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Assessing Giants GM Dave Gettleman: Good, bad, ugly of his free agency moves

Gettleman has had some whiffs in free agency, but he’s also done some thing right

New York Giants v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

We are spending part of the New York Giants’ bye week assessing the three-year tenure of Dave Gettleman as general manager. Today, we look at the free agent signings made by Gettleman.


Gettleman’s first free agent class was a dud.

OT Nate Solder

(4 years, $62 million, $34.8 million guaranteed)

Gettleman regularly gets destroyed for the contract he gave Solder. It was clearly an overpay, giving an average NFL left tackle premium dollars that, at the time, made him the highest-paid left tackle in the game.

I get the fan base’s frustration with this move. I really do. Solder never played up to the contract. Thing is, he was never going to because he was never remotely close to being the league’s best left tackle. I’m not sure, though, what else Gettleman was supposed to do in this situation.

Clearly, the expectation was that Andrew Norwell, a 2017 All-Pro who was originally signed by Gettleman in Carolina as an undrafted free agent, would be the centerpiece of Gettleman’s offensive line rebuild in New York. Norwell, though, chose the Jacksonville Jaguars, signing for five years and $66.5 million.

Solder was the best free agent offensive lineman left on the market. The Giants felt like they had to make some type of splash, and had to get Ereck Flowers off the left tackle spot. The huge contract is simply what happens when you are forced to shop at the high end of the market — players get overpaid. Solder, though, didn’t play to the adequate level he had with the New England Patriots.

This goes down as a bad signing. Looking as objectively as I can at the choices the Giants had at the time, though, to me it was a move they had to make. It just didn’t pay off.

RB Jonathan Stewart

(2 years, $6.8 million, $3.45 million guaranteed)

I can appreciate that Gettleman was trying to sign a mentor for Saquon Barkley. Stewart, after all, was a former early first-round pick who became a tremendously successful running back.

When Gettleman brought him to the Giants, though, Stewart had nothing left. This was absolutely wasted money. If this was a one-year, veteran minimum deal to see if Stewart, entering his 11th season, had anything left I don’t think anyone would have blinked.

This, though, was Gettleman being blinded by respect for a player and what he had been during his best years while both were with the Carolina Panthers.

LB Kareem Martin

(3 years, $21 million, $7.5 million guaranteed)

Awful signing. This was a clear nod to defensive coordinator James Bettcher, who was taking over the Giants defense and switching to a base 3-4 concept. Martin was a Bettcher favorite with the Arizona Cardinals and it was understandable that he would want to bring in a player who could help him implement his defensive system.

Martin was a good guy and a try-hard player. He wasn’t an impact player, though, netting only 1.5 sacks in 21 games with the Giants, and clearly wasn’t close to being worth what the Giants paid him.

To make this one worse, signing Martin cost the Giants Devon Kennard — a superior player who played the same position. I can’t kill Gettleman for this one because part of the job of the GM is to give the coaching staff the type of players they want to work with, and it is pretty apparent Bettcher wanted players he knew, but this was absolutely a mistake.

The Giants also cut Romeo Okwara at the end of training camp that season. Okwara has 15.0 sacks over three seasons for the Detroit Lions since, while Martin is now part of Detroit’s practice squad and has not played a snap this season.

OG Patrick Omameh

(3 years, $15 million, $5.5 million guaranteed)

More wasted money. The Giants lost Norwell to the Jaguars and then threw money at a journeyman guard Jacksonville signed Norwell to replace. To Gettleman’s credit, he showed a willingness to admit his mistake. Omameh started six games, got benched and was waived shortly thereafter.

Omameh had taken a spot where D.J. Fluker had succeeded during the final half of the 2017 season. I understood the reticence to give Fluker a big contract as the Giants were concerned about his ability to stay healthy, which has been proven correct. Still, Fluker signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks. Better player, far less money. Seems like that would have been a much better short-term play.

S Michael Thomas

(2 years, $4 million)

Outstanding special teams player. Decent backup defensive back. Excellent leader. Tremendous human being. There was nothing about Thomas not to like, except for maybe the fact that he could get exposed if he played too many defensive snaps.

If it had been up to me, the Giants would have brought Thomas back this season rather than sign Nate Ebner. I think that would have paid dividends considering how much defense Ebner was forced to play earlier in the season. Thomas would have been better-suited for those snaps.

Other signings

DB Curtis Riley; DL Josh Mauro; WR Cody Latimer; CB B.W. Webb; CB William Gay; DT A.J. Francis; QB Alex Tanney; WR Russell Shepard; TE Scott Simonson

Really not much to see here. These were all low-cost, no-risk signings. Francis and Gay didn’t even make the team. Riley, Webb and maybe Latimer probably played more than they would have on better teams. Most of these guys were just roster fill.


S Antoine Bethea

(2 years, $6.5 million, $3.475 million guaranteed)

After watching Curtis Riley flounder at free safety for a year, the Giants desperately needed an upgrade. Bethea wasn’t it. At one time, Bethea was a speedy, rangy, play-making safety. That’s not the guy the Giants signed. They signed a 35-year-old who no longer had the range to play center field and who got exposed at times athletically in the open field.

Gettleman heaped praise on Bethea when he signed him, and scoffed at the idea he was too old to be effective. I think that was for show. I think this was another of the moves made because of Bettcher’s familiarity with the player. Tre Boston, a former Carolina Panther and a favorite of Gettleman’s, was also a free agent at the time. He’s a younger, better player than Bethea was and I will always believe that if Gettleman was dictating personnel — simply choosing the players he wanted — that he would have signed Boston rather than Bethea.

This move didn’t work, but I’m not going to kill the general manager for it. I understand why it was made.

WR Golden Tate

(4 years, $37.5 million, $22.95 million guaranteed)

Gettleman signed Tate not only to help make up for the production lost at the wide receiver position, but to be the anti-Beckham when it came to not making headlines for the wrong reasons.

It hasn’t worked out on either count.

Tate has not produced at levels at least equal to his career production. That is especially true this season, which is shaping up to be Tate’s worst statistical season since 2012.

Even more disappointing, Tate was suspended for four games at the beginning of last season for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy, and disciplined for a game this year by Judge after a pair of selfish outbursts in Week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tate can still make an occasional big play, like he did last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, but he hasn’t justified the money the Giants tossed at him.

Edge Markus Golden

(1 year, $3.75 million, $2.225 million guaranteed)

Another nod to Bettcher, but this one paid off. The Giants needed someone who could rush the passer off the edge and, working on a one-year “prove-it” contract, Golden gave the Giants 10-sack season. Unfortunately for him, it did not lead to the free agent pay day he was hoping for.

DL Olsen Pierre

(1 year, $1 million)

Another former Cardinal and former Bettcher player. Another signing that didn’t amount to anything. Gettleman cut Pierre after nine games.

OT Mike Remmers

(1 year, $2.5 million, $1 million guaranteed)

Remmers, who had played previously for Gettleman in Carolina and Shurmur in Minnesota, was signed as a stop-gap at right tackle after the Giants were unable to address the tackle spot in the draft. He was serviceable at right tackle, pretty much what the Giants expected.


Before we get into the individual players, I wanted to note that I love the way the Giants structured free agent contracts this offseason. None of these deals are for longer than three seasons, meaning the Giants didn’t tie up gobs of money with long-term commitments that would cost them salary cap space long after they parted ways with players.

it’s impossible to know precisely how much influence Judge had over the players signed last offseason, but this is easily Gettleman’s best free agent haul.

CB James Bradberry

(3 years, $43.5 million, $31.98 million guaranteed)

A home run. Gettleman drafted Bradberry in Carolina and, needing a No. 1 cornerback in New York, brought him to the Giants. Bradberry has been everything the Giants could have asked for over the first 10 games. If he continues to play at the same level, he should become a Pro Bowler for the first time.

LB Blake Martinez

(3 years, $30.75 million, $19 million guaranteed)

Another home run. There were questions about Martinez when the Giants signed him. Was he just a tackle compiler and not really an impact player? Was he athletic enough? Could he cover? Was he the right quarterback for Patrick Graham’s defense?

Martinez has delivered. He is the best inside linebacker and defensive signal-caller the Giants have had since Antonio Pierce. He is making more impact plays than he ever has, on pace per Pro Football Focus for a career-high 66 defensive stops. He gets exposed occasionally in the open field, but still has a career-best passer rating against of 80.0.

DB Logan Ryan

(1 year, $5.05 million, $3.5 million guaranteed)

Say it with me. Yet another free agent home run. There was talk from the beginning of free agency that Ryan, who Judge knew from their days in New England, and the Giants were a match. It took until the beginning of the season, until the Xavier McKinney injury, for that match to come to fruition.

As a player, person and defensive leader Ryan has been everything the Giants could have hoped for. Now, can they keep him beyond this season?

TE Levine Toilolo

(2 years, $6.2 million, $3.225 million guaranteed)

I understood signing the veteran blocking tight end. Jason Garrett’s offense was expected to be tight end-heavy, and that has played out. What I never understood, and still don’t, is guaranteeing a guy for whom there could not have been much of a market after he played only 191 snaps and caught 2 passes for the San Francisco 49ers last season, $3.225 million.

Toilolo has 3 catches and is ranked 101st by PFF out of 114 tight ends as a pass blocker and 85th out of 122 tight ends as a run blocker. Eric Tomlinson, who the Giants recently waived, could have done that for the veteran minimum.

This was a clear overpay.

Edge Kyler Fackrell

(1 year, $4.6 million, $3.5 million guaranteed)

Signed to a “prove-it” deal, Fackrell has been a good addition. He has 3 sacks and, with Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines hurt, is playing virtually full time. He’s not a dynamic player, nor one with huge upside, but he is a useful player who is doing a nice job.

OT Cameron Fleming

(1 year, $3.5 million, $2 million guaranteed)

Fleming was signed to be what he has been throughout his career — a quality swing tackle who could do a professional job filling in short-term on either side of the line. The opt-out of Nate Solder has forced him into the starting lineup, and while he has continued to do a professional job his limitations have been exposed as a full-time player.

I thought at the time that this was an excellent signing, and whatever the Pro Football Focus grades are I still do. He is playing more than he probably should, but everyone offensive line can benefit from having a plug-and-play veteran like this who can fill in adequately when needed.

QB Colt McCoy

(1 year, $2.25 million, $1.7 million guaranteed)

Hasn’t played a single snap. With the retirement of Eli Manning, signing a veteran backup quarterback who was an upgrade from Alex Tanney and was willing to help Daniel Jones develop was a must. McCoy is a perfect fit for the job.

ST/DB Nate Ebner

(1 year, $2 million, $1.05 million guaranteed)

This was one of those “new coach wants his guy” signings. Ebner is a player Judge has immense respect for, and obviously wanted in New York to help him deliver his message and establish his culture. I get all of that. I still would have preferred keeping Michael Thomas, largely because he is actually an experienced, capable defensive player and not just a special teamer. We have seen Ebner have to play some defensive snaps, and that’s not a good thing.

RB Dion Lewis

(1 year, $1.55 million, $225,000 guaranteed)

I was kind of ambivalent about this signing, and still am. Signing Lewis to back up Barkley didn’t cost the Giants a lot, and they haven’t gotten a lot.

As soon as Barkley was hurt, the Giants made it obvious by signing Devonta Freeman they didn’t want to turn to Lewis full time. He was somewhat of a “comfort” signing for Judge, who worked with him in New England. He’s been surpassed by Wayne Gallman, and even by Alfred Morris. Not a “bad” signing, just not one that has made all that much difference.

DT Austin Johnson

(1 year, $1.5 million, $887,500 guaranteed)

A former Penn State player who was coached there by current Giants defensive line coach Sean Spencer, Johnson has never lived up to his status as a second-round draft pick. he was signed by the Giants to add depth, and to see if Spencer could perhaps get more out of him than the Tennessee Titans had.

Johnson has been decent rotational depth for the Giants, nothing more. That is pretty much what he was in Tennessee. There’s no real problem with this signing — Johnson has given the Giants basically what they likely expected.

RB Devonta Freeman

(1 year, $1.35 million)

This was, of course, an in-season move necessitated by the season-ending injury to Saquon Barkley. Freeman is an accomplished player and was the best running back available at the time. He is now on IR with his own injury, and the emergence of both Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris has relegated Freeman to afterthought status. Still, I have zero problem with this move as an effort to help Daniel Jones in his development.

PK Graham Gano

(1 year, $1.050 million)

Gano has been so good the Giants have already signed him to a three-year, $14 million extension that will run through the 2023 season. The only kick he has missed all season was from 57 yards.

NOTE: Story updated to include Gano.