New York Giants  

 

Giving into Umenyiora's demands would be Giant mistake

Paul Jasienski / Associated Press
Osi Umenyiora might put up big sack numbers, but his skill set isn't complete.


Save the drama.

That's what the New York Giants should tell Osi Umenyiora as he clamors for a lucrative contract extension.

Even though the two-time Pro Bowl selection is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, the Giants would be wise to hold off on upgrading his contract at this point.

The ninth-year pro has two years remaining on a six-year, $41 million contract extension that he signed in 2005. At the time, the deal contained the largest guaranteed amount ever awarded to a third-year veteran, and it aptly rewarded Umenyiora for the 22.5 sacks that he amassed to start his career. Furthermore, it paid the star a reported $21 million over the first three years of the deal.

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Although Umenyiora is making modest salaries -- $3.125 million in 2011 and $3.975 million in 2012 -- over the next two years compared to others at the position, the Giants would create a nightmarish scenario with Mathias Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck also due new deals within the next few years.

Tuck and a healthy Kiwanuka are more complete players, and they will also command hefty salaries on the open market. Therefore, it doesn't make sense for the Giants to commit an exorbitant amount of money to their third-best defensive end. Also, the presence of Jason Pierre-Paul makes it unnecessary to overpay Umenyiora on a long-term deal.

Now, that isn't to say Umenyiora isn't a quality player capable of creating disruption off the edge. He is a very talented rusher with exceptional speed and quickness. He has an explosive first step and relies on his superb snap-count anticipation to get a tremendous jump off the ball. He puts immediate pressure on offensive tackles with his natural athleticism and has a knack for creating disruptive plays. He finished 2010 with 11.5 sacks and set an NFL record with 10 forced fumbles.

Even though Umenyiora's production would suggest that he is a dominant player, he is too one-dimensional in his play to be regarded and compensated as an elite player. While his speed and athleticism routinely leads to garbage sacks off the edge, he lacks the counter moves, polish and hand skills to routinely win against elite blockers.

In looking at his 11.5 sacks, it is important to note that 10 of those were recorded in five games -- against the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins, and Houston Texans. None of those teams feature a premier left tackle, so his production is a little inflated based on those inferior matchups.

Umenyiora's biggest weakness, however, continues to revolve around his limitations as a run defender. He isn't tough or physical at the point of attack, and teams are willing to run directly at him due to his inability to get off blocks. He was deemed such a liability against the run by former defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan that he was demoted from the starting lineup for the last six games of the 2009 season.

Even though he played noticeably better against the run a season ago, he is still a mediocre run defender, which makes it tough to keep him on the field for extended periods of time.

While some teams would willingly ignore Umenyiora's run game deficiencies to keep his rush skills in the lineup, the Giants have a surplus of talent at the position that doesn't make it necessary for them to rely heavily on production. They can reconfigure their defensive packages to get one of the better run stoppers on the field to shore up the weakness. This certainly diminishes Umenyiora's value in the eyes of the coaching staff and makes it tough to justify his standing as a top defensive end.

Another prohibitive factor working against a contract upgrade is Umenyiora's age and injury history. He will turn 30 in the middle of the season, and he has a long list of injuries -- knee and hip -- that makes him a risk.

Umenyiora has created quite a stir with his demands for a contract extension. However, the Giants should ignore the theatrics and avoid overpaying for sizzle over substance in this situation.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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