I just have one question for Giants GM Jerry Reese: Who are you, and what have you done with the old Jerry Reese? Reese and the Giants have simply just gone all out this free agency, having thrown their old methods of not spending too much out the window. The Giants know they’re in a state where they need to fix this team, the defense especially, right now. The window is closing to give Eli his third Lombardi Trophy, and owners John Mara and Steve Tisch are just flat-out tired of seeing losing seasons from their team. We all are.
With all that said, Jerry Reese took this to heart and, knowing his job is on the line, slapped free agency in the face. I like this new side to him. In the first few days of free agency, Reese managed to get 3 of the top 15 free agents available, and re-sign another in JPP. He also managed to sign a linebacker who has a good amount of potential, and if healthy can provide a spark to that mediocre linebacking corps. Yes, I know the Giants overpaid for a lot of these guys. What did you expect! Not only is the NFL salary cap the highest it has ever been, but the Giants had around $60 million to spend, the fourth most in the league. It doesn’t matter a whole lot that they overpaid because they had the money to do it and for some of these guys, most notably Olivier Vernon, other teams were right behind them ready to pay similar prices. While I believe there will be more signings to come throughout the offseason, let’s get into my reactions for each signing throughout the Giants free agency frenzy so far.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul
To start off this busy free agency period, the Giants went ahead and made a crucial move by retaining Jason Pierre-Paul to a 1-year, $10 million dollar deal. This may have Giants fans wondering why they decided to keep the guy who basically plays with one hand and an unknown future. To answer this, the Giants did this, and it was the right decision, due to a number of reasons. To start off, they only signed JPP to a 1-year prove it deal. This gives them a low-risk, high-reward opportunity, and if he doesn’t pan out correctly the Giants won’t be losing much. Also, JPP has been improving with his hand. He recently reported that he will not be wearing the gigantic club on his hand anymore after getting surgery to repair his grip. This is crucial and will make life a lot easier for Jason moving forward. It is also good to have a guy come back who was drafted and developed by the Giants, and one who can mentor the younger guys along the line. The fact that Jason turned down the same kind of offer from a championship-caliber team in the Cardinals, who were offering him more money by the way, says something. He told reporters that he “has some unfinished business to take care of in NY,” so he really is loyal to this team. Kudos to Jerry Reese and the Giants by getting this one right and pulling such an intelligent deal with a familiar face.
CB Janoris Jenkins
The Giants opened up their spending spree by agreeing to a 5-year, $62.5 million dollar contract with electrifying cornerback Janoris Jenkins. In four seasons with the Rams, Jenkins has displayed his top-notch ball skills and playmaking ability. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and never backs away from an opponent. His style of play is risky because he often guesses on plays. If he guesses correctly, he seems like an All-Pro caliber corner, but if he guesses wrong, he looks lost and confused. To add on to this, the Giants definitely overpaid to get him even though he was arguably the best available corner on the market. They probably could have signed him for less but probably wanted to make sure that he was theirs, and I don’t blame them since they had a glaring need and the cap space to do so. Nevertheless, the Giants got themselves a durable, legitimate upgrade over oft-injured Prince Amukamara, who signed with the Jaguars. He is a top-shelf corner and will form one of the best cornerback tandems in the league alongside Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
DT Damon Harrison
Still very hungry this offseason, the Giants decided to buy a snack. Or a 350-pound defensive tackle nicknamed “Snacks.” The Giants inked dominant defensive big man Damon “Snacks” Harrison from the cross-town rival New York Jets. I absolutely love this signing. Here the Giants have a guy who won’t impress you with the flashy sack numbers or the lengthy highlight reels, but he is just as important, if not more. He is an immovable brick wall in the middle of the line, and one of the best in the entire league. He manhandles running backs every week and draws double teams so that others can excel around him. Harrison is a lot like Victor Cruz in terms of his journey to the pros. As an undrafted free agent out of William Penn University, Harrison had to prove to the NFL that he was the best. He is a guy with an amazing attitude and is determined to be the best even to this day. He knows his journey and plays with that kind of toughness and hunger on the field. Harrison does the dirty work and plays a position that often doesn’t get the respect it deserves. That changes with him getting a 5-year, $46 million dollar deal to put on Giants blue and wreck offensive linemen alongside Jonathan Hankins for years to come. This may not be a sign that fills the headlines, but it’s my favorite and one that will definitely pay off on Sunday.
DE Olivier Vernon
Just when you thought the Giants were done with the big signings comes the biggest one of them all. The one that leaves Giants fans ecstatic and NFL general managers speechless. The one that makes smoke come out of Tom Coughlin’s ears and Olivier Vernon richer than JJ Watt. A 5-year, $85 million dollar contract that makes Vernon leave the Miami sunshine for the New Jersey snow. The deal that puts the finishing touches on a completely revamped defensive line. Vernon is a rising star in the NFL, he can do everything and has never missed a game in his 4-year career. He can rush the passer and play the run equally as effective and doesn’t shy away from opponents. In fact, he’s had some of his best performances against some of the elite tackles in the league. What makes Vernon even more special is the fact that he is only 25 years old and entering the prime of his career. He will continue to get better every year and has all the ability to earn the insane amount of cash he is getting paid. Yes the Giants overpaid him a lot, but once again what did you expect? They also had to do it due to the fact that the Jaguars were breathing down their necks, ready to sign him. The Giants got themselves a hard-working guy, an athletic freak, and a very talented player who also has proved a lot in his career. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m super excited to get the chance to see the new defensive line of Vernon on one end, JPP on the other, and an inside consisting of Harrison and Hankins.
LB Keenan Robinson
To finish up the first week of free agency, the Giants finally addressed their empty linebacking unit with the signing of four year veteran Keenan Robinson from the division rival Redskins. They inked him to a 1-year, $3.5 million dollar deal, hoping he will provide a spark and inject some energy to this unit. Robinson is very athletic and has a nose for reading plays, but he has a very lengthy injury history. He has yet to play a full 16-game season, and in 2013 he missed the entire season with a torn pectoral muscle. His best season was by far his 2014 campaign, when he only missed 3 games and notched 109 tackles to go along with 1.5 sacks and an interception. Since then it’s been an up-and-down road for Robinson, battling injuries and losing his starting job. Although this is a low-risk, high-reward type signing, and Robinson can definitely be a pleasant surprise when healthy, I just don’t see why they replace one injury-prone linebacker with another one, as newly-retired Jon Beason often dealt with injuries throughout his career. This could pay off nicely, but there were better options available and I think this is just too risky of a move.
LB Jasper Brinkley
Continuing to assemble their linebacking core, the Giants re-signed a familiar face; LB Jasper Brinkley. He was signed last offseason after being released by the Cowboys. Intending to serve as a backup and role player at most, Brinkley was asked to do more when injuries plagued the Giants linebackers. When being asked to start, Brinkley actually did a very solid job. He started 9 out of the 15 games he played, and finished the season with 67 tackles to go along with 4 forced fumbles and 1 sack. Brinkley served as a reliable veteran who masked a lot of the holes the defense had. He was a nice pleasant surprise for the Giants, and it’s no surprise the Giants resigned him to a 1-year deal. He and newly-signed Keenan Robinson will fill up the middle linebacker position and provide solid depth to the other linebacking spots.
FB Will Johnson
Finally turning the focus to the offensive side of the ball, the Giants made their first offensive signing when they inked ex-Steeler FB Will Johnson to a 2-year deal. This is an interesting signing with a player I am unfamiliar with. As I looked more into him and what he can bring to the Giants, I became more and more intrigued. Johnson is a guy who is very versatile, and that’s something NFL teams love. Not only can he help tremendously with protecting Eli and the running backs, but he can also play tight end if needed. Also a special teams ace, Johnson is a valuable weapon and should be used a lot of different ways. I guess this means FB Nikita Whitlock will see more snaps on defense, which isn’t a bad thing considering the Giants injury history. Nevertheless, good signing by the Giants.
OL Ryan Seymour, OL Dillon Farrell
Nothing really special with these signings here. Just two journeymen who have bounced around numerous teams throughout their short careers. They’re competing for backup roles on the offensive line, or they could end up being just two more training camp bodies. Who knows.
LB Kelvin Sheppard
Turning their attention back to defense, the Giants decided to continue to boost their linebackers core with the addition of 6-year veteran Kelvin Sheppard. Sheppard is coming off a career year with Miami in which he recorded 105 tackles and played in all 16 games. He will compete for a starting spot but will most likely be a key rotational player. He is a very solid veteran which makes for a very solid value signing in the second wave of free agency.
RB Bobby Rainey
The Giants quickly turned back to offense with he addition of ex-Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey. This is a signing that I’m both confused and not too crazy about. Throughout his career Rainey has never been a big factor in the offense, racking up only 990 rushing yards and 377 receiving yards in five seasons. He had served as a valuable return specialist, but the Gianrs already have one of the best in the league in Dwayne Harris. I just don’t see a role for Rainey on the roster, as the Giants already have four capable running backs ahead of Rainey. Maybe a guy like Andre Williams gets traded for a draft pick? Who knows, but all in all I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rainey not make the roster when final cuts come around.
OT Byron Stingily
The Giants finally add an offensive tackle! He didn’t play a single snap last season, but they still signed an offensive tackle (I say less excitedly). The 27-year old has played in 20 games over his career, only making 9 starts. After a 4-year stint with Tennessee, he joined the Steelers and was supposed to be the backup for OT Kelvin Beachum. When Beachum went down with a torn acl, though, Stingily wasn’t even activated for a single game. He could serve as a decent backup, or maybe he won’t even make the team at all. This was strictly a depth signing.