TE Jake Ballard was picked up by the Patriots off of waivers. Jerry Reese made a calculated risk, and there was one team out there that called him on it. This is a money and roster spot issue. The link contains the more detailed explanation of what the Patriots had to do in order to secure his services. The way that I understand it, he takes a roster spot and essentially costs the Patriots $1.17M total in (2012 AND) 2013, because he is not going to be playing in 2012.
Do we second guess Reese on this one? Were the Giants penny-wise and pound-foolish? So much of this is a medical question. His ACL was a mess. He also required microfracture surgery too. His recovery is far more lengthy and involved than Beckum's, as an example, because there was more damage. Ballard was, in the limited time we saw him, an injury-prone player. And of course, he was terrific when he was healthy.
TE was a huge hole for the Giants last year, and Ballard filled it big time. Whether or not Reese knew about how capable Ballard would be for him or not, he saved the Giants in so many ways. Can any of us think that realistically the Giants would have made it into the playoffs without this player's contributions? I for one do not. And if Ballard was healthy in the playoffs, the Giants would have won their games more easily, especially against SF and NE.
But all of these elements have to be weighed against the medical. All else equal, I would not have risked it. But I do not know how bad the medical was, and that is not "equal." The Giants signed Martellus Bennett to a 1 year deal, partially predicated (imo) on Ballard being back in 2013. So if you operate under this assumption, then the Giants clearly made a mistake in their calculus. It feels like a relatively cheap medical option for the Patriots, given how well Ballard was able to play when he was healthy.
Of course we all know how Ballard roasted the Patriots in their Week 9 game. NFL organizations have a memory for that sort of thing. This type of thinking was definitely a part of why the Giants signed Canty, who seemed to kill the Giants when he was with the Cowboys.
Before anyone crucifies Reese, let's remember that we were all pretty upset when they botched the Steve Smith negotiations and he signed with the Eagles. That was a medical issue too, to some degree. The two situations, Ballard and Smith, have a similar ring to them- both were about a roster spot (for a year of recovery where the player was going to be ineffective) and money. I felt that the Giants needed to protect Smith then, and I feel that the Giants probably should have protected Ballard now. But Smith is with the Rams now, so that should tell us that the Eagles did not get anything and the Giants could have gone after him a year later as well but did not. Let's not sentence the Giants as losers and the Patriots as winners. (XLII and XLVI have a difference of opinion on that one too!) I think the Patriots did well for themselves, as the risk was not great. For the Giants' part, maybe that extra roster spot helps them uncover another gem. Let's remember that Victor Cruz was really close to being cut, so roster spots are really important.
Summary: It sux that the Giants lost such a wonderful contributor. The Patriots grabbed what looks like a relatively cheap option. Between the roster spot and the medical issues, we have to appreciate that this was not a slam dunk decision one way or the other.