When they franchised and then re-signed Brandon Jacobs before free agency started, the Giants paid lip service to the idea that they would re-sign Derrick Ward as well. That notion became a pipe dream when they signed Michael Boley, Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty shortly after free agency began, and it became an impossibility on Tuesday. Ward signed a four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I'm happy for Derrick. They got a good player. Obviously you hate to lose a good player like Derrick. It's a good move by Tampa Bay," New York general manager Jerry Reese said.
The loss of Ward wasn't unexpected, and it won't destroy the Giants, but it will have an impact on the team in 2009. Ahmad Bradshaw's role will expand as a result. He'll add a needed dose of speed to Jacobs' mauling style, but he doesn't have Ward's size and won't be able to carry the load as a feature back in the event of an injury to Jacobs. Jacobs has had issues remaining healthy throughout his career, so the team will have to add some more depth in the backfield as a result.
That new back could have the same impact as Ward, or he could provide less punch. That's unknown, but what's apparent is that the Giants need to start dealing with offensive issues as the offseason lurches forward. Eli Manning needs a talented supporting cast to succeed, and that group has taken a big hit since the Super Bowl victory in February 2008.