NY further helps defense with ex-Bengal

Updated: May 20, 2004, 8:55 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Continuing to add depth to their defense, specifically in the front four, the New York Giants have signed unrestricted free-agent tackle Glen Steele, whose entire NFL tenure had been with the Cincinnati Bengals.

And on a busy Thursday, the Giants also made a number of other roster moves. They acquired quarterback Kurt Kittner on waivers and signed wide receiver James McKnight, a 10-year veteran who played in Miami the past three seasons, as a free agent.

Kittner completed 44 of 114 passes for two touchdowns and six interceptions with the Atlanta Falcons last season. He posted a 1-3 record as a starter, with his only win coming in a 27-7 decision over the Giants.

Kittner was released by the Falcons last month. Cincinnati acquired him on waivers and released him May 10.

Steele, 29, is the fifth defensive lineman, fourth tackle and ninth defensive player overall to sign with the Giants during free agency. The six-year veteran signed a one-year contract for a base salary of $660,000.

He joins fellow free-agent tackles Fred Robbins (Minnesota), Martin Chase (Washington) and Norman Hand (San Diego) in what figures to be an interesting training camp competition for playing time.

The Giants, who statistically ranked No. 22 in total defense in 2003, also have signed two free-agent linebackers, both of whom will start, and a pair of defensive backs. The spate of veteran acquisitions could produce as many as four new starters, and New York still might be considering one or two more additions.

One of the Giants' 2003 starting tackles, Cornelius Griffin, defected to Washington in free agency. The other, Keith Hamilton, retired after a 12-year career.

Former University of Miami star William Joseph, New York's first-round choice in the 2003 draft, was being counted on to move into the starting lineup, but he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in an offseason weightlifting accident and isn't expected to be fully recovered until training camp.

Steele was pursued earlier in free agency by Tennessee, and dialogue continued for several weeks, with the Titans unable to make a move because of their tight salary cap. When the Titans addressed their defensive line needs in the draft, talks with Steele and his agent broke off.

Steele was chosen by the Bengals in the fourth round of the 1998 draft from Michigan. He appeared in 90 games, with 10 starts, in six years and is regarded as a very solid rotational tackle. A durable player, Steele has appeared in 80 straight games, playing all 16 contests each of the past five seasons.

Steele's career totals include 115 tackles, 3 sacks, one forced fumble and one recovery.

McKnight, 31, has played in 122 games and started 47 of them in stints with Seattle (1994-98), Dallas (1999-2000) and Miami (2001-2003). He has 222 receptions for 3,595 yards and 18 touchdowns. His best stretch came in 2000-2001, when he totaled 107 catches for 1,610 yards. Appearing in 15 games in 2003, with one start, McKnight caught just 23 passes.

In other moves, the Giants signed fifth-year wide receiver JuJuan Dawson, a former fourth-round pick whose journeyman career includes 52 receptions, and three-year veteran safety Jason Doering, formerly of Indianapolis. The club released five players, most of them rookie free agents, but the list of victims does include veteran safety Clarence LeBlanc, who played in just four games in three seasons with New York.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.