The New York Giants have traded a fifth round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for linebacker Keith Rivers.
The athletic linebacker, who is just 25 years old, was drafted ninth overall out of USC in the 2008 draft by the Bengals. He is 6’2 242 lbs and projects best on the weakside of the Giants defense.
Rivers was playing well as a rookie, but had his season abruptly ended on a blindside block by notoriously dirty Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward, which resulted in a broken jaw. This hit resulted in the “Hines Ward Rule” making it illegal for blockers to land a blindside block to the opponent’s head using their helmet, forearm or shoulder. In just seven games as a rookie, Rivers had 37 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. Since Rivers played in 13 games in 2009 (72 tackles, 1 Int, 1 Sack) and 15 games in 2010 (77 tackles, 1 sack) before missing the entire 2011 season with a wrist injury.
I love this more for the Giants. It is low risk, as they are only surrendering a fifth round pick for Rivers, so it is a very low risk move. The Bengals signed linebackers Manny Lawson and Thomas Howard making Rivers expendable, so it makes sense for them to get value for Rivers as well instead of being forced to cut him outright.
Rivers is a much better fit in the Giants 4-3 base defense than he was in the Bengals hybrid 3-4 front, and he will be able to use his athleticism to make plays from sideline to sideline rather than playing in a phonebooth.
It will be interesting to see where Rivers ends up on the Giants defense. He fits best at weakside linebacker, but that spot is currently occupied by Michael Boley, the best linebacker the Giants have. General manager Jerry Reese has mentioned that Boley might move to the middle, and if that happens, Rivers could start on the weakside.
Another option would be moving strongside linebacker Mathais Kiwanuka back to defensive end and start Rivers on the strongside, and you have to think that the odds of former middle linebackers Jonathan Goff and Chase Blackburn will be brought back have just grown longer. You have to think that the Giants saw a talented, young player like Rivers available, and they went out and got him so he can compete for a starting job in 2012. Rivers is in the final deal of his rookie contract and will make $2.16 million this coming season.
This also lessens the need for the Giants to draft a linebacker in the upcoming NFL Draft, and they can focus on adding the best player available with the 32nd pick, as Jerry Reese likes to do. Some unexpected interesting players will be available when the final pick of the first round rolls around in April, and the Giants will be able to snag an impact player. Also the Giants have two fouth round picks, so this move makes even more sense.
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