What are the best and worst moves made by the New York Giants offseason? I posed that question to several of our Big Blue View staff writers as we return to the 'Big Blue View round table' for the first time in quite a while.
Here are the answers I got, with mine at the end.
The best move together Giants have made so far in 2015? Hiring Steve Spaguolo. The Giants' defense was dysfunctional more often than not under Perry Fewell. While he certainly was a player's coach, and a great X's & O's guy, he was also prime to questionable personnel choices, rarely deviating from the game plan, and perhaps not as good a teacher as the defense needed.
Spags' aggressive schemes are well suited for the Giants' defensive personnel and his in-game adaptability is one of his greatest strengths.
While he certainly isn't a magician who will fix the defense overnight, Spagnuolo has proven that he can put players in position to attack the offense and make plays. That is certainly an improvement over 2014, and should make for better play from a number of players.
Worst move? How about moves not made. With Jason Pierre-Paul, Prince Amukamara, Reuben Randle, and Eli Manning all in the last years of their deals, they could lose a franchise-changing amount of talent to free agency. Or perhaps worse, if the defense turns around, and the offense progresses like the Giants hope, that is a massive chunk of their salary cap. Manning, Amukamara, and JPP all play premier (read: high-dollar) positions, and all three have the ability to be top-5 at their position in the NFL. Randle has the ability to be a quality starting receiver. Though the Giants have a projected $80 million in cap room in 2016, that still might not be enough to keep these players, and the Giants roster can't afford to let their most talented players walk out the door. Not locking at least some of them up this offseason opens that door.
Shane Vereen. For years, I have wanted a Darren Sproles/Danny Woodhead type gadget-back to complement a standard one-two punch. I think Vereen fits that role perfectly. Swing routes, motioning out of the backfield, screens and dump offs are all areas that are instantly improved with this addition. He makes defenses keep an eye on the running back even in obvious passing situations. Ahmad Bradshaw was good at that but his fragility was maddening. For the first time in Eli Manning's career he may have a versatile weapon that provides a threat in all aspects of the game.
If you're looking for how he may be used in Ben McAdoo's scheme, look at wide-receiver Randall Cobb rather than any of the running backs that Green Bay had during McAdoo's tenure. Cobb was a Swiss-Army knife for that offense. Look for Vereen to be a part of the no-huddle package with lots of draw plays for the ground game and a higher number of catches than any guy ahead of him on the depth chart.
J.T. Thomas. I do not understand giving this player a three-year, $12 million deal when the Jaguars (who have far less to work with than the Giants) didn't want to resign him. Thomas played well against the Giants last year, and didn't do much else for the rest of the season. He doesn't offer much in terms of run support, he cannot rush the passer with any kind of penetration and he struggles with tackling efficiency, clocking up 14 missed tackles compared to his 58 successful tackles.
Whatever about bringing this guy in on a low-cost deal to provide depth and play special teams, this team signed him to starter money. I didn't see much of a market for this player yet the Giants went out and signed him to a big contract on Day 1 of free agency. Nothing about this move makes sense to me.
Best move -- Aggressively addressing special teams.
We talked a whole lot about how terrible the New York Giants defense was in 2014. It was pretty bad. However, it wasn't the worst unit on the team. That dishonor goes to the Special Teams, who consistently, year in and year out prove to be one of the worst units in the NFL, bar none. It provided teams with an advantage on almost every drive, and you just can't win that way
By adding J.T. Thomas, Dwayne Harris, Jonathan Casillas, Shane Vereen, Geremy Davis, Mykkele Thompson, and re-signing Mark Herzlich, the Giants committed a lot of resources to upgrading the coverage and return teams and should be several times better in that area. Don't discount the effect of special teams, it makes a huge difference in how games go.
Worst move - Not addressing cornerback
The Giants had some historically bad luck when it came to cornerback play last year. Thought of as an elite ensemble at the beginning of 2014, we watched as the group was ravaged by injury. Thus far in the offseason, the Giants elected not to sign back Walter Thurmond III, and he decided to join his fellow Ducklings in Philadelphia. The Giants have Prince Amukamara for this year and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Trumaine McBride joining him. Behind them?
Who knows. Mike Harris, Chandler Fenner, Bennett Jackson, Jayron Hosley, and Chykie Brown make up a motley crew that serve as the "depth" for this team at corner. How will they fare? I have no idea, and given how easily our players go down, it's a bit of a scary proposition. No free agent corner was signed and no corner was drafted. This will truly be a test of health for the team, and it's going to be touch and go right from the start.
For me, it is the boldest move the Giants have made this offseason. That would be the trade up on Day 2 of the draft to get safety Landon Collins. The Giants had to get an immediate starter at safety from somewhere this offseason, and in the draft Collins was the player most likely to be exactly that. Do we know what kind of player Collins will be? No. Can we guarantee that he will be a successful NFL player? Of course we can't. The Giants identified a glaring need, identified a player they felt could fill that need and did what they had to do in order to get that player. That's the best, and boldest, move of the offseason.
I am going to agree with 'Invictus' here. I understood not wanting to spend heavily on Walter Thurmond because of his injury history. Looking at the roster, though, the thing that jumps out is the lack of depth at cornerback. A year ago, the Giants had an embarrassment of riches at the position. Now? Not so much.
I can't be nearly as panicked as 'Rap' seems to be about some of the contract situations. I favored the franchise tag for JPP because I think one great season and one good one in five years isn't enough to earn Pierre-Paul premier money. A contract extension for Manning will get done. Amukamara? Put him in the JPP category. Let's see him play a full year before giving him big money. Randle? Why extend him now? He still has a lot to prove. Let's make him earn a big contract before giving him one.
As for Alex's assertion about J.T. Thomas I don't hate the move at all. I think the Giants could have gotten him for less money than they paid, but I have no problem with him being a Giant. The move makes a ton of sense to me. Young linebacker with upside who has experience in the middle and on the outside. A reputation as a good special teams player. Let's give that move a chance. At least it's the Giants trying to address linebacker with a younger player -- Thomaswill be 27 in August -- instead of an aging retread.