Let’s be clear. You cannot fix an NFL team by relying on free agency. You must, however, use it wisely to supplement positions of need and set yourself up so that you do not have to force picks at certain positions, perhaps bypassing more highly-rated players simply because your need is s great
The “who will my team sign in free agency?” game is a great way while away the time as wait for the NFL Combine in a week and the beginning of the free agency period next month.
Pro Football Focus has looked into its crystal ball and made predictions for where it believes the top 50 players on its free agent list will land. PFF believes four of those top 50 will land with the Giants. Let’s look at the four players PFF says will be wearing Giants uniforms in 2020.
23. S Devin McCourty
Projected contract: 2 years, $10 million per year ($10 million guaranteed)
New head coach Joe Judge reportedly isn’t afraid to poach free agents from his previous team in the New England Patriots, and given their need for receiving weapons, the Giants might be in the hands of the guys they aren’t able to pay, such as Devin McCourty. He’ll turn 33 this year and is on the last leg of his football career, but he can be temporary help for a Giants team hindered by their secondary. McCourty has been one of the 10 most valuable safeties in each of the past two seasons, rarely allowing explosive plays and exemplifying great tackling.
Valentine’s View: I would buy on this one. You know that Joe Judge is going to want at least one quality veteran player who can help him deliver the message and install the culture he wants in the locker room.
McCourty at this point in his career is a better player than Antoine Bethea, and the projected contract laid out above is really a one-year deal that wouldn’t significantly hurt the Giants’ cap in 2021 if they moved on. He is also a Rutgers grad and a New jersey native, so playing for the Giants might be a nice way for him to finish his career.
What about second-year man Julian Love. He was impressive when he finally got to play last season, but Love played only 77 of 408 defensive snaps as a free safety. Maybe he’s better suited for the slot cornerback role the Giants originally drafted him for. The Giants certainly need help there.
34. DI Leonard Williams
Projected contract: 5 years, $15 million per year ($43 million guaranteed)
The Giants don’t have to pay Leonard Williams, but with the way some double down on their mistakes, it seems likely that they’ll continue riding the investment made on him. They gave up a third- and fifth-round pick for him midseason, and he finished off the year just 36th in PFF grade among those at his position. He’s always been a strong run-defender and a below-average pass-rusher. Williams had just a 66.2 pass-rush grade in 2019, which ranked 33rd among those at his position.
Valentine’s View: I have said multiple times that I think the Giants should — and likely will — bring Williams back. I simply hope the price doesn’t get to the $15 million annual value that Over The Cap is projecting. Williams’ production doesn’t quite justify that, but the weak position the Giants are in because already-surrendered draft capital might demand it.
43. CB Logan Ryan
Projected contract: 3 years, $10.5 million per year ($12.5 million guaranteed)
Bringing back Logan Ryan with Tannehill, Conklin and Henry seems to be a pipe dream. Ryan is by no means an elite slot corner — in fact, he surrendered over 1,000 yards in coverage in 2019 and was constantly picked on. That being said, he’s still an average player at the position — he was the 48th most valuable corner in 2019. His projected contact might be a bit steep, but Ryan could be a big improvement for a team that had a liability defending the slot for them in 2019, such as the Giants. Ryan spent the first four years of his career on the same team as Giants coach Joe Judge and could reunite in New York.
Valentine’s View: Yikes! I can’t believe I really haven’t thought much about a potential Ryan-Giants pairing until now. Ryan spent the first four of his seven NFL seasons with the Patriots, so Judge and Patrick Graham know what he’s about, and he knows the type of defense Graham will be trying to run.
Ryan played 854 of 1,321 snaps in the slot last season. He was targeted a career-high 134 times and gave up 92 catches, a 68.7 completion percentage. He surrendered a career-worst seven touchdowns, but also had career highs in interceptions (5) and pass breakups (12). His passer rating against was 95.3. He was one of only five cornerbacks to play more than 400 coverage snaps in the slot last season.
There are currently only 15 cornerbacks making $10 million per year or more. Failing to land a premier edge rusher, this is a deal I might consider as it’s short enough not to become an albatross if it doesn’t work out.
45. CB Trae Waynes
Projected contract: 1 year, $7.5 million ($6.5 million guaranteed)
Trae Waynes is likely going to get a one-year, prove-it deal this free agency. He’s barely cracked the top 50 in grade among those at his position in each of the past two seasons. Waynes really wasn’t a terrible man-corner in 2019, allowing just 71 yards on 134-man coverage snaps. The Giants’ outside corners were the third-lowest graded among the 32 units and are going to need all the help they can get in the new scheme.
Valentine’s View: Waynes has spent his entire five-year career with the Minnesota Vikings. He’s coming off a season that wasn’t great and this projected “prove it” deal might be what Waynes, 28 next season, ends up with in free agency.
Waynes was a first-round pick by Minnesota in 2015 and has never been a star. He has only seven interceptions in 74 NFL games. His passer rating against has risen a bit each season, from a promising 72.2 as a rookie to a career-worst 105.6 in 2019.
Would you be in on Waynes for a one-year “prove it” deal? I might be.
Here is where PFF has a couple of the big name we have already talked about landing:
- Linebacker Cory Littleton, St. Louis Rams (4 years, $12 million per year, $30 million guaranteed)
- Right tackle Jack Conklin, Tennessee Titans (5 years, $14 million per year, $34 million guaranteed)
- EDGE Yannick Ngakoue, Buffalo Bills (4 year, $19.5 million per year, $57 million guaranteed)
- EDGE Kyle Van Noy, Detroit Lions (3 years, $10.5 million per year, $15 million guaranteed)