The running back position hasn’t been a priority for the Giants since Tiki Barber emerged as a star.
Brandon Jacobs soon followed as the Giants went with a thunder and lightning tandem. When Barber retired, they were able to fill the void with Ahmad Bradshaw through the draft.
Even when Derrick Ward left as a free agent, Bradshaw easily transitioned into the starting running back, while Jacobs numbers decreased and he became less effective.
Jacobs was released this month and signed on with the San Francisco 49ers, now leaving a hole in the offense and the running game.
Since Jacobs came on to the team in 2005, the Giants have always gone with the speed back combined with the power back.
Now that the power back is gone, the Giants need to fill that void for the 2012 season.
When free agency first started, I really advocated for Mike Tolbert to come to the Giants, but he signed with the Carolina Panthers.
Now the Panthers have three running backs with Tolbert, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and it’s quite possible that the Panthers could trade one of the other two backs.
Stewart could be the one that ends up being trade bait by the time next month’s NFL draft rolls around.
Would the Giants make sense as a trade partner for the Panthers and Stewart?
In a lot of ways, yes.
Stewart is a very similar running back to Jacobs. He’s big, strong, runs very hard and is already used to splitting carries on offense.
He’s also only 25 years old and really is just getting started in his NFL career.
If the Giants had to give up a draft pick to get Stewart, it could be something they might be open to doing, especially since the NFL awarded the Giants with a compensatory fourth-round pick.
So now the Giants have two fourth-round picks, and if they feel like they need to make a deal for a guy like Stewart, losing a third- or fourth-round pick might not be so bad.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that the Panthers have said they are adamant about not trading Stewart, while some other NFL reporters have said that if Carolina were to trade Stewart, the Denver Broncos would make sense given that John Fox is there.
Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York did bring up a solid point in that Stewart might require a larger contract if he were to hit free agency.
Stewart, of course, would seem to be a great fit for the Giants, who will probably want a bigger back to fill Jacobs’ role. But Stewart’s price tag could be too steep for the Giants if he becomes available. How much would a team have to give up if the Panthers were willing to make a deal? And how much would Stewart cost financially to keep later down the road? Remember, the Giants have several young players they will have to take care of eventually, such as Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Jason Pierre-Paul, just to name a few.
Now, as much as I would like to have Stewart on the Giants, I wouldn’t at the cost of not being able to resign Nicks, Cruz or Pierre-Paul. Those guys are absolute priorities for the Giants.
Stewart would be a nice player to have, and teaming him with Bradshaw would make a very good combination in the backfield.
But it is not common for the Giants to make trades for big names, as general manager Jerry Reese likes to build the team through the draft, which is why I can see Da’Rel Scott getting more of a shot to start come 2012.
Reese could also elect to draft a running back in the later rounds to fill the void left by Jacobs as well, which I think he’s going to do either way.
But Stewart’s name has come up a lot with for Giants fans once Tolbert signed with the Panthers.
For the right price, he would make sense to them.
And if Carolina does in fact put him on the block, what would they ask for in return?
If it’s a first or second round pick, Reese will easily pass, because Stewart isn’t worth that kind of pick.
But a third rounder? It’s doable. The first of the two fourth rounders? That’s more doable.
But the biggest question is; would Reese have any interest whatsoever in trading for Stewart if he is on the trading block.
Stay tuned, Giants fans.