With free agency set to open this week, the Giants.com crew discusses the best signings in team history:
John Schmeelk: The one and only answer, and it comes up every year, is Kareem McKenzie. The Giants signed McKenzie to a seven-year contract near the top of the offensive tackle market in 2005. He played out all seven years of that contract with no adjustments on it. It is exceedingly rare for a player to last for a contract of that length without any renegotiations. He did exactly what the Giants paid him to do and both sides were happy with the contract they signed. He was the starting right tackle for all seven of those seasons and missed only seven games in his Giants career. He was one of the main cogs on the offensive line for two Super Bowl championship teams as a steady pass protector and physical run blocker.
There are arguments to be made for Kerry Collins, who brought the Giants to the Super Bowl. Players such as Antonio Pierce and Antrel Rolle are also good choices, given the leadership roles they played on championship teams. Shaun O'Hara is also a good choice given the leadership he gave at center. But there's no getting past McKenzie fulfilling every year of a seven-year contract.
Dan Salomone: Where 'Trel at? Safety Antrel Rolle needs to be mentioned here, along with Plaxico Burress and Antonio Pierce, as the best signings in franchise history. Rolle never missed a game in his five years with the Giants, made two Pro Bowls with the team and, of course, was a key member of the 2011 championship squad.
Rolle lit a fire under the team on more than one occasion during that title run. Heading into the regular-season meeting with New England, he said, "I don't worry about our schedule. I feel like our schedule needs to worry about us." The Giants went out and beat the Patriots in Foxboro. More famously, he sent a broad but clear message about practicing to his teammates following a 23-10 home loss to the Redskins, which dropped the Giants to 7-7 and set up must-win games against the Jets and Cowboys. "If you're going to go out here and play the game on Sunday, you need to be out there with your men throughout the week," Rolle said. "I've been nicked up all year long."
The Giants won their next six games, including four postseason contests, by a combined score of 162-84.
Lance Medow: If the most important position in the NFL is quarterback, then how do you choose anyone other than Kerry Collins. After a shaky ending to his tenure in Carolina in 1998, Giants GM Ernie Accorsi took a chance on Collins, bringing in the veteran signal caller as Kent Graham's backup. He wound up claiming the starting job in Week 11 that season and never relinquished that role until following the 2003 season. For four-plus campaigns, Collins provided stability under center at a position that had been troubling the Giants since the Phil Simms era came to an end in the Spring of 1994.
In his first full season as the starter in 2000, Collins helped lead the Giants to Super Bowl XXXV against the Ravens. Although the loss wasn't pretty, it was an accomplishment that can't be overlooked – nor can how he helped the team make the playoffs during the 2002 season. That year, Collins set a single-season franchise record by throwing for 4,073 yards, a mark that stood until 2011 (Eli Manning, 4,933). The best numbers in Collins' 17-year career were posted when he was wearing a Giants uniform and his success is a big reason why the team reached the postseason twice in his four years as the full-time starter.
There's certainly other worthy candidates, including Plaxico Burress, Antonio Pierce and Antrel Rolle; but given the importance of the quarterback position and the issues the Giants had prior to Collins' arrival, he tops the list. Collins built the bridge between the Simms and Manning eras. He just doesn't get enough credit because there's no hardware attached to his name.
View photos of some of the most notable free agent signings in Giants history.