In a high-rolling offseason where the New York Giants doled out roughly $114 million in guaranteed money during free agency, perhaps the biggest gamble they took was handing cornerback Janoris Jenkins a five-year, $62.5 million contract that included $28.8 million of that guaranteed cash.
The Giants chose to give Jenkins that big payday rather than bid to hold onto their own free-agent corner, 2011 first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara.
Jenkins and Amukamara are dramatically different players. Amukamara was a solid player who didn't make a lot of big plays, with only seven interceptions over five seasons. He also missed too many games with injuries, playing in only 55 of a possible 80 games during his Giants career. Jenkins has more of a reputation as a gambler and play-maker, with 10 interceptions over four seasons. He has also been healthy, missing only four games over his four seasons.
Let's take a closer look at Jenkins as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp later this summer.
2015 Season in Review
Jenkins completed his fourth season with the then-St. Louis Rams with four interceptions, a career-high 14 passes defensed and a career-best 73 tackles. Jenkins was the league's 30th-ranked cover corner by Pro Football Focus.
2016 Season Outlook
When the Giants signed Jenkins, Ben Stockwell of Pro Football Focus reacted this way:
This is a boom-or-bust move for the Giants. From a financial perspective, this is a big gamble on a cornerback who has not proven himself to be among the top tier of corners. Jenkins has consistently been a corner equally adept at creating impact plays for both his team and the opposition.
Since Jenkins entered the league in 2012, only Buster Skrine (25) and Patrick Peterson (23) have surrendered more than Jenkins' 22 touchdowns, while only four corners (Antonio Cromartie, Brandon Carr, Cary Williams and Tramon Williams) have allowed more plays of 20-plus yards than Jenkins (39). On the positive side, Jenkins will make big plays for his own team as well; his 10 career interceptions are tied for the 12th-most since he entered the league, and his 34 passes defensed are tied for the seventh-most.
PFF, in fact, considers the signing of Jenkins one of the worst moves of the offseason, saying that "He's probably an upgrade for that New York secondary, but he came at an astronomical cost that he likely won't come close to justifying."
After three straight losing seasons and four without making the playoffs, though, the Giants were in a position where the status quo just wasn't good enough. Sticking with Amukamara, hoping he would stay healthy and, further, hoping he would become more of a difference-maker just wasn't going to cut it. Sure, the Giants overpaid for Jenkins. That, though, is how the top end of free agency works when you are a desperate team looking for a quick talent infusion.
Jenkins, even at a sky-high cost, offers upside Amukamara probably can't match. Will he reach that upside and make the Giants look brilliant? Will he flop and be one of this year's free-agent busts? We will just have to wait and see.