Of all the positions for the Giants to consider as they made their last round of cuts, safety figured to be one of the most difficult, considering the dearth of depth as that spot in the secondary. There were the two starters, Gibril Wilson and James Butler, plus a proven veteran in Will Demps and not much after that.
On second look, the Giants felt there wasn't even that much to choose from.
As the club yesterday made the final cuts to get down to the 53-man limit, the most surprising name on the list was Demps, who a year ago at this time was a starting free safety, fresh off signing a five-year, $12 million contract to fit as a mainstay in the Giants defense. Demps was placed on season-ending injured reserve even though his dislocated elbow was said to be healing on schedule.
The Giants released 21 players and traded running back Ryan Grant to the Packers for an undisclosed draft pick, paring their roster to 52, meaning they will soon add another player.
It's quite a stunning fall for Demps, who might not have been ready for next Sunday night's season-opener in Dallas because of a dislocated elbow. Demps, 27, would not have been out much longer, meaning this was a decision based on his ability and not his availability.
Demps ends a one-year run that certainly goes down as a wasted dip into the free agency pool. Demps, coming off reconstructive knee surgery after solid seasons with the Ravens, did not have a strong 2007 for the Giants but did improve down the stretch. He was not happy to learn that Butler had taken his place in the starting lineup but was one of the standouts during the early preseason games. His roster spot did not appear to be in any danger.
Safety now becomes a looming issue for the Giants, as the reserve depth consists of rookie seventh-round Michael Johnson and undrafted free agent Craig Dahl from North Dakota State. Those two should not purchase apartments in New Jersey just yet, as there is no doubt the Giants will scour the waiver wire and sign at least one recently-released safety discarded by another team.
"We thought the improvement of those two young kids in the secondary (Johnson and Dahl) had warranted that they have the opportunity to stay,'' Tom Coughlin said in explaining putting Demps on IR.
The only other mild surprise is that Tom Coughlin decided to go - for now - with Lawrence Tynes as his place-kicker, as Josh Huston was cut despite the fact that he out-performed Tynes throughout the summer. Huston clearly showed the stronger leg, especially on kickoffs, and compiled a slightly better percentage on field goals. Tynes, though, has three years of NFL experience with the Chiefs and that likely was the deciding factor over Huston, an Ohio State product who has never kicked in the NFL.
If Tynes is on the roster, the Giants have to send the Chiefs a 2008 seventh-round draft pick to complete the off-season trade.
Otherwise, the cuts went as expected. Tim Hasselbeck was let go, ending his two-year stay with the Giants as a backup quarterback, a move that was expected as soon as the team signed Anthony Wright to bolster the position.
Manny Wright, a 345-pound defensive tackle from USC who two years ago spent time with the Dolphins, made the team despite having signed with the Giants during the last week of training camp.
For now, all eight 2007 draft picks made the team and two undrafted free agents, Dahl and tight end Michael Matthews.
Also released were TE Charles Davis; WRs Brandon London and Kevin McMahan; OL Justin Jones, Jon Dunn, Ryan Keenan and Matt Lentz; DEs Tommy Davis and Marquis Gunn; DT Tui Alailafaleula; LBs James Davis and Tyson Smith; CBs Gerrick McPhearson, Darren Barnett and E.J. Underwood; S J.R. Reed and P Cory Ohnesorge. OL Todd Londot, was waived injured (neck).