The New York Giants have reportedly landed their biggest free-agent target, agreeing to terms on a contract with pass-rushing defensive end Olivier Vernon. The news was first reported by Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports and has since been confirmed by several outlets.
Vernon's deal with the Giants is believed to be the largest ever for a 4-3 defensive end, at least in terms of guranteed money.
Olivier Vernon:— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) March 9, 2016
5 years, $85 million, $52.5m guaranteed.
Vernon, just 25, is a 6-foot-2, 275-pound player with 29 sacks in his four-year career. A starter for the past three seasons, Vernon had a career-best 11.5 sacks in 2013. He had 7.5 sacks last season.
What this means for the Giants
Vernon will bookend the Giants defensive line next season along with Jason Pierre-Paul, who will return to the Giants on a one-year, $10.5 million "prove it" contract. It means the Giants chose Vernon's upside and youth over the possibility of bringing back Robert Ayers, who led the Giants with a career-high nine sacks in 2015. Ayers will be 31 when the 2016 season begins.
This is another step in the reconstruction of a defense that was the worst in the league in 2015 and accumulated only 23 quarterback sacks. The Giants are also signing cornerback Janoris Jenkins to a five-year, $62.5 million contract ($29 million guaranteed), which almost certainly brings an end to the Giants' career of Prince Amukamara. The Giants also signed former New York Jets defensive tackle Damon Harrison, one of the league's best run-stuffers, to a five-year, $46.25 million contract, and brought back Jason Pierre-Paul for $10.5 million, $8.5 million of which is guaranteed.
That is $204.25 million spent, $114 million of which is guaranteed. Holy smokes!
Have the Giants overpaid in every instance? Certainly they have. Did they really have a choice? No. They had the worst defense in the NFL a year ago, have missed the playoffs four straight years, and have had three straight losing seasons. These big-money, free-agent splurges rarely work, even though they are exciting for the fan base. In the situation the Giants were in, though, with cap space to burn, holes to fill, and losing seasons piling up they really had to go for broke.
They still have holes to fill at safety, linebacker, wide receiver and the offensive line. Give the Giants and JerryReese some credit, though. They had to try to make a splash, and they did just that.
Now, we just wait to see if it will actually help on the field.