The New York Giants released linebacker Michael Boley Tuesday, who had spent four years with the Giants and had one year left on a five-year contract.
Boley was a huge factor in New York’s last Super Bowl run in 2011 as well as this past season where he caught three interceptions, more than any other season in his eight-year career. Boley was due $4.25 million in 2013, and his release will certainly help in terms of salary cap space for the Giants moving forward.
Boley’s departure though opens up the door for one of New York’s younger linebackers, Jacquian Williams, to solidify a starting job in the Giant’s defensive scheme next season.
Williams, 24, was drafted in the sixth round in 2011 and has shown a lot of similarities to Boley in his first two seasons with the Giants. In his rookie season, he saw action in all 16 regular season games and 4 playoff games en route to the Giants winning Super Bowl XLVI.
Maybe more importantly, Williams has showed the knack for making a big play when it counts. In overtime of the 2011 NFC Championship game against San Francisco, Williams was the one who knocked the ball out of wide receiver Kyle Williams’ hands on a punt return deep in 49ers territory. A few plays later, Lawrence Tynes kicked a field goal and the Giants were on their way back to the championship.
This past season, a knee injury against the 49ers in Week 6 kept Williams out of commission until Dec. 9 against New Orleans. But his production in his last four games of the season was still as solid as it had been before being injured.
The main competition for Williams will come from Spencer Paysinger, also 24 and also with two seasons under his belt. 12 pounds heavier, he’s bulkier and a bit stronger than Williams, but overall just not as good a player. In their two seasons, Williams has shown that he’s much stronger at reading the field and opposing defenses. If it comes down to a contest between these two for a starting spot, Williams, the one with much more potential, will come away the victor.
Williams’ starting spot will also rest upon which way the Giants go in the draft. There is a good chance that more cuts will come this offseason at the linebacker position, and there are a lot of good inside linebackers to choose from, especially in the first round.
As far as outside linebackers go though, few studs will be available past Jarvis Jones, who could easily go very quickly in the first round. Keeping that in mind, it seems more and more inevitable that Jacquian Williams will be the one to secure a starting spot for 2013, which could make him one of the more scrutinized defensive players going deeper into this offseason.