Free Agency Review: New York Giants

Key Additions: WR Brandon Marshall ($5.5M), TE Rhett Ellison ($4.5M), G DJ Fluker ($3M), QB Geno Smith ($1.2M)

Key Re-signings: DE Jason Pierre-Paul ($15.5M), G John Jerry ($3.3M), LB Keenan Robinson ($3M), LS Zak DeOssie ($1.2M), RB Orleans Darkwa ($1.1M)

Key Losses: WR Victor Cruz (FA), DT Jonathan Hankins (FA),  T Marshall Newhouse (Raiders), LB Kelvin Sheppard (FA), RB Rashad Jennings (FA), CB Leon Hall (FA)

Estimated Cap Space: $5.3 million

Dead Money: $9.5 million

Estimated Salary Per Year: $163.9 million for 71 players

Snaps Gained/Lost in Free Agency:

Role 2016 Snaps 2017 Snaps Change
Offense 11,668 11,816 148
Defense 12,183 10,488 -1,695
Special 4,857 4,501 -356

Player Signings

Jason Pierre-Paul- 4 years, $62M, $40M guaranteed

This was a solid job by the Giants to get Pierre-Paul on somewhat similar terms to Robert Quinn’s contract with the Rams that was signed back in 2014. I thought that the Giants had backed themselves into a corner with their Olivier Vernon contract, but the Giants were able to use some of the leverage of the franchise tag to get JPP under a somewhat reasonable deal. They did compromise on a massive signing bonus that matched Vernon’s but they got some per game bonuses in this one and were able to create the cap room needed to grab a few other players. Grade: B+

Brandon Marshall- 2 years, $11M, $5M guaranteed

There are a few ways to look at this contract. As a pure value I like the deal. I think Marshall still has some upside in his game even if he has shown limited productivity in 2 of the last 3 years and going to a new home I believe will motivate him. By going to just two years they don’t need to worry about a messy divorce or having him wearing on the team. So that’s all good. However when looking at their roster did they really need a veteran receiver like Marshall on the team?  They have nice young players in their core and I don’t know if that advances their growth. After the boat incident and some other issues that may make you question the maturity of the group I think they wanted some responsible veterans to work with these guys and while I think Marshall brings that to the locker room he also is divided between football and his post football media career which can be just as much of a distraction. As a contract though there is no issue here.   Grade: B+

Rhett Ellison- 4 years, $18M, $8M guaranteed

Unless you are grading on the Dwayne Allen or Marcedes Lewis scale I’m not sure what the Giants saw in Ellison. Ellison is a good blocker and in a different offense would probably play fullback but generally good blockers are about half this cost and never get anywhere near $8 million in salary guarantees. They have to hope that added opportunities leads to bigger production to make this worthwhile, but this was a clear reach for a player they didn’t want to chance losing. Grade: D

John Jerry- 3 years, $10M, $4.25M guaranteed

After signing Fluker this was a bit surprising but he provides veteran insurance if Fluker continues a disappointing NFL career. I see this as very similar to the Jermon Bushrod contract except the Giants got some additional years with this. It’s a perfectly fine value for a veteran lineman and they could walk away after the one season with minimal damage based on the guarantee structure. Grade: B

DJ Fluker- 1 year, $3M, $1.5M guaranteed

This is a take a chance contract on a highly drafted player that has been a disappointment for most of his career. Fluker can play a few spots on the line so there is some versatility there, though its questionable if he can play any of those spots well. I would have liked to have seen the Giants push for a small guarantee because it would not surprise me if they cut either he or Jerry at the end of camp. Grade: B-

Keenan Robinson- 1 year, $3M, $2M guaranteed

Given the Giants general approach to their linebackers this contract is about what was expected for someone. This was a poor year for free agent linebackers and its not like the Giants had big money to spend even if someone was available, so I think when they looked at what they were losing on the year they felt this was their best option. Still I’m not sure that the market really existed for him around this price. Grade: C

Geno Smith- 1 year, $1.2M, $300K guaranteed

I don’t know if Smith has anything he can do, but in the world of backup quarterbacks where a pulse gets you $2-3 million a year you can’t argue in the value here. This is a good location for Smith because there should be no pressure nor any chip on his shoulder about playing time. It could be a good situation to try to revive a career and if his woes from the Jets continue its only $300,000 down the drain. Grade: B+




 

Overall Thoughts

The Giants were mega spenders in 2016 and while they couldn’t top that kind of spending they did a much better job in finding some value in their contracts this year. It is also worth noting that they clearly got the market right on Hankins who is still a free agent looking for a home. Whether he comes back to New York or not is open, but I like how the Giants handled that.

One thing with the Giants, and this could be a good thing or a bad thing, is that they tend to be pretty loyal to some of their guys. It took them far too long to cut ties with players like Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings and even their pay cuts with Shane Vereen and Dwayne Harris were nowhere near what some other organizations would have done. Even the deals with players like Jerry and Robinson I think show a bit of a hometown bias since they were later free agent signings who didn’t excite anyone else.

The team still has clear deficiencies at running back and linebacker and the offensive line is still of the “keep your fingers crossed” variety. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t care as much for the Marshall move as that was money that potentially could have gone into the offensive line. While they would not be as notable as the Marshall signing they would address an area of weakness not help an area of strength. Maybe they figured everyone would be too expensive, but I would have rather backed out of Marshall and Ellison or Marshall and Jerry and targeted a good tackle or guard rather than hoping Ellison can help. Still those contracts would bring long term risk and many of the Giants signings were all about short term financial exposure and there could be logic to that.

Outside of the Ellison deal I think the Giants got very good value in most of their contracts. They are still going to be relying on the status quo which is never good in the NFL, but they made the most of what they had and if they hit gold on guys like Fluker they can be better next season.