clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

5 low-cost free agents who could help the Giants in 2019

Let’s see if there are still some intriguing players available

NFL: Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the first wave of free agency is over, the big money contracts are mostly done. From here on out, there will be smaller deals though the impact can still be big. For a team like the New York Giants who still have some holes on the roster but not a lot of money to play around with, this is the time to seek out some bargains. The Giants have already made a few good low-cost moves such as Antoine Bethea and Markus Golden, but there are still some free agents out there who could immediately help the Giants in 2019.

Joe Barksdale, OT

The addition of a veteran tackle set to enter his age-31 season might not be the type of youth movement this team is searching for on the offensive line, but Barksdale could serve as a useful and competent placeholder while the future of the position gets sorted out. Barksdale was released in the middle of the season by the Los Angeles Chargers, signed with the Arizona Cardinals a week later, and immediately started the final four games of the season. During that time, he had a blown block rate of 1.3 percent per Sports Info Solutions, which was the second-best among Arizona’s offensive linemen during that span behind only center Mason Cole (centers typically have lower blown block rates than tackles, so do guards).

Even at Barksdale’s peak with the Chargers, he was only making around $4 million per season, so he could be a low-risk signing to plug in on the right side to upgrade over Chad Wheeler (2.47 percent blown block rate) and figure out what’s next at the position.

Benson Mayowa, DL

Mayowa is a former Cardinal, but doesn’t have experience with James Bettcher — 2018 was his only season in the desert. But even if there’s a lack of familiarity, Mayowa still has a skill set that translates well into Bettcher’s scheme. Mayowa had the second-most pressures on the Cardinals last season (23) behind Chandler Jones (45) and added four sacks. He had 15 non-sack tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage last season, which ranked 22nd among all defensive players. He’s shown a consistent ability to rush the passer and previously had six sacks in 2016 with the Dallas Cowboys.

Watch him (91) change direction off play-action and chase down Jared Goff for a sack in Week 2.

Last year Mayowa was signed to a one-year deal worth $1.3 million, which comes in around the price the Giants have taken swings at defensive linemen this offseason. He only started four games, but played 52 percent of Arizona’s defensive snaps. He has the ability to play with both his hand in the dirt and standing up and he’ll turn 28 years old in August.

Caraun Reid, DL

While Mayowa would be a useful piece to rotate in on the edge, Reid could be that for the interior. There were few players last season better at creating pressure from the interior, even though Reid didn’t have a lot of playing time. Reid only had 105 pass rush snaps, but among 94 defensive tackles with at least 100 pass rushes, he was sixth in pressure rate per Sports Info Solutions. His sack rate was low, but pressure rate is more predictive of future sack rate than past sack rate. Placing the soon-to-be 28-year-old Reid in a rotation with B.J, Hill, Dalvin Tomlison, Olsen Pierre, and however many interior linemen are drafted, would keep them fresh throughout a game. Reid’s presence would allow the Giants to either have two pass rushing interior defenders on the field at the same time with Hill in too or it would keep at least one on the field if Reid filled in for the second-year defender.

Zach Brown, ILB

Brown signed a three-year/$21 million contract with Washington last offseason, but only got through a year of it before being released. The cut was more due to Washington’s bad bookkeeping than Brown’s play.

Over the past three seasons, one in Buffalo and two in Washington, Brown has been one of the league’s most consistent inside linebackers. He had 18 tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage last season and was consistent in coverage. The one year he was asked to blitz more often than usual — 2016 in Buffalo — he put up four sacks. Last season he only had 27 pass rushes, per Sports Info Solutions, and had a pressure rate of 25.9 percent. Alec Ogletree was sent 67 times in 2018 with a pressure rate of 20.3 percent — and that might be the best part of his game. Brown is also one of the league’s best tacklers. His 5.05 percent broken tackle rate was the ninth-lowest among 94 defenders with at least 50 tackles in 2018.

The finances would be tricky with Brown. He’s not going to get a $7 million per year deal entering his age-30 season, but he’s also not coming in on a vet minimum deal. $4 to $5 million might be the range. Ogletree’s presence on the roster also makes it tough, because the Giants can’t get out of that deal before June 1. At that point, the Giants could save $4 million on the cap, which would potentially break even with Brown coming in. But if Dave Gettleman has insisted he won’t hesitate to “draft over” a starter if the value is there, why wouldn’t that be the case in free agency when Brown is a better player than Ogletree in just about every way?

Rashard Higgins, WR (RFA)

This isn’t likely to happen because NFL teams in general stay away from restricted free agency, but they should be more aggressive in this area and it makes sense for the Giants to do so here.

I brought this up as a possibility after the Odell Beckham trade, but let’s run through it again. Because Higgins is a restricted free agent, the Giants would have to give an offer sheet to the current Cleveland receiver. The Giants would also have to give up a draft pick if the Browns don’t match. But Higgins was only given an original round tender, which means as a fifth-round pick, the Giants would only have to part with a fifth for the receiver. The Giants currently have three of those — they’d have to give up their own fifth, the 144th overall pick. A best-case scenario for a fifth-round pick is turning into Rashard Higgins.

Now the Giants would have to offer Higgins a contract and with restricted free agents, it usually has to be enough for his current team to not want to match. But given the Browns now have Beckham and a large deal for Jarvis Landry already on the books, they might not want to pay more than the current tender for a player who will at best be their No. 3 receiver, even with $35 million worth of cap space for 2018 per Over The Cap.

Because of that, the Giants could potentially come away with a below-market deal for Higgins, who was 12th among 83 receivers with at least 50 targets in Expected Points Added per target in 2018 per Sports Info Solutions. Given the need still at wide receiver and the deals handed out to similarly or less talented receivers who were able to hit free agency, parting with a late-round pick to get a player like Higgins on a multi-year deal isn’t a bad strategy.

It could potentially offer the Giants a few different avenues to explore. First, it would give the Giants a young (25 years old in October) receiver who can consistently win down the field from the outside, which they don’t have right now. A receiver rotation of Higgins, Golden Tate, and Sterling Shepard isn’t all that bad. It could also allow them to seek trade offers for Shepard, who they might not re-sign after 2019. If they go that route, Shepard should bring back more than the fifth-round pick given up for Higgins. It gives the Giants a few options to improve the receiving corps now and in the future.