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NFL Free Agency: Where Giants stand as signing period begins

Giants have been busy, so what might happen next?

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL free agency signing period begins Thursday at 4 p.m. ET, meaning today rumors and reports can become reality and signings. Let’s take a look at where the New York Giants stand entering the first “official” day of business for the upcoming season.

Biggest moves already made?

When the smoke clears from this first wave of free agency, during which time almost all of the big-name players and the rich contracts will be signed, don’t be surprised if we learn that the Giants have already made the biggest free-agent moves they are going to make.

Those moves, of course, are putting the franchise tag on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and the signing of wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Yes, the Giants have other holes to fill. They do not, however, have much cap space to do that with. Before signing Marshall, Spotrac estimated that the Giants had $12.832 million under the cap. We don’t yet know the structure of Marshall’s deal, but a $6 million cap hit for Marshall in 2017 could put the Giants as low as $6.8 million above the cap.

That’s not enough room for expensive splash signings like offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth or tight end Martellus Bennett.

Let’s clarify one thing about free agents. The Giants were able to sign Marshall before the signing period began because the New York Jets cut him, meaning he was no longer under contract. Players who are under contract can’t be signed until 4 p.m. ET today, when those contracts expire.

By, the way, Pat Traina (Inside Football) and yours truly did a podcast on Wednesday with reactions to the Marshall signing. Give it a listen.

Johnathan Hankins seems unlikely to return

First, there were reports that Johnathan Hankins could fetch as much as $10 million annually on the free-agent market. Then, there was word that perhaps the defensive tackle market wasn’t going to be as lucrative as initially thought.

What to believe? Well, honestly, who knows?

The clearest indication, though, that the Giants appear to be anticipating losing Hankins is their reported interest in tackles Terrell McClain and Brandon Williams. McClain, 6-foot-2, 300 pounds, is a six-year veteran who had his best season in 2016 with the Dallas Cowboys. Williams, a monstrous 6-1, 335-pound run stuffer, was a 2013 third-round pick who has spent his four-year career with the Baltimore Ravens. Both players are 28 and figure to be less expensive than Hankins.

Here is yet another report about interest between Williams and the Giants.

Clearing cap space

Yes, the Giants can clear more cap space. Here are some of the things they can do.

In advance of the Marshall news on Wednesday, Adam Schefter reported that the Giants would release wide receiver/kick returner Dwayne Harris if they can’t reach a re-structured deal. That would only save the Giants $1.4 million, while Harris would still count $2.4 million against the cap. Still, it would be a small savings.

The Giants could cut running back Shane Vereen, a move that would save them roughly $3.8 million against the cap. It also, though, would leave them with no proven help for Paul Perkins.

They could cut linebacker J.T. Thomas III at a cap savings of an even $3 million. There are lots of questions about why the Giants have not done this already. With Keenan Robinson, Mark Herzlich and Kelvin Sheppard all free agents, perhaps the Giants value Thomas more than we realize. Or, perhaps they are just waiting to be sure they can re-sign Robinson.

They could re-work the contract of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who carries a $9 million cap hit for 2017.

Finally, they could hope to get Pierre-Paul to sign a long-term deal before 4 p.m. that would drop his current $16.9 million 2017 cap hit.

What has already happened today?

There were two reports early this morning that impact markets at positions of need for the Giants. One is that left tackle Matt Kalil is expected to join the Carolina Panthers. The other is that veteran placekicker Steven Hauschka is expected to sign with the Buffalo Bills. Both moves take options off the table for the Giants.

Bookmark our rumors tracker

If you haven’t done it already, bookmark our free agent rumors tacker. Or, just keep a tab open for it. Whatever you do, keep checking it. We will post rumors, reports and signings that will — or at least could — impact the Giants there. Many will end up getting separate posts of their own, but that will be a good place for you to keep up with what is going on.

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