By Declan Finn
Make no mistake, this was a terrible season for the New York Giants defense. It was so bad, head coach Tom Coughlin made the decision to fire defensive coordinator Perry Fewell after five seasons and go with another system in what could be his final year as Big Blue's leader.
Injuries certainly didn't help, but overall, there should be plenty of changes for the Giants' defense this offseason. After hiring a new defensive coordinator, general manager Jerry Reese will turn his attention to improving the talent on that side of the ball, including the biggest decision, whether or not to sign Jason Pierre-Paul to what should be a rich free agency contract.
But while those decisions are weeks away, it won't stop us from playing the role of GM and choosing which players should stay and which should go, or more to the point, Pay Him or Slay Him, to make this Giants team a postseason contender once again. Read our offensive breakdown here.
PAY PRINCE AMUKAMARA: Before tearing his biceps muscle in early November against the Colts, Amukamara was having his best season as a pro, with three interceptions and 11 pass deflections in eight games. Next year will be big for Amukamara, as he will either take the next step in his maturation as a shutdown cornerback, or become just another guy the Giants can cut loose.
PAY DOMINIQUE RODGERS-CROMARTIE: And hope he can play a whole season free of injury. If he can't, or doesn't perform well if he does, then the Giants can send him packing. But you can't give up on one of your prized free agent signings after just one season, especially for a guy that would be coveted if he went back into the free agency pool.
SLAY ANTREL ROLLE: Most Giants fans want to keep Rolle, but unless he comes with a far less price tag, Big Blue should look in another direction at safety. Rolle was an emotional leader for the Giants, but he didn't play nearly well enough to offset his huge contract number. Yes, Rolle can still play at a high level, but unless the money is right, he needs to go. Remember, too, he'll turn 33 toward the end of next season. The Giants would need a replacement from outside the organization, however, if they do "slay" Rolle.
PAY STEVIE BROWN and SLAY QUINTIN DEMPS: The difference between Brown and Demps is Brown played better down the stretch than Demps did. So, keep one and get rid of the other. But Brown's spot on the Giants roster should be in doubt depending on what comes about in free agency and the draft. If it's the status quo, Brown needs to be a whole lot better from Week 1 on.
SLAY WALTER THURMOND: He had to settle for a one-year deal after last season because of a history with injuries. This year he'll be in the same boat, as he tore a pectoral muscle in the second game of the year and was place on injured reserve. Thurmond has the potential to be very good, but injuries should force the Giants to look elsewhere for depth.
SLAY ZACK BOWMAN: He didn't play well as a replacement for Amukamara, and considering he'll turn 31 during next season, it's time for Bowman to find a new team.
SLAY JAYRON HOSLEY: He was suspended to start the season and didn't give the team or fans any reason to want him back next year.
PAY TRUMAINE MCBRIDE: He'll make just $1 million next year, making him affordable as a backup cornerback.
SLAY JON BEASON: We wanted Beason to return after he changed the culture of the defense during the 2013 season, even though it looked like the Giants weren't that interested. But after he was brought back, Beason was MIA for most of the 2014 season, saddled with injuries and barely made it on the field. There's no reason to keep Beason this time around.
PAY DEVON KENNARD: He had a huge finish to the season, even with sitting out the finale against Philadelphia, making it easier to get rid of the veterans on the team. Kennard had 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles over his last four games. The fifth-round rookie may turn into a giant steal.
PAY JAMEEL McCLAIN: He led the team in tackles with 116 and had 2.5 sacks, but McClain will be 30 before the season starts, so he's on the downside of his career. Still, he makes the Giants a better team with him on the field. Bring McClain back, but if a better option emerges in free agency, he could be a late casualty.
PAY MARK HERZLICH, JACQUIAN WILLIAMS and SPENCER PAYSINGER: But not much. All three are free agents and only Paysinger has the potential to be a starter. Williams and Herzlich are backup-types. Depth is important, however.
PAY JASON PIERRE-PAUL: It's going to take a lot of money and a lot of years, but the Giants can't let the potential of Pierre-Paul walk out the door. Pierre-Paul hasn't been nearly as good as he was early on in his career, but did record 12.5 sacks this season, nine coming over the final five games. That strong finish could be a sign of things to come in the future, or just a spurt sparked by his impending free agency and likely big pay day. The Giants have to bank on the former, as Pierre-Paul has the potential to be a game-changer on defense.
SLAY MATHIAS KIWANUKA: There likely won't be a 10th season for Kiwanuka in New York, and there shouldn't be. Kiwanuka was invisible for the most part this past season, collecting just 2.5 sacks, and with plenty of young players impressing on the defensive line, there is no reason to keep him around and stunt their growth.
SLAY CULLEN JENKINS: He's in the same boat with Kiwanuka, an older player who isn't needed anymore as younger players step up. It's the cruel world of the NFL.
PAY JOHNATHAN HANKINS: The Giants found themselves a player at defensive tackle in Hankins, who will be expected to take another step in his career next year and beyond.
PAY DAMONTRE MOORE: If the Giants do let Jenkins go, Moore would be elevated into the starter's role at defensive end, which is really the only option at this point. Next year will be Moore's third season in the league, a make-or-break one. If Moore fails when given the job, the Giants can move on after next season. But there's no reason to keep Moore on the bench now.
PAY MIKE PATTERSON: He'll be 32 before next season starts, but Patterson is still a solid run-stopper. With pass-rushers like Pierre-Paul and Moore on the outside, the Giants need someone on the inside to keep the offense honest. Patterson doesn't have many years left, however.
PAY ROBERT AYERS: He was one of the many players to go in injured reserve, landing there in early December after tearing a pectoral muscle. Ayers signed a two-year, $4 million deal before this past season, so he'll get another chance to prove his worth. He was a first-round draft pick of the Broncos in 2009.
SLAY MARKUS KUHN: He scored a touchdown against the Titans, but that was about the only thing Kuhn has accomplished in his three seasons.
Let us know who you would Pay or Slay in the comments section.