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No, the Giants have not already lost free agency

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The work of building the 2018 roster is only beginning

NFL: Washington Redskins at New York Giants Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency hasn’t officially started yet, but much that could shape the 2018 New York Giants has already happened during what is commonly called the “legal tampering window.”

Pat Traina has offered some of her perspectives on what the Giants accomplished, and didn’t accomplish during the first two days of the negotiating window.

Jonathan Stewart? Are you serious?

What are the Giants doing signing a 31-year-old running back who is in obvious decline? Especially to a two-year contract that carries a maximum value of $8.4 million with $2.95 million guaranteed?

Has GM Dave Gettleman lost his mind? Is he just giving handouts to former Panthers players he likes?

Hardly.

In my view, this move has as much, maybe more, to do with the locker room and the culture than it does with on-field production. The Giants had a toxic, “me-first” locker room last season with suspensions, anonymous criticisms of the coach, and in-fighting among players. That atmosphere wasn’t just created by going 3-13 — it is a big part of the reason that happened in the first place.

New regimes, which the Giants have with Gettleman and new head coach Pat Shurmur, must always establish the kind of culture they expect. One of the ways they do that is by bring players on board who they are familiar with and who already embrace or embody the type of culture the new leadership is attempting to install.

The key thing Gettleman said about Stewart in the team’s press release announcing the signing was that Stewart “brings a veteran, professional presence to our locker room. He’s a terrific addition for us at this time.”

Catch that? “A veteran, professional presence to our locker room” and “terrific addition for us at this time.”

To be honest, I wonder if Stewart can do much more on the field than be a short-yardage or goal-line back. And I think the price tag is too high, because I doubt Stewart had many other options.

Still, I understand the signing. Stewart’s “veteran professional presence” can help Gettleman and Shurmur establish the kind of program they want to build going forward.

The re-signing of Mark Herzlich is pretty much the same deal. Herzlich isn’t going to give the Giants much beyond special teams — if he makes the team at all. He is, however, a solid, quality guy to have in a locker room that needs more guys like him.

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu

With the brief interruption for the Stewart signing, it seems all that the Giants have been doing is saying goodbye to players. Brad Wing. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Weston Richburg. Devon Kennard. There will, most certainly, be others added to the list.

There were always going to be goodbyes, including some you didn’t like or may not agree with. The Giants went 3-13 last season. They weren’t any good. They have had one good season in the last six. They fired their coach and GM. The new bosses have no allegiance to the players who have done all that losing, nor should they. They will keep the players they think they need and can afford, and move on from the rest.

Gettleman and Shurmur are charged with building a better future for the Giants. They will do it their way, with the players they want. Not necessarily with the players Jerry Reese left them.

There is anxiety in the fan base because it is plain to see all the moves that are being made around the league — even if none of them are actually official yet. It is plain to see that the Giants, to this point have subtracted more than they have gained. They are barely on the scoreboard. They also missed out on the player they were said to have coveted most — guard Andrew Norwell.

That doesn’t make free agency, or the offseason, a failure. It doesn’t mean Gettleman has been outmaneuvered or is asleep at the switch. Patience, friends. The Giants weren’t going to be completely fixed in a day. Or a week. Or a month. This mess took years to make. It is going to take a while to clean it up. For Gettleman and Shurmur, the process has only just begun.

There are more fish in the sea

The free agency signing period opens for real at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday. That means many of the “signings’ you have head about have not actually happened yet.

The Giants have to decide which of their restricted and exclusive rights free agents to tender before that 4 p.m. deadline. There are already reports that RFA Brett Jones will receive a second-round tender, meaning if another team signs him and the Giants don’t match that team forfeits its second-round pick to the Giants.

Expect the Giants to continue looking for help along the offensive line, the linebacking corps, the secondary, and perhaps a few other places if they can find players who fit what they want and need at the right prices.

Buckle up for another fun, news-filled day, Giants fans! The free agency sprint is on, and the Giants have work to do. Building a team that will be improved in 2018 and will lay the foundation for ongoing success, though, is a marathon. That race is just getting started.