It appears that the New York Giants would like to see how their draft plays out before going after any veteran safeties in free agency. This benefits both the team and the free agents. The draft is an unpredictable beast. Every year, many top players fall to unsuspecting teams. This is the preferred way of doing business in terms of filling roster needs. But, when the draft is over and needs still remain, you get a mini-wave of free agency. Veteran players may have a little more leverage than they did before the draft. It might be glaringly obvious that this team did not get the guy they wanted. They may need to fill a potential starting spot with a replacement level player. (I use this term with no offense to current unsigned players, but they're unsigned because no team thinks they can come in and start right away. Teams would prefer to fill up their depth chart with younger guys who have developmental upside.)
So below I've documented two free-agent safeties who could be attached to the Giants once the draft is over. One is a replacement player, and one is a guy who I believe might be the best safety available right now.
Fans are well-acquainted with Stevie Brown and he does appear to be a logical re-signing considering what's left on the market. I suspect that the Giants would like to see who they could land in the draft before bringing Brown back. There aren't, however, a huge amount of positive reasons to bring Brown back.
Let's look at Brown's three seasons in blue. We can discount 2013 as he spent the entirety of it on injured reserve.
In 2012, Brown was perhaps at his highest value as a player. He recorded eight interceptions (second-most in the league), which helped the Giants finish third overall in that category. This was a hugely misleading statistic as the Giants were one of the worst defenses in pass coverage that year. A lot of Brown's interceptions were overthrown balls, tipped passes or lucky positioning. Of course, there is some credit due, but not as much as what the numbers indicate.
Every year the guys with the most interceptions get voted to the Pro Bowl because fans notice big plays. In reality, the less you see a defensive back the better they are. If you look at Brown's interceptions in 2012, you don't see a guy constantly outplaying the opposition. You see a bad throw by Brandon Weeden. An off-target one by Robert Griffin III. A tipped ball by Drew Brees. Brown steps in front of one Cam Newton pass in the end zone, but didn't have to make much of a break on the ball. The quarterback just didn't see him. In Week 8 down in Dallas, Brown jumps a pass intended for Dez Bryant but it appears that Corey Webster had solid coverage on the receiver already.
Brown has good instincts, but lacks the ability to individually cover a receiver. This is when he puts the defense in a vulnerable position. In 2012, he played 482 pass-coverage snaps and allowed completions on 17 of the 26 targets into his area for a total of 259 yards. Last season he declined. He played 331 coverage snaps and allowed completions on 12 of the 17 targets for 300 yards. His average yards allowed per completion rose from 15.2 in 2012 to 25.0 in 2014. This is predominantly due to receivers generating more yards after the catch. It becomes clear why he was benched in the middle of last season.
Brown is a logical signing, but that doesn't mean he's a good one. He plays the strong safety role more than anything, and the Giants would likely want either Berhe or Taylor to be starting in one of those spots. It may be to their detriment, but the Giants could sign Brown before camp. Brown had a good (not great) year in 2012 and a below-average 2014. The best-case scenario would be signing Brown as the No. 3 safety.
If the Baltimore Ravens don't re-sign him first, New York could make an offer to the 27-year-old undrafted safety. Miles doesn't have a lot of pedigree so his name wasn't floated around much in the first waves of free-agency, but he could be a huge pick-up and conceivably start right away.
Prior to last season, he played sparsely for both the Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. From 2010-2013, he logged just 141 career snaps on defense. During this period, he was barely a blip on the league radar. In 2014, something changed.
Under Spagnuolo's tutelage, Miles' role increased dramatically. He played 365 snaps in a defensive secondary that saw a lot of personnel turnover (including cutting Chykie Brown). While he only started two games, his snap count last year more than doubled his career total. As a result, we can get a much clearer picture of Miles as a player.
Looking at Pro Football Focus' metrics, Miles gained a +5.0 coverage grade and a +0.6 for his run-defense. Just four of his 10 targets were completions for a total of 75 yards. He has just one interception for his career but the lack of turnovers don't concern me as long as he shows coverage skills.
Miles is on the verge of a breakout season. His 2014 coverage grades were entirely positive. This could be an important building block for a new defense that could struggle to adapt to Spagnuolo. Cost-effective reliability in the secondary is necessary for the Giants after missing out on several free-agent safeties. Unlike Brown, Miles is a player I would want to lock up as soon as possible. His low cost and high potential are not found anywhere else in the remaining free-agent pool.
Brown is the likely choice to return, but Miles is clearly the better player at this point. The name-brand players in free-agency are gone. What's left may not be anyone's top choice, but there are still options. If the Giants decide to go with Brown, at least the team will know what to expect and perhaps build around his weaknesses in the hope of another turnover-centric season.
Tomorrow: Potential draft choices for the safety position.