Call it Bloody Sunday.
A couple hours after losing Colin Cole to the Seattle Seahawks, the Packers lost the player they coveted in free agency, defensive end Chris Canty.
According to the Newark Star-Ledger and the New York Daily News, the New York Giants signed Canty for six years and $42 million, including $17.25 million guaranteed.
"I’m excited about getting the opportunity to come here and be a part of this team and this organization," Canty, a native of The Bronx, told Giants.com. "I’m so happy. The Giants have a great winning tradition, and I am excited to come here and have a chance to win a championship."
The signing caps a monster three-day free agent spending spree for the Giants, who nabbed linebacker Michael Boley and defensive tackle Rocky Bernard. Canty and Bernard will be the defensive tackles, with Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck at end. With that potentially fearsome foursome, the Giants have emerged as the clear favorite in the NFC in 2009.
The signing also caps a horrible day for the Packers. Cole would have been a key cog in their defense with his ability to play defensive end and nose tackle, but losing him to Seattle — a top suitor for Canty — would have been fine if they had signed Canty.
Instead, Canty liked the Giants’ offer enough that he didn’t want to take a trip to Green Bay to take a physical and meet with team officials to see if there was mutual interest in working out a contract. The Packers were interested in Canty, but not enamored with him enough to simply give him a contract offer without talking to him first. So, with the Giants’ offer on the table and no financial figures coming from the Packers, Canty decided to take the money rather than travel to Green Bay with the possibility the Giants would give that money to someone else.
Curiously, Blank said he never talked to general manager Ted Thompson, dealing with only director of football operations Reggie McKenzie and negotiator Russ Ball.
“It’s a weird situation because in fairness to the Packers, they haven’t even met Chris," Canty’s agent, Brad Blank, told Packer Report earlier in the day. “They haven’t given him a physical. They can’t really make the deal on the phone. We can discuss parameters and I can tell them what’s going on in New York and they can say they’ll be competitive, which is essentially where we’re at."
Without Canty and Cole, there aren’t many places to turn for defensive line help in free agency, and there is no one of Canty’s combination of age (26), size (6-foot-7, 305 pounds), acclaim and 3-4 defense experience.
Some of the next-level players are San Diego’s Igor Olshansky (6-6, 309, will be 27 in May), a former second-round pick who didn’t play well in the Chargers’ 3-4 last season, New England reserve Mike Wright (6-4, 295, will turn 27 this month) and Pittsburgh’s 36-year-old Orpheus Roye. Or, the Packers can wait and see if the Giants release Fred Robbins (6-4, 317, will turn 32 this month).
At this point, though, the Packers are counting on Cullen Jenkins and Justin Harrell to be healthy, Johnny Jolly to stay out of jail and a young player like Alfred Malone to take a big step forward. It’s a precarious position, but the games don’t begin for another six months and the NFL draft is in eight weeks. Obviously, defensive line is a bigger need than it was just a few hours ago.
The Giants’ had an obvious reason to sign Canty away from the NFC East-rival Cowboys. In nine career games against New York (including playoffs), he tallied four sacks and 33 tackles.
"Chris is an athletic, big man who can play anywhere in our front," Giants general manager Jerry Reese told Giants.com. "He gives us a lot of flexibility in that respect. Our defensive line did a very good job last year, but without Osi and (Michael Strahan), we seemed to get worn down late in the season and we weren't able to generate the kind of pass rush that we’re accustomed to. Hopefully, with the addition of Rocky and Chris, and with Osi coming back, that won't happen again."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum.