Business picks up Tuesday afternoon in the NFL as the “legal tampering” period of free agency begins. Let’s use today’s “Five things I think I think” forum as a sort New York Giants free agency primer.
The Giants, per Spotrac, are 27th in the NFL in salary cap space with $14.614 million to spend. There is no way the Giants can afford the sort of $200 million-plus free-agent shopping spree they went on a year ago. They do have ways to create more cap space — but so do the 26 teams who already have more cap room than the Giants. So, it is going to be extremely difficult for GM Jerry Reese and the Giants to compete at the top of the market.
Let’s take a look at five things that could happen.
Giants might miss out on top-tier tackles
Everyone who follows the Giants or understands the NFL realizes that the Giants were handicapped offensively by poor tackle play a year ago. That, obviously, wasn’t the only issue — but it was an issue.
Unfortunately for the Giants, there are only a handful of top tackles expected to be on the market — and some of those already appear out of reach.
Andrew Whitworth will test the market, but is expected to return to the Cincinnati Bengals. Right tackle Ricky Wagner is expected to leave the Baltimore Ravens, but various reports indicate that he could make more than $10 million per year — too rich for the Giants — with the Minnesota Vikings as the front-runners.
That leaves the Giants with Russell Okung and Riley Reiff, and a host of competition for both players.
The second tier includes players like Kelvin Beachum, Matt Kalil and Ryan Clady, though injuries and age — in some cases both — are a concern with those guys.
A couple of names to watch: Austin Pasztor of the Cleveland Browns, a player who has experience at both guard and right tackle, is a player I’m told the Giants have some interest in. The Los Angeles Chargers have cut D.J. Fluker, a player the Giants were thought to have interest in during the 2013 NFL Draft. He was selected 11th, and the Giants took Justin Pugh 19th.
Johnathan Hankins will sign elsewhere
The Giants have not signed a defensive tackle they drafted to a second contract in this century. I think that streak is going to continue.
This isn’t a situation where the Giants don’t want to keep Johnathan Hankins. It is a situation where they have a lot of needs and someone is almost certainly going to offer Hankins more money than the Giants can afford to give him. That’s what happens when 26 teams have more cap space than you do. Rotoworld estimates Hankins could be in line for $9.5-$11.5 million annually. That is a place the Giants simply can’t go.
The Giants won’t sign Adrian Peterson
I have said that over and over, and I’m not changing my belief on that now. The Giants did refuse to tender Orleans Darkwa and they are in need of running back reinforcements. The two veteran backs who make the most senses, to me, are Eddie Lacy and Latavius Murray. If the Giants don’t sign one of them, they will turn to the draft to find a complementary back for Paul Perkins.
Brandon Marshall won’t be a Giant, either
Believe me, I understand that Marshall is still a talented player, that his skill set would fit what the Giants appear to need, and that Marshall would love to play for the Giants.
Marshall, though, is 33 with a lot of baggage. The Giants generally shy away from the 30-somethings in free agency, and have tried in recent years to steer clear of players with controversial pasts. Think about McAdoo using the word “clean” when talking about the kind of players he was looking for.
I do believe the Giants will add a veteran receiver, but there are a lot of options and I don’t believe Marshall will be the route the Giants take.
The rest of their own
Getting Jason Pierre-Paul to sign a long-term deal is a priority, as is figuring out if there is any way to keep Hankins. The Giants do have a few other players to make decisions on.
I have to believe they will keep linebacker Keenan Robinson. I am a little surprised they don’t already have a deal with him. A return by John Jerry probably is not Plan A, but it is possible — and acceptable — depending on how the market unfolds. I also believe that quarterback Josh Johnson will be back as the veteran backup to Eli Manning, and that at least one of Coty Sensabaugh and Trevin Wade will return as cornerback depth.