This is the 43rd in a series of scouting reports on key players who are expected to become free agents on March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchised before then.
News: The good news for Thomas, who missed the entire 2011 season with a torn ACL he suffered in the preseason, is that he reportedly is ahead on his rehabilitation and already has spoken to the Giants about re-signing with them. Thomas began running at full speed the first week of February and has started to begin agility drills, which could get him ready for full participation in training camp — perhaps sooner. He also has expressed some disappointment in not being available to help his teammates win a Super Bowl title last season, which could increase his chances of returning.
Notes: Thomas had a very productive 2010 season, notching career highs in tackles (101), passes defended (21) and forced fumbles (four), as well as matching his career best with five interceptions. It was his second full season starting, after playing mostly nickel duty and on special teams as a rookie in 2008, and he appeared primed for another strong season in '11 prior to the injury. He was a second-round pick out of USC and appears to have a bright future (assuming the rehab continues to go well) at age 27.
Positives: Thomas is a physical corner who can play press-man and bump-and-run coverage with his very long arms and good base strength. He is effective at rerouting receivers and can match up with opponents' big targets. Thomas supports the run well, has a knack for dislodging the ball and can deliver a big blow for a corner. His 10 interceptions and five forced fumbles in two full seasons of starting show he has that playmaking knack.
Negatives: Thomas has suffered multiple knee (two torn ligaments) and shoulder injuries dating back to USC, and given his physical style, his long-term durability is a major concern. He also lacks top-end speed and can be vulnerable to double moves in the form of overaggressiveness. He's best in cover-2 zones and can be exposed in man coverage without safety assistance.
Risk factor: For other teams, signing a cornerback with a history of injuries is pretty risky, but the Giants likely are happy with Thomas' progress and would feel more comfortable now with his status than they were a year ago with that of Mathias Kiwanuka. Remember, Kiwanuka was coming off a serious neck injury at the time, and it appeared his career could be in jeopardy. But he signed a two-year, $8.6 million deal once the Giants felt comfortable with his health, and you could see something similar happening with Thomas. He's not going to break the bank this year, but he could get a solid contract that allows him to re-enter the market and still get paid again before he turns 30. One other factor: Giants CB Aaron Ross also is a free agent, and his return is very much up in the air. Re-signing Thomas gives the Giants a buffer before they have to thrust Prince Amukamara (who was not ready as a rookie) into the starting lineup.