Giants fans have enjoyed 60.5 sacks and two Super Bowl championships with Justin Tuck anchoring their team's defensive end position, but on Thursday, the nine-year veteran declared that his tenure with New York was through.
Tuck signed a two-year, $11 million dollar contract with the Oakland Raiders and is going away from a franchise in the Giants that it seemed like he would stay with forever.
It would be easier to say goodbye to Tuck if not for his resurgent 2013 campaign in which he recorded 11.0 sacks and anchored a defensive unit that was the strength of the team. The version of Tuck that only sacked the quarterback nine times between 2011 and 2012 was beginning to be a bit of a burden for the Giants, but last season he re-established himself as a force to be reckoned with.
Tuck's departure leaves a pretty big hole at defensive end for the Giants. For a moment, it seemed like Jason Pierre-Paul was the heir apparent to Tuck as pass-rusher extraordinaire, but his productivity has been sapped by injury since a magical 16.5-sack 2011 season. If Pierre-Paul struggles again in 2014, it could be a long year for a defensive line that is crucial to the Giants' success.
Another player who needs to step up is second-year defensive end Damontre Moore. The third round draft pick out of Texas A&M was more of a special teams player in 2013; he barely saw the field on defense. Unless the Giants make some major additions to the pass-rushing brigade this spring, Moore will be asked to fill a big void on the line.
The only other viable defensive end currently on the roster is Mathias Kiwanuka. The eight-year veteran has served New York well over the years as both a defensive end and a linebacker, but 2013 was considered one of his worst seasons to date. With the addition of free agent O'Brien Schofield, a similar player who can rush the passer from the outside linebacker position, Kiwanuka may be on the way out to give the Giants more room for draft picks and free agents.
The lack of another sure-fire sack master on the roster makes Tuck's departure a big loss for the Giants, but there is still plenty of time this offseason to bring in defensive end talent. As a team that prides itself on intimidating opposing quarterbacks, the next few months will be crucial to how competitive the Giants are in 2014