It appears that the end game of the Osi Umenyiora standoff has begun.
Just as a hostage-taking bank robber eventually realizes he isn't making it out of the bank alive and tries to start negotiating terms for an exit that keeps him free, Umenyiora must surely realize right now that the Giants aren't going to give him anything that he actually wants. So he has to choose between sitting out two years of football (death in the bank robber scenario) or another solution to his problems.
For Umenyiora, it is believed an acceptable outcome would be axing the final year of his contract and playing 2011 to set up unfettered free agency. The Giants would prefer to throw some incentives on the table, something owner John Mara confirmed to the Star-Ledger on Monday.
"Yes. I think it will be resolved and he’ll be a Giant this year," Mara said. "It’s something we can work out. We’re already talking to his agent to do something incentive wise with his contract to make him happy."
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, the incentives would kick in if Umenyiora gets 13.5 sacks this season, a number he has reached once in his NFL career. That doesn't seem like a number that ends this silly little mess and, given the date, the Giants might want to skip the first three pages of whatever business school negotiation guide they are using and get right to what they are willing to do if they think incentives are the best solution to the problem.
At least they are talking, though, and talking usually leads to something. That's more than G.M. Jerry Reese or Mara have bothered to do with other players who could help the team in 2011.
That point was underscored on Monday when Steve Smith came by Giants headquarters for a medical check on his surgically repaired knee. Smith almost certainly won't be ready to go when the season starts, which means the Giants are left short of a full deck at wide receiver while also missing sure production at tight end.
How did Reese not see this coming? There's no way the Giants should feel comfortable with a receiving corps built around the shaky hands of Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham when the other option will be the winner of a battle between Domenik Hixon, Victor Cruz and Darius Reynaud.
The same is true of a linebacking group that will have Mathias Kiwanuka back because Clint Sintim still can't win a role in the lineup. Kiwanuka is good, but he was always more tentative as a linebacker which makes for an interesting fit with slow-reacting Jonathan Goff and the erratic Michael Boley.
The Giants are hard up against the cap, but so were a lot of the teams that made additions to their roster since free agency got underway. They had players restructure contracts, something the Giants only asked of Brandon Jacobs, and otherwise found room to manuever so that their holes were filled before the season got underway.
There's nothing wrong with saying that you want to build around younger players and give them chances to develop into the next generation of Giants starters. But if that was really your goal, why is Umenyiora not playing somewhere else while you collect draft picks to keep building this team in the years to come?
Straddling the line halfway makes it hard to see any real direction with the Giants as the enter this season other than crossing your fingers and hoping everything works out. Maybe Reese needs some incentives from Mara to come up with one.