In less than three weeks, the New York Giants, along with the rest of the league, will rev up their shopping carts for the start of the annual free agency frenzy.
While some teams like the Browns ($110 million), 49ers and Colts ($74 million) and Jets ($73 million) are in a financial position to shop for high-end talent, the Giants, as of the week prior to the combine, fall toward the middle of the pack with an estimated $24 million in cap space.
What can that kind of money buy the Giants? Well don’t expect them to go crazy as they did during the 2016 offseason when they handed out over $200 million in total contacts to players such as Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins.
That’s not to say the Giants won’t pursue someone like guard Andrew Norwell of the Panthers, the 2017 Pro Football Focus all-Pro left guard whom Spotrac projects is in line for a 5-year, $58,924,976 contract.
But what about some good-value unrestricted free agents whose projected price tag probably won’t end up breaking the Giants bank open?
Here is a look at three.
RB Jerick McKinnon, Vikings
Former NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who popped in with Ed and yours truly on last week’s LockedOn Giants podcast, dropped a little tidbit in which he stated that the Vikings were anticipating having some competition for McKinnon’s services.
McKinnon was thrust into expanded action after the Vikings lost Dalvin Cook in Week 4 of last year, and did he ever take advantage of the opportunity, rushing for a career-high 570 yards on 150 attempts (3.8 average) while adding 421 yards on 51 receptions.
Spotrac projects McKinnon to be in line for a four-year, $16.2 million contact, which averages out to a little more than $4 million per year.
McKinnon, 27 years old, might make a nice replacement for Shane Vereen as a back who can run and be a receiver out of the backfield, something that the Giants were hoping Shane Vereen would become for them.
WR Marqise Lee, Jaguars
If the Giants move on from Brandon Marshall, an interesting prospect whom they could look at for a replacement is 6-foot, 196-pound Marqise Lee.
Lee posted 702 yards on 56 receptions as a possession receiver, those numbers not quite matching the career highs he had with the Jaguars in 2016 (63 receptions for 851 yards).
Still, his 119 receptions over the last two seasons and is tied for ninth in third down conversions among receivers (18), making him an intriguing possession type of receiver who just might be worth the four-year, $30 million contract Spotrac projects he’ll get.
LB Anthony Hitchens, Cowboys
With the Cowboys reportedly set to apply the franchise tag on defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence if the two sides can’t reach a long-term deal by the start of free agency, the Cowboys could have trouble retaining their second best linebacker on their defense.
That would be Hitchens, who is coming off a career season. He finished second on the Cowboys in tackles (84) behind team leader Sean Lee.
That’s not bad considering that for the first time in his young NFL career, Hitchens didn’t make it through a 16-game season (he started and played in 12 games in 2017).
With the Cowboys currently projected to have about $18.1 million in cap space, keeping the versatile Hitchens — he played all three linebacker positions in the Cowboys defense—might be a challenge, especially if Hitchens can draw a deal close to Spotrac’s projection of a four-year, $25.64 million contract.