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It was announced Monday that the Giants have given their two-time Pro Bowl defensive end permission to seek a trade out of New York, according to ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio. Umenyiora has two years remaining on his contract, but is unhappy that the Giants have not extended him to a deal akin to those of the league’s highest-paid pass rushers. Without a new deal, Umenyiora wants out of New York, and after fruitless meetings with Giants general manager Jerry Reese, the G-Men has given permission to Umenyiora’s agent to work out a trade with another franchise.
Suddenly, one of the league’s premier pass rushers is available. The ability to get to the quarterback remains one of the Patriots’ greatest concerns as training camp is just getting underway, and the 29-year-old Umenyiora would certainly take care of that issue. One would be hard pressed to find a more formidable defensive line than one that features Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth, and Umenyiora, but the question remains: would it make sense for the Patriots to aggressively go after Umenyiora and again send shockwaves throughout the NFL?
In looking at the Patriots’ needs and Umenyiora’s talent, he’s a perfect fit for New England. Last year, Umenyiora tallied 11.5 sacks, which is what the Patriots’ top two pass rushers (recently cut Tully Banta-Cain and Mike Wright) accounted for combined. After missing all of 2008 with a torn lateral meniscus suffered in a preseason game, Umenyiora has proven his durability, playing in every game for the G-Men the past two seasons. Umenyiora is also a playmaker. He forced an incredible ten fumbles last year, and possesses an uncanny nose for the football and forcing a timely turnover — something that the Patriots’ defense of old always seemed to have a knack for.
After trading for Albert Haynesworth, the Patriots appeared to have shored up their defensive line, but the surprising release of Ty Warren has recreated the massive hole at defensive end. Haynesworth is much more potent playing on the inside in the 4-3, and many have speculated that Warren’s release is a sign that the Pats may be reforming their longtime 3-4 defense to feature the potency of the Wilfork-Haynesworth duo up the middle. If this is the case, then the Patriots have an even greater need for a pass rusher, as the team is without a threatening edge rusher who can get to the quarterback. Players like Wright, Myron Pryor, Brandon Deaderick, and Ron Brace are solid defensive lineman, but none have the speed and quickness to get around an offensive tackle one-on-one and pressure the passer. Umenyiora can do just this, and would create nightmares for opposing offenses.
While Umenyiora would be a perfect fit for the Patriots’ needs and provide them with the dynamic pass rusher they’ve lacked the past few seasons, a deal for the Pro Bowler is likely to be a longshot for a number of reasons. First off, the price is going to be steep. The Giants are reportedly asking for a first-round pick for their star malcontent, and it is worth noting that Belichick has never once surrendered a first rounder for a player. The Patriots do have a pair of first round picks in the 2012 Draft (their own and one acquired from the Saints, who traded up for Mark Ingram in this year’s draft), but Belichick is more than ever less likely to part with one, now that the new CBA prevents ridiculously high rookie contracts.
Secondly, the Patriots would have to work out a longterm contract for Umenyiora. He’s unhappy with earning $8 million over the two years remaining on his deal with the Giants, so to please him, the Patriots would have to open up their checkbooks. With Belichick’s noted frugality and tendency to lock up depth rather than stars (with the exception of the Adalius Thomas debacle), it is even more unlikely that the Patriots would offer up a rich, multiyear deal to Umenyiora.
All signs point towards New England steering clear of pursuing Umenyiora, even though he offers up exactly what the team needs. An edge rusher like him is the missing piece to a balanced eleven that already boasts a run defense featuring Wilfork, Haynesworth, and Jerod Mayo up the middle, and a young and talented secondary that finally appears to have some depth at cornerback with Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, and rookie Ras-I Dowling.
But after the outlandish moves for Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco, nothing can be assumed to be a sure bet this summer in New England. Perhaps the hoodie has one more trick up his sleeve, and many fans can hope that that trick will land the Giants No. 72 in Foxboro.