Jon Beason on return to Giants: 'I would love to play here next year'

EAST RUTHERFORD -- The numbers are staggering. With Jon Beason at middle linebacker, the Giants were one of the NFL's best defensive teams. Without Jon Beason at middle linebacker, they were one of the worst.

The Giants allowed 36.4 points per game the first five weeks of the season before Beason, acquired in a mid-season trade from Carolina for a seventh-round pick, was inserted into the starting lineup. With Beason at middle linebacker, they allowed 18.3 points per game and finished as a Top 10 defense -- for the season!

Sure, there were other factors – like Justin Tuck resurrecting into the Pro Bowl player he used to be, Will Hill emerging as a standout starting safety and Terrell Thomas becoming a quality nickel cornerback. But the biggest change in the Giants' defense was the new leader of the huddle, Jon Beason.

Beason, 28, now becomes a free agent, one the Giants need to re-sign if they want to build off the defensive success of the final 11 weeks of this season. Fortunately for the Giants, he wants to return.

“I would love to play here next year,” said Beason, who suffered an Achilles tear in 2011 followed by a knee tear in 2012.

“I want to continue to play football at a high level and I’m trying to win a championship. … That’s my No. 1 priority, right. And that is something I think we can do here. I think the pieces are here and you don’t really need to look elsewhere.”

It will take a lot of work by the Giants' front office to keep the defense that gelled in the second half of the season together for another year. Five of the 11 starters Sunday (Beason, Tuck, Thomas, Linval Joseph, Trumaine McBride) are free agents. Two others (Antrel Rolle and Mathias Kiwanuka) will have their hefty salary cap numbers thoroughly examined.

Beason has to be among the Giants’ top priorities. He had nine tackles Sunday against the Redskin to finish with 104 in 14 games this season. Maybe more importantly, he's been an invaluable presence in the huddle and the locker room, something the Giants desperately lacked with their inexperienced early-season linebacking corps.

“The biggest free agent for the Giants this offseason has to be Jon Beason,” said former Giants offensive lineman and current NFL Network analyst Shaun O’Hara on ‘NFL GameDay First.’ “There is a big correlation between his arrival and that defense playing improved football. Also, in that building, he has been a leader for those guys…He has had a huge impact and they have to find a way to get him back.”

Beason thinks he can be even better next year with a full, healthy offseason for the first time in three years. He thinks the Giants’ defense can improve as well given the opportunity to get acclimated to each other's tendencies and the defensive scheme during OTAs, minicamp and training camp.

However, it all depends on the front office’s decisions in the offseason.

“We can be scary good,” Beason warned, his eyes lighting up like a child in a toy store.

How can you doubt him? This is a man that helped turn a scary bad defense … into a Top 10 defense. The Giants finished with the ninth-ranked defense in the NFL, allowing 332.2 yards per game. The splits looked like this: 395.2 ypg without Beason; 303.7 ypg with Beason.

Of course, there is always the possibility that the Giants defense will have a totally new look next season. It's the nature of the business. Everything they built the final 11 weeks of the season could go to waste.

“I want to be here, but I’m not going to say, ‘hey, it’s going to shock me if I’m not [here].’” Beason. “I just know crazy things happen.”

Yes, they do, like the Giants becoming a Top 10 defense after the way they started the season. Who would have believed that?

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