The New York Giants took an important step today to rebuild their linebacking unit by re-signing Keith Rivers to a one-year deal, according to Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger. Though the value amount was not announced, it was likely a veteran minimum contract.
The Giants traded for Rivers from the Cincinnati Bengals last off-season in exchange for a fifth round draft pick. Though a former first round pick who was but 25 years of age at the time, he came cheap because he has a long injury history.
The former eighth overall pick had his rookie season abruptly ended after seven games, all starts, when in that last contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers he was the recipient of a blindside block by retired wide receiver Hines Ward.
The block was enough to break the young linebacker’s jaw and land him on the injured reserve list for the final nine games of his rookie season. The incident has become infamous as the inspiration for what has become known as the “Hines Ward Rule”, which made it illegal for blockers to land a blindside block using their helmet, forearm or shoulder, to strike at the head or neck area of a defender.
He missed another four games between 2009-10, and missed the entire 2011 season with a wrist injury that necessitated surgery. The Bengals elected to put him on the non-football injury list rather than the physically unable to perform list so that the team could withhold his salary, which led to a falling out that ultimately culminated in the team trading him last year.
Rivers has continued his brittle ways with the Giants, missing five games in 2012. However, when he has been on the field, he has been productive. He started six of those games, totaling 44 tackles in spot duty.
After releasing Michael Boley earlier this offseason, it is likely that Rivers and Jacquian Williams will battle for one of the outside linebackers positions, although the loser is likely to see a lot of playing time with Mathias Kiwanuka being used interchangeably as a linebacker and defensive end.
The Giants would still like to re-sign middle linebacker Chase Blackburn, who is testing the market. The team has Mark Herzlich on the roster, who despite nominally being in a preseason battle for the starting job was never close to winning it.
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