the Giants, not getting the kind of money he wanted in free agency and then not having the season he expected in Atlanta in which they went 4-12 and were nowhere near the playoff contender they had been the following season. And with Umenyiora's regret, is why he's likely giving Tuck the advice of his experience and telling him that the grass isn't always greener on the other side and sticking with the Giants would be best for him and his career.
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