NFL free agency 2016 "winners and losers?" Nah, not around here. We review things in our own unique "Kudos & Wet Willies" style. So, let's review what the New York Giants accomplished, and did not accomplish, on Day 1 of the free-agent signing period.
Kudos to ...
OK, OK. Stop already with the "Oh, wow, look at Ed actually giving credit to Reese" stuff. The Giants were a mess at the end of the 2015 season, their fourth straight without a playoff berth and third straight losing season. They pushed out their head coach because of it, yet Reese's failure to provide enough talent was as big, if not a bigger, problem than any work done by the coaches. Whatever. Let's not rehash the past.
Reese's job now is to right the ship, get the train back on the tracks, get the Giants back on the highway, no matter how you want to phrase it. His job is to find the Giants better players than the ones they have trotted out the past three seasons.
Reese took a HUGE step toward doing that on Wednesday. Yes, he spent an obscene amount of money. Yes, it is not a good idea to try to build your team through free agency. Yes, probably one or more of those expensive contracts will blow up in his face.
Reese, though, did the right thing. The Giants, despite having a rookie head coach, don't have time for a lengthy rebuild. They have a 35-year-old quarterback and a superstar wide receiver who is probably heading toward the richest, most obscene contract the NFL has ever seen a couple of years from now. The Giants have an unhappy fan base tired of watching the team flounder. Reese had money to burn. Now. The Giants needed, and still need, more players who can help them. Now. Reese did what he had to do in order to get them.
I wrote earlier on Wednesday that the Giants probably overpaid for each of the players they signed. So what? It's their money. And guess what? Bad teams, and yes the Giants have been a bad team for a while now, have to overpay to attract players. There certainly isn't any winning tradition or guarantee of annual playoff runs to entice free agents to come to New York. Not any longer. The leverage the Giants had was money. And Reese used it. Boy, did he use it!
I'm going to issue a blanket "Kudos" to all four of the signings the Giants made.
- Signing Jason Pierre-Paul to a one-year deal, despite my misgivings about his worthiness of a $10.5 million deal, was a better idea than throwing money at Mario Williams or Charles Johnson.
- I will take Olivier Vernon over Robert Ayers every time. Vernon is 25, has 29 sacks in four years, and still has room to improve. Ayers is 31, has 26 sacks in a seven-year career, and may never match the nine-sack season he had in 2015.
- Janoris Jenkins is a hit-and-miss corner capable of both making and giving up big plays. He is also, however, a bigger impact player than Prince Amukamara and that makes the secondary better.
- The Giants were awful defending the run the past two years. Defensive tackle Damon Harrison, a 350-pound monster who is one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles in the league, will help immensely there. A defensive line of Harrison, Pierre-Paul, Vernon and Johnathan Hankins certainly looks good. Besides, Harrison is just a little bit better than either Markus Kuhn or Cullen Jenkins.
While the Giants were dropping $204 million worth of Mara/Tisch money in the hopes of giving Steve Spagnuolo a chance to build some semblance of a competent defense next season, there were some things that did not get done. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither can a winning football team be built in one day of wild free-agent spending. The giants, though, seem to have missed some opportunities in other areas.
- The free safety market appears to have dried up. George Iloka, Rodney McLeod, Tashaun Gipson are off the board. Eric Weddle is apparently not interested in the Giants. If the Giants want a safety on the free-agent market, it is going to have to be a second-tier player.
- The same thing happened at wide receiver. No offense Victor Cruz fans, but even though Cruz will be back the Giants need a No. 2 wide receiver. They watched Marvin Jones, Rishard Matthews, and Mohamed Sanu all sign with other teams on Wednesday.
- They need help on the offensive line. Kelechi Osemele, Jeff Allen, Brandon Brooks, Mike Harris, Joe Barksdale, Mitchell Schwartz, Alex Boone and probably a couple of others I have forgotten to mention have chosen teams for next season and beyond. None chose the Giants, and they still have John Jerry and Marshall Newhouse penciled in as starters.
There is, of course, more to be done and a loooooong way to go before the 2016 NFL season rolls around. Wednesday was a good start for Reese and the Giants, but their work is far from over.