Key Additions: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ($7M per year), Geoff Schwartz ($4.2M), Walter Thurmond ($3M), JD Walton ($3M), Rashad Jennings ($2.5M), Jameel McClain ($2.3M), Robert Ayers ($1.9M)
Key Re-Signings: Jon Beason ($5.7M per year), Stevie Brown ($2.8M), Trumaine McBride ($1.4M) , Josh Brown ($1.3M)
Key Losses: Linval Joseph (Vikings), Justin Tuck (Raiders), Hakeem Nicks (Colts), Kevin Boothe (Raiders), Keith Rivers (Bills)
Major Cuts: David Bass ($5M cap savings- June 1)
Free Agency Thoughts:
The Giants were one of the most active teams in free agency, adding 7 starting quality players to the team. This was a different approach than last season for the Giants and really for most teams in the NFL. Last season the Giants attempted to piece a team together with a large amount of minimum salary contracts to supplement the core talent. The team never fired so this year they hit free agency more aggressively but, for the most part, targeted the lower tier of available players to do so rather than signing the highest priced talent.
Of the new players they signed, Geoff Schwartz was the best signing. He is a quality player and fills and immediate need. If things do not go well it’s at worst a two year contract, but if things do go well they could have a top 10 veteran guard at a mid starter price. He should being some instant stability to what was a poor line in 2013.
Jon Beason fit incredibly well in the organization when he came via trade last year and was someone they had to keep. I would have liked to have seen less signing bonus money, but they do have over $3 million in gameday roster bonuses to protect them from injury, something Beason has struggled with.
Walter Thurmond at $3 million was another good signing. It’s a one year contract where you know you will get the best out of the player. This is not unlike the Raiders signing of Tarell Brown where there is really no downside to the decision. He should be a very productive third corner for the Giants.
Re-signing Stevie Brown was something they had to do. He was terrific in 2012 and his injury in 2013 probably hurt the team greatly. He has the ability to take advantage of mistakes on the field and essentially they are paying him $1 million for a look at his health in the summer. If healthy he is a bargain.
The Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie signing was a head scratcher at the price and contract construction. He talked about retiring and only had one other real option which was the New York Jets. The Jets had been tight with money all season and represented little threat and I tend to think the Giants were just bidding against themselves. To fit him within the cap they had to give him a large signing bonus which probably guarantees him three years on the team with a significant amount of dead money the following season if cut.
Why the Giants selected JD Walton to take over at center is a mystery. They must have designs on drafting a center and Walton simply being a one year stopgap or veteran backup. Brian De la Puente, now on the Bears, was a superior player and came in much cheaper. The Giants were linked to him early and perhaps he thought too highly of himself which took the Giants out, but that would have made more sense on almost every level.
Of the lesser free agent signings I think Jennings fits the passing situation need the team wants. That said they overpaid for him and a $2.25 million signing bonus is a bit rich, but Jennings has limited wear on his body so perhaps the Giants see more upside. Still it is a high number to bank on a player who just one season ago was not wanted by most teams on a low dollar contract and it is not as if he lit the world on fire in Oakland.
Robert Ayers is a decent upside potential signing and fits in with what most former first round types would get. The Giants have incentives in the deal which they will gladly pay if he develops into a better pass rusher….Jameel McClain will likely be lost in the shuffle, but it was a low risk contract.
Losing Linval Joseph was a mistake. He signed a top 10 positional contract in Minnesota, but he was a young player that was very important to the teams’ better play in the second half of last season. Perhaps the Giants did not feel he was a strong enough pass rusher to justify the contract, but it is a risky move to abandon the player.
None of the other losses should concern the team. While the loss of Tuck probably has some hurt feelings, the fact is his production had been declining for years before he played much better in his walk year and much of the standout production came in his two games against the Redskins. That’s not something the Giants could pay much for. I think everyone knew the time was over for Hakeem Nicks and the Giants.
Overall Grade: C+
The Giants got better this offseason but I question the cost of doing so, in particular the Rodgers-Cromartie contract that is very player friendly for a player who is by no means a sure-fire bet. They would have been better off committing to Joseph and finding another second tier cornerback. The Giants pushed a few guys into a paycut and did not rework the contract of either Eli Manning or Antrel Rolle, which was a good move since both could be on their way out next season.
I think the team has added far better depth for next season, some of whom bring some upside on lower cost contracts. The way they approached the offseason tells me that they are unsure of where they are right now and how competitive the team can be. Most of this feels like a team making keeping their fingers crossed and taking one last chance with this group. I think they are at a position where I could see them getting hot, if Manning is on a good year, and going deep in the playoffs or just completely falling apart and having to sort through a veteran roster for at least one more year before they can get younger and competitive, likely with a new GM, head coach, and QB.