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Johnathan Hankins reaction: Disappointing, but not devastating for Giants

Yes, Big Hank can be replaced

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
Robert Thomas (99) will be among the players who get an opportunity to take Johnathan Hankins’ place.
William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

So, Johnathan Hankins and his representatives ended up being right after all. After five weeks on the free-agent market Hankins was finally able to find a team willing to meet his $10 million annual price tag, as he has agreed to terms with the Indianapolis Colts.

Hankins waited ... and waited ... and waited some more until he found a team that would top the four-year, $28 million deal Hankins was said to have had on the table from the Giants since before free agency began.

Will the Colts end up looking smart for signing the 25-year-old Hankins, who will likely return to the nose tackle position in the Colts’ 3-4 defense? Or, will they end up looking like a sucker for going to a financial place with Hankins no other team was apparently willing to approach?

That really shouldn’t matter to the Giants or their fans. What matters is that Hankins is the only front-line member of last year’s defense who won’t be returning, and that right now there is a question of how the Giants will replace him.

Is Hankins’ loss really a major blow?

It is never fun to lose a starting player, especially a highly-drafted one like Hankins (second round, 2013). Yes, it conjures up the memory of how Linval Joseph went from good player to domant force after leaving the Giants. Still, I just don’t see losing Hankins as any sort of crippling blow for the Giants.

Since the offseason began I said it was far more important for the Giants to re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul than to bring back Hankins, in no small part because in my view defensive tackles are easier to replace. The Giants have done that.

Hankins really did not play all that well in 2016. He had to move from his more natural nose tackle spot to the 3-tech last season because of the signing of Damon Harrison, and that didn’t really suit him. He averaged just 2.7 tackles per game, worst of his three seasons as a starter. He had three sacks, but his pass rush grade of 48.3 was 94th among interior defenders graded by Pro Football Focus. His overall grade of 47.2 was more than 30 points below his grades in 2014 and 2015.

Hankins, in some ways, is “Snacks” lite. And not just because he is 20-30 pounds lighter. He does many of the same things, and does them pretty well. Just not quite as well as Harrison. In my view, the Giants might be better served having a penetrating, pass-rushing 3-tech next to Harrison.

Internal options

Jay Bromley, the so-far underwhelming 2014 third-round pick, is a guy the Giants thought would be an interior pass rusher. He will get a chance to prove it. Robert Thomas is a guy the Giants like. They picked him up from the Carolina Panthers on waivers last season, but he only played 76 defensive snaps.

Free agency

Of course, Hankins was the last of the big-name in their prime defensive tackles to sign. There is, however, one player on the market I believe would be a terrific fit for the Giants. That is Jared Odrick, let go this offseason by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Odrick is a 30-year-old who has 23 career sacks. At 6’5” and 301 pounds, Odrick has played defensive tackle, defensive end and outside linebacker during his seven-year career. He might be a nice rotational piece, especially as an interior rusher on passing downs.

The draft

Chris will go into the defensive tackle class in detail at some point before the draft. For now, let’s just name drop a few players who could be targets for the Giants in a couple of weeks.

Malik McDowell, Michigan State; Caleb Brantley, Florida; Chris Wormley, Michigan, Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama; Larry Ogunjobi, NC-Charlotte; Jaleel Johnson, Iowa; Carlos Watkins, Clemson; Treyvon Hester, Toledo