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NFL Free Agency: Could Nick Fairley replace Johnathan Hankins?

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Would Giants look at veteran DT if Hankins leaves?

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nick Fairley
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If Johnathan Hankins leaves the New York Giants in free agency how will the Giants plug the hole left behind by the talented defensive tackle?

Could holdovers Robert Thomas or Jay Bromley do it? Will they have to turn to the 2017 NFL Draft for someone like LaLeel Johnson? Could they turn to free agency for a veteran player to replace Hankins?

Someone like Nick Fairley?

Playing for the New Orleans Saints last season, Fairley ended up ranked 34th out of 127 interior defenders graded by Pro Football Focus. For comparison, Hankins was 73rd. Where Hankins is a run-defender first, Fairley is more of a pass rusher. Fairley compiled a career-high 6.5 sacks in 2016 and was PFF’s 13th-ranked pass rushing interior defender, but was only 87th against the run.

There is a distinct possibility the Saints won’t let Fairley reach the free-agent market. What, though, if they do?

Fairley, 29, played four seasons for the Detroit Lions and spent 2015 with the St. Louis Rams. He has 20.5 career sacks. A 2011 first-round pick by the Lions, Fairley would likely require less of a financial commitment in part because Hankins is four years younger.

Our friends at SB Nation’s Saints blog, Canal Street Chronicles, seem to believe that Fairley is in line for $8-10 million annually.

Sources I’ve contacted indicate that expectation is likely out of whack, with the reality being that Hankins will be the more attractive free agent. One pointed out that Fairley has been forced to settle for one-year deals on the open market two years in a row. He made $3 million from the Saints in 2016. Fairley had a terrific year in New Orleans, but has had an up-and-down career and dealt with weight issues and questions about his motivation while he was in Detroit.

Hankins won’t get Damon Harrison money (four years, $46.25 million), but with big money tied up in Harrison and Olivier Vernon, and with Jason Pierre-Paul aiming to break the bank, it figures that someone is going to pay Hankins more than the Giants can.

Fairley might be a somewhat less expensive alternative.

Your thoughts, Giants fans?