Wednesday was what amounts to a whirlwind day for the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. The day included a trade and two free-agent signings, re-shaping the roster somewhat as the 2012 NFL Draft approaches.
When the dust settled late Wednesday evening the Giants had agreed to send a fifth-round draft choice to the Cincinnati Bengals for talented but oft-injured linebacker Keith Rivers, and had signed a pair of veterans, offensive tackle Sean Locklear and cornerback Antwaun Molden.
This was typical Jerry Reese, with the Giants' general manager operating in stealth mode as he seemingly always does. This was not the Giants creating headlines by making a splashy move for Tim Tebow. This was Reese sticking to his philosophy of using free agency -- and the trade market -- to fill perceived needs and add depth and competition to the roster in advance of the draft.
Locklear is an eight-year veteran with 82 career NFL starts who could end up replacing Kareem McKenzie at right tackle or providing the Giants with a valuable veteran reserve 'swing' tackle who can fill in on either side in event of injury.
Molden is a four-year veteran who has played for the Houston Texans and New England Patriots. He has only two career starts -- both for New England in 2011 -- but provides competition at a position where the Giants could use it. They lost Aaron Ross to Jacksonville via free agency and are depending on Terrell Thomas to return from his second ACL surgery. The Giants finished last season with six cornerbacks on injured reserve, so stockpiling healthy players at this spot is a valuable thing.
The acquisition of Rivers, a 6-foot-2, 242-pound 25-year-old who missed 2011 with a wrist injury, is the most intriguing. Reese does not trade draft picks lightly, so you would have to anticipate that the Giants will expect Rivers to start somewhere among the linebacking group. Again typical of a Reese acquisition, he traded a fifth-round pick for a first-round value -- Rivers was the ninth overall selection in 2008. Rivers has proven to be a solid run defender when he has been able to stay on the field, and has one year left on his contract so the Giants are not stuck with a long-term commitment if the move does not work out.
These moves also allow Reese the flexibility he craves in the draft. Reese always sees he likes to use free agency to fill needs and to simply search for value and the best players available in the draft. These moves, as well as the prior free agent signing of tight end Martellus Bennett, allow Reese to focus less on needs and more on value when the draft rolls around in two weeks.
Giants fans are fond of saying 'In Reese We Trust.' Wednesday was the latest example of why.