Hakeem Nicks Dishes On Free Agency, SB XLVIII And The Giants
By Allen Kim
Joining Carl Banks at the Starter Clubhouse pop up shop in Times Square over the weekend was none other than New York Giants WR Hakeem Nicks. With Super Bowl XLVIII taking place right in his backyard, the impending free agent took a moment to speak with Football.com about the Super Bowl, free agency and the Giants’ disappointing season.
“I think the Broncos,” Nicks said of his pick for Super Bowl XLVIII. While he acknowledged that the Eli-Peyton Manning connection was a “minor factor” in choosing the Broncos, he said, “I just think experience wise — Seattle is a good, young, up-and-coming team — Denver’s got the experience to pull it through.”
Nicks certainly has the experience to back up his talk. His one Super Bowl ring matches that of all the players combined in this weekend’s game. While Wes Welker, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Jacob Tamme all have prior experience playing in the big game, Manning is the only one with the hardware.
During the Giants’ magical Super Bowl run in 2011, he had 28 receptions for 444 yards and four touchdowns. He was also a potential candidate for Super Bowl MVP — an honor that Eli Manning won — after he led all receivers with 10 receptions for 109 yards, including a pivotal 14-yard catch to set up Ahmad Bradshaw’s eventual touchdown run with just over a minute remaining in the fourth quarter.
“It was just fun,” Nicks said of the Giants’ march to the Super Bowl. “Everybody was in it for each other. Nobody was for themself. The guy next to you was laying it all on the line. You’re always doing it for each other. Everything was just clicking. It was just a moment where you just know you had to enjoy while you were going through it.”
Nicks did offer some advice for the Broncos receivers on matching up with Seattle’s Legion of Boom: “Just be physical. Make plays, man. They’re a good defense. You have to make more plays than them.”
Of course, any time you talk about the Legion of Boom, you can’t avoid talking about the most controversial figure of the group: Richard Sherman. While Sherman is known for talking trash, Nicks did say that in their lone matchup this season, Sherman let his play do all the talking.
“He’s definitely … you can argue that he’s one of the top corners in the game,” Nicks said of Sherman. “I won’t say that he’s the best, single-handedly the best. But he’s one of the best. It’s not even that he’s physical — I think he’s just got good ball skills in the air, good size.”
As for the toughest corners that he’s had to match up with throughout his career, he was quick to name Darrelle Revis first. Asante Samuel, a player that he’s all too familiar with, and Charles Woodson rounded out his list of the top three corners that he’s had to tangle with in the five years he’s been in the league.
Like Banks, Nicks also offered an interesting opinion on Sherman and his detractors: “You know, I think that’s just him. That’s his character. He’s been that way all year. You can’t necessarily put it under the microscope now if you haven’t been doing it all year. He’s been doing it all year, so that’s just his character.”
While Nicks seemed to enjoy taking a trip down memory lane and talking about the Super Bowl, he spoke about this past season, which could be his final year as a member of the Giants, with what seemed to be a heavy heart.
“I just think that this year, looking back on it, my personal opinion, I think that everybody just wasn’t in it together,” said Nicks. “Whether it was cause they had stuff going off the field or they weren’t happy or satisfied as far as how things were going on the field … a lot of people were in a contract year this year — some big names. I think all of that played a factor. Like I said, while we was going through it, it was just tough. We all wanted to win. Your heart is in it, your mind is in it, but it just wasn’t happening. Everybody just wasn’t in it together.”
Even through the most trying times, the team stuck together. They managed to rally together and win seven of their last 10 games after starting 0-6. They can attribute their turnaround to the camaraderie of the locker room.
“Looking back at it, you never want to point no fingers,” Nicks said. “It’s a team effort, and everything happens for a reason. Looking back at the film, just a little bit of miscommunication, not being on the same page. I don’t want to say it’s a lack of effort, because I feel like the men … we go out there every day and we were having good practices. We just couldn’t quite put our finger on it.
“I think that just shows the character of guys that we have. We was at the top together, we got to be at the bottom together, too. I think that’s how we looked at it and just how we approached it, and we knew better than to point a finger. It’s just a situation, man, where you know it was tough going through it. Now that it’s over and we critiqued ourselves, we all want to forget about it.”
Like the team, Giants fans are probably in the same mindset. Putting the season behind and moving forward with the next season in mind is all they really have at this point. However, whether Nicks is a part of that future remains to be seen.
The one question racing through the minds of Giants fans everywhere is, of course, what will happen during free agency. Nicks signed a five-year, $12.54 million contract with the Giants after he was drafted out of the University of North Carolina in 2009. With his contract expiring in March, he’s undoubtedly looking for a sizeable pay raise now that he’s finally reached free agency.
The Giants currently have roughly $10 million in cap space projected for 2014, but that figure is likely to grow with a number of cap casualties set for release. All signs point to the Giants letting him walk, but even Nicks seems to be unsure as to what the future holds for him.
“Honestly, I don’t know yet,” Nicks said with a laugh. “Obviously, you know, I’m in a situation where I have to look at teams. I got some teams that I’ve been looking at just in case I have to leave New York.”
I pointed out his connection to the Carolina Panthers and how he would be a great fit in their system, and a mischievous-looking grin slowly formed at the corners of his mouth. Whether it was a hint at the Panthers being one of the front-runners to land him or not, he made it clear that he has at least considered them as an option.
“I think it would be if that was the case,” Nicks said on whether or not he believed he would be a good fit with the Panthers. “That’s the home team, too. I’m from Charlotte. I grew up a Panthers fan, actually. So that would be a good fit, but I can’t talk about all that right now.”
Nicks, of course, was coy regarding any questions about his future, and he danced around the topic on several occasions. But he made it clear that returning to the Giants is definitely still in the cards, and he doesn’t think that fans and the media should jump to conclusions too early.
“It’s not Mar. 11, so I’m still a Giant as of right now,” Nicks said. “I really can’t say right now. We’re still in a conversation. I feel like the relationship that I have and that I’ve built with Jerry Reese and the whole organization, there’s a respect level there. I feel like, if anything, we can always talk and come to a common ground. Like I said before, there’s no bad blood there. I love this organization. I feel they feel the same way about me. Whether my future is here or somewhere else, I feel like my name will always be good here.”