Heading into the free agency period, the most glaring need the New York Giants have is the offensive line and their need to address it is a must if they want to have any chance of a rebound season, much less protecting Eli Manning, who at times, got abused from poor play on the line.
With the exception of Justin Pugh, who was the team's first round draft pick last season and arguably the team's best offensive lineman last season, and Will Beatty, but only because of his five-year contract he signed last offseason, everyone else on the line is subject to being gone from the team. The one who most people feel that shouldn't be back with the team is center David Baas, who has never really lived up to the deal the Giants signed him to back in 2011, as he's been injury prone from the start and his toughness to stay on the field has been highly discussed.
Baas' release may not come until after June 1 so the Giants can save extra on cap space, but that likely won't stop the Giants from being aggressive in the market for free agent offensive lineman and if they are looking for the top centers on the market to put in front of Manning, then their search stops with Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack, who is not only considered to be the best center available, but perhaps the best offensive lineman available as well.
At 6'4" and 315 pounds, Mack is the combination of a great blocker mixed with pure, physical strength, raw, natural talent to go along with being an extraordinarily smart player who doesn't make mistakes on the field. Mack doesn't overreach on blocks and rarely, does he ever get beat on the line. In his pass protection part of his game, it's his patience on the line that allows him the ability to beat defenders up the middle and keep them off the quarterback. One scout said that Mack has the patience of an offensive tackle to keep defenders off the quarterback and allow very few sacks. His run blocking is good, but not as good as his pass blocking. But it would be a tremendous upgrade over what Baas, Jim Cordle and Kevin Boothe were giving the team last season.
When you think of Mack, the first thing that comes to mind is Shaun O'Hara, a veteran who came into the league with Cleveland, established themselves as a top center in the league and then bolted in free agency. When with the Giants, O'Hara established himself as one of the best centers and the leader of the line during his time with the Giants; Mack has those exact qualities that O'Hara did and can bring instant credibility back to a unit that struggled tremendously in 2013.
Mack is almost certain to command top dollar on the free agent market and can net a five-year deal worth anywhere between $25-35 million with at least $12-16 million guaranteed and aside from a team like the Giants, there will be many other teams interested in him. And while other teams might have more cap flexibility than the Giants, the Giants need for offensive line help might outrank the others, especially given the fact that Manning got sacked a career high 39 times and a good portion of the 27 interceptions, were due to the poor play of the offensive line and their inability to keep Manning up right and in the pocket long enough to make throws to his receivers.
While the Giants will likely also look to address the offensive line in May's NFL Draft, they need to be the most aggressive team in the offensive line market once March 11 hits, and a good starting point would be to make the strongest push necessary for Mack and find a way to bring him to New York for 2014.
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