New York Giants fans might have thought that the team re-signing middle linebacker Chase Blackburn, a 2012 Super Bowl hero and one of the reasons for the Giants' dramatic late-season improvement on defense, was a given. Well, maybe not so fast!
Blackburn is a free agent, and with the NFL free agency period beginning March 13 -- less than two weeks from now -- Blackburn's agent says the Giants have still not contacted him about re-signing the seven-year veteran.
Is this any way to treat a Super Bowl hero?
Let's take a realistic look at the Giants' middle linebacker situation. Blackburn was not re-signed prior to the 2011 season, and was only brought back late in the season when left the Giants with only sixth-round draft choice Greg Jones at the position. He made 28 tackles and one interception in five regular-season games, then had 26 tackles and the interception in the Super Bowl during the postseason.
Blackburn's experience and knowledge of the defense was often cited as one of the main reasons why the Giants were able to eliminate most of the communication breakdowns that had plagued their defense much of the season.
Is that enough for the Giants to commit to keeping him for the 2012 season? The reality is, the Giants pulled Blackburn off his couch last season out of desperation. They lost starter Jonathan Goff to a knee injury for the entire season. They weren't thrilled with the play of Jones. Undrafted free agent Mark Herzlich showed promise, but broke his ankle. The Giants had nowhere else to turn.
The reality is that the Giants have never seen Blackburn, originally signed as an undrafted free agent in 2005, as a starting middle linebacker. He couldn't keep the job after Antonio Pierce was injured, and the Giants brought in Jones and Herzlich, along with rookies Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger, to try and upgrade athletically.
Despite Blackburn's heroics, the plan might still be the same.
Goff is also a free agent, and no word has emerged from the Giants yet about any plan to bring him back. The Giants apparently like Herzlich, and might be willing to enter training camp with him as the starting middle linebacker. There is also the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft. They may also wish to expand the role of Williams, who impressed as a rookie in 2011.
All of this might mean the Giants slam the door on Blackburn again. Super Bowl heroics or not.