What does all of Friday’s activity by the New York Giants, with a new deal announced for Jason Pierre-Paul, two quarterbacks signed and the official announcement that offensive lineman John Jerry is returning, mean? After a day to process it all, let’s break it down.
We will do that with a special weekend edition of “Five things I think I think.”
The Giants are all in for the short term
I have said throughout the offseason that the Giants have a short window remaining with Eli Manning, and they need to make moves to maximize the time Manning has left as a top-tier quarterback. They appear to have done just that.
The signing of 33-year-old Brandon Marshall was a short term “win now” move. So, too, was the Jason Pierre-Paul move. The JPP contract is a four-year deal, but it’s really a go for broke right now move. All four high-priced defensive free agents, Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrsion and Janoris Jenkins, can be free agents after the 2020 season. So, too, can Manning.
The Giants’ window of opportunity, with the Dallas Cowboys losing more free-agent talent than they are gaining, the Philadelphia Eagles still rebuilding and the Washington Redskins imploding from within, is right now. And they are going for it.
Amazing comeback complete for Jason Pierre-Paul
After the 2014 season, Jason Pierre-Paul was heading to free agency and hoping for a lucrative long-term deal. That did not happen as the Giants placed the franchise tag on him.
Then, on July 4, 2015 Pierre-Paul permanently mangled his right hand in a fireworks mishap. It looked like his NFL career would be over, that his big pay day would never come and that he would have to learn to live his life with basically half of a right hand.
Somehow, Pierre-Paul made it back onto the field for eight games in 2015. GM Jerry Reese described that as a miracle. Even more miraculous, Pierre-Paul was still pretty good. He managed only one sack and due to the club he wore on his hand could not always make plays he was in position to make, but he was still a force.
The Giants were not convinced he could return to being a great player, but were curious to find out. The Giants gave him a one-year “prove it” deal for 2016. He registered seven sacks, eight passes defensed, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in 12 games.
"I've done proved it ... There's not a guy like me doing it with 7 and a half fingers,” Pierre-Paul said at the end of the season.
Yes, he did. There were many people, myself included, who thought that with only half of a right hand Pierre-Paul could never be the dominant player he used to be. He proved that he can be.
He’s earned his money. Now he’s gotten it. Good for him.
You shouldn’t obsess about Johnathan Hankins
The Giants will have the money to sign Johnathan Hankins. If they want to. They probably wouldn’t be able to offer him four years and $40 million, the type of $10 million annual salary deal he has apparently been seeking, but they could work something out.
The Pierre-Paul contract will give the Giants salary cap breathing space. NFLPA records show the Giants with just $3.918 million in cap space, but those haven’t caught up to the Giants’ latest moves. Pro Football Talk reported that Pierre-Paul’s contract would be structured in such a way that the 2017 cap hit will be only $7.5 million. That is unofficial, but if correct would save the Giants $9.434 million in cap space. Under the franchise tag, the Giants would had to pay Pierre-Paul $16.934 million in 2017.
If all of that math is correct, Spotrac estimates that the Giants would have $14.549 million in cap space.
That’s plenty work out a deal with Hankins. If the Giants want to. With the Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison contracts, the Giants already have a massive $116.5 million in guaranteed money committed to the defensive line. Hankins is a good player, though how good is up for debate. He would clearly be the Giants’ fourth-best defensive lineman. Just how much money should you commit to him?
The duo of Robert Thomas and Jay Bromley might or might not be ideal replacements for Hankins. There are always useful veteran defensive tackles available, though, and the draft is coming up.
It would be nice if the Giants could keep Hankins. In my view, though, losing him would not really be that big of a deal.
The Geno Smith signing is odd, but OK
When news broke Friday morning that veteran back quarterback Josh Johnson was re-signing with the Giants, I figured that put to bed the possibility that Geno Smith would end up as the backup quarterback for Eli Manning. Then, we learned that — pending the results of a physical — the Giants would also be signing the former New York Jets quarterback.
Say what? The Giants were signing two experienced backup QBs in one day? And one of them was Smith? A guy who awful in two years as a starter, with 28 touchdown passes, 36 INTs and a 59.9 percent completion rate and was so disliked that a teammate sucker-punched him and broke his jaw? That Geno Smith? Why are the Giants signing him?
Well, mostly because even if he hasn’t shown it he has talent. And taking a flier on him will likely cost the Giants very little, if any, guaranteed money. Smith was a second-round pick by the Jets in 2013 and he is still only 26 years old.
The Giants have gone the reclamation route before. They did it with Kerry Collins, and he brought them to a Super Bowl. Kurt Warner in 2004. They pulled David Carr off the scrap heap. In recent years, they have tried with Josh Freeman and Logan Thomas.
Smith is excited about it.
"I think it's going to be special. I think that's a very special organization. ... I think it's just a first-class organization," Smith said.
Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn’t. Considering their history, though, it really isn’t a shock that the Giants would give this a try.
The Giants might wait to draft a QB
Here is a little secret. The draft prospect profiles done by Chris Pflum are often written and scheduled in advance, sometimes days in advance. Until it popped up on the site, I didn’t even realize the one scheduled for Friday was on Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs. In the end, I found that pretty hilarious considering that the Giants on Friday signed Johnson and agreed to terms with Smith.
Those two signings might well take quarterback out of the equation for the Giants in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Maybe the Giants will still select a quarterback, but perhaps this is a sign the Giants would rather take on a reclamation project than try to develop someone from what is considered to be a weak quarterback class.
There are no sure things in this quarterback group, even at the top. The mid- to late-round possibilities are mostly spread offense type QBs with some tools, but also long and uncertain learning curves. Maybe you find a Dak Prescott, but maybe you also end up wasting a draft pick.
The 2018 draft class is said to be a deep one, with a scout telling me recently that at least five quarterbacks currently have first-round grades. Perhaps that is when the Giants will turn to the draft in an effort to find Manning’s successor.