The New York Giants continued their assault on their own free agents Thursday, reaching an unofficial deal with defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka as training camp nears.
Another Giants defensive lineman, Osi Umenyiora, might be a different story.
Kiwanuka, a six-year veteran who played in only three games in 2010 due to a herniated disc in his neck, received medical clearance to return to football-related activities in February.
The former first-round selection out of Boston College has 222 tackles and 23.5 sacks in five years with the Giants.
Fellow defensive end Justin Tuck posted on his Twitter account that the deal with his friend Kiwanuka had been secured: “Kiwi is returning to the big blue. Yes, sir.”
Kiwanuka is the team’s most versatile defensive player, having seen time both at defensive end and outside linebacker. Kiwanuka is expected to be in attendance when the Giants officially open training camp Friday.
Umenyiora, on the other hand, might not. The veteran, who has had an off-and-on relationship with coach Tom Coughlin through the years, appears as if he’ll hold out if he does not receive a renegotiated contract with a significant salary upgrade.
The Giants are also still in negotiations with running back Ahmad Bradshaw, wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Kevin Boss, who are all now unrestricted free agents.
The team is also trying to restructure the existing contract of running back Brandon Jacobs in order to free up some salary cap space. The Giants have already released veteran offensive linemen Shaun O’Hara, Rich Seubert and Shawn Andrews to give them some cap
relief. Both O’Hara and Seubert are recovering from offseason surgeries.
In a conference call, O’Hara, who played at Rutgers and is a local fan favorite, said that he was “blindsided” by the release.
“I certainly didn’t see it coming,” O’Hara said. “I wasn’t expecting it. I went in Tuesday to get a workout in and found out. You’re never really ready when something like this happens.”
There were reports that O’Hara might be brought back at a cheaper salary, but the seven-year veteran center isn’t waiting around.
O’Hara, who was the Giants’ player representative in the lockout negotiations, said that he’s received a few calls from other NFL teams.
“There’s definitely some interest out there,” O’Hara said. “I’m going to sit tight, see how things play out and see what my options are. But the last 48 hours have been very tough for wife and I.”
The Giants have had discussions with free-agent punter Brad Maynard, who spent the first four years of his 14-year NFL career here. Coughlin was extremely disappointed with the performance of last year’s rookie Matt Hodge, who struggled with consistency, distance and hang time.
Hodge made a major mistake in the crushing, late-season, 38-31 loss to the Eagles at home, failing to punt the ball out of bounds on the game’s final play. Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson returned the punt for a game-winning touchdown that all but ruined the Giants’ chances at the NFC East title.