The Eli Manning era at Giants Stadium hasn't dawned quite yet. But it became apparent as the Giants added speed to the depth chart yesterday with their final five picks in the NFL draft that the Kerry Collins era has about run its course.
After general manager Ernie Accorsi accomplished his Holy Grail quest for the future of the Giants' offense by shipping his third-rounder this year and next year's first- and fifth-round picks to San Diego for the franchise quarterback, the brain trust reportedly put out a feeler for a trade of Collins.
Combine that with the published assurance of Collins that he would not willingly cut his $7 million salary to facilitate a final season in Giants blue, and the Collins era is all but over. His release, more likely than a trade, will almost certainly come in the next few weeks, along with the procurement of a free-agent veteran place-saver such as New England's Damon Huard or Arizona's Jeff Blake.
"If salary isn't addressed with Kerry, it has to be addressed around Kerry,'' Accorsi said before adding that Manning had been a potential target since 2002, when he scouted him in person against Auburn. "There are ways to do it without affecting what Kerry gets. But if the situation is untenable, we'll make a decision on what's best for him and us.''
Accorsi wouldn't put a timetable on it, but he indicated whatever happens will go down fairly quickly.
In the meantime, the Giants spent the second day of the draft adding speed and athleticism, generally from big-school programs. They were left with holes at right tackle and linebacker, and might have to continue addressing those in post-June 1 free agency.
They didn't pick a tackle until the seventh round, when they took Duke's Drew Strojny. If a decent veteran doesn't shake loose after June 1, they may have to settle for free-agent acquisition Barry Stokes at right tackle because Strojny is considered more of a project.
Auburn's Reggie Torbor, a defensive end who could be converted to a situational linebacker used in frequent 3-4 looks, came in the fourth round. Gibril Wilson, a fifth-round strong safety from Tennessee, was taken for his legitimate 4.4 speed in the 40 and his ability to play free safety and in kick coverage.
Jamaar Taylor, a wide receiver out of Texas A&M, came in the sixth round despite a blown right knee that cut his season short after six starts last year. Coach Tom Coughlin said that before the injury, the Giants had a high second-round grade on him.
The only small-school product was Isaac Hilton of Hampton, a pass-rushing defensive end taken with the second seventh-round pick.
"We tried to do things in terms of speed,'' Coughlin said. "We gained with a number of these picks speed and special-teams help.''
The biggest hole, however, remains at linebacker. The Giants never did get a middle-linebacker type, which currently leaves third-year backup Nick Greisen as the departed Mike Barrow's replacement.
"The linebacker situation was an objective,'' Coughlin said. "But we weren't going to reach for any position. It is a concern, though.''
Accorsi went to work trying to sign some of the undrafted middle-linebacker talent immediately after the final pick of the day.
"The linebackers available just didn't fill what we were looking for, which is a lot of athleticism and speed,'' Accorsi said. "We weren't going to pick a position out of need where we knew we could sign somebody just as good afterwards.''
Accorsi also expected to pick up a return specialist or two from the undrafted lot.
The push to sign Manning as fast as possible will begin immediately. It may take time, as Accorsi expects a hard negotiation with Tom Condon, an agent he respects. But he expects no training-camp holdout for the quarterback, who might start from the get-go.
"We're getting our No. 1 signed," Accorsi said.