It’s almost time for NFL teams to officially go shopping. The NFL “legal tampering” window opens Monday, and the official league season and free-agent signing period begins at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
With that in mind, we convened your Big Blue View staff writers for a “5 free agency questions” round table. Questions and answers below.
True or False? Kyle Van Noy is the free agent most likely to sign with the Giants
Nick: There’s obvious familiarity with Van Noy, Joe Judge, and Patrick Graham. The former second-round selection by Detroit wants to be wooed; this is his first stint in free agency and he’s going to be 29 by the end of March. Much like Isaiah Simmons, but in a different manner, Van Noy considers himself “position less,” which I feel translates to Graham’s defense. This fact, the familiarity, and the Giants’ dearth of proven talent at the linebacker position leads me to say TRUE.
Chris: I’m going to say false. The Giants showed an extreme preference for familiarity over the last two years, but signing familiar faces that were cast-offs from other teams didn’t really work out. The connections are there, but I think (or at least hope) that this time around the Giants don’t go for “their guys” but rather make the “right” guys their guys.
Matt: That is a tough one, but I will go with yes. He brings a lot of versatility and experience to the table, two things this defense could really use.
Mark: While the schematic element makes a great deal of sense, I’m going to say false here. Kyle Van Noy is going to have a ton of suitors on the open market, and there are two landing spots that make a ton of sense for him: The Giants and the Miami Dolphins. Both Joe Judge and Brian Flores have a ton of familiarity with how to use Van Noy, who turned his career around in New England, Flores was Van Noy’s de-facto defensive coordinator two seasons ago and his position coach before that. Something tells me Miami pushes hard for his services.
Emily: True. I think that the Giants have strong interest in Van Noy both because he fills a need on their roster and because of the added advantage of the connection with head coach Joe Judge. Judge and Van Noy spent the past 3.5 seasons together and therefore have a strong background. Of course, Van Noy also has connections with former New England defensive coordinators Matt Patricia (Lions head coach) and Brian Flores (Dolphins head coach). Unless one of those teams, or the Patriots for that matter, make a compelling offer, I predict the Giants pursuing Van Noy with full force especially with the recent releases of Alec Ogletree and Kareem Martin.
Joe DeLeone: False. The addition of Kyle Van Noy makes sense in principal, however it realistically won’t happen. He’d be joining a team that is coached by predominately former Patriots coaches that are in need of additional pass rush. With increased urgency for Dave Gettleman to turn the roster around, more attention will likely be directed towards signing the top tier edge rushers on the market. Van Noy is a great defensive piece, but it’s not the splash the Giants are looking to make.
Joseph Czikk: Given the familiarity with Joe Judge, it wouldn’t seem surprising if this were to happen. Front offices around the NFL prove time and time again they’re interested in bringing in “their guys.” Van Noy, while not a star, has shown himself to be a valuable, hard-nosed asset for the Pats, and will command high interest from Judge and Gettleman.
Valentine’s View: I think Van Noy might be the free agent who makes the most sense given familiarity, fit and need. I just think he probably gets a better offer from Miami. So, false.
Leonard Williams will or will not be a Giant in 2020?
Nick: Will be a Giant. I’m not a proponent that the Giants have to sign Williams because of the sunken cost, but I acknowledge the skill set that Williams possesses, despite the lack of sack production. Since becoming a Giant in week 9, Williams ranked 20th (1 behind 11th) in pressures for all EDGE and defensive lineman, according to PFF. I honestly don’t think $15 million a year, for a 25 year old versatile defensive lineman, is overly unreasonable when you consider the growth of the cap every year and the impending new CBA deal.
Chris: Do I think Williams should be a Giant? No. Not unless he’s willing to sign for around $5 million (it was a stark wake-up call to realize Williams was out-produced by Olsen Pierre despite Pierre getting half the snaps). However I think when all is said and done, the Giants will work hard to re-sign Williams to save face and justify the trade.
Matt: He will. I think the team goes strong to keep him. They love their power big men and Williams and his family won’t have to move.
Mark: Williams will be a Giant. Some of this might be dependent on whether the Giants need to use the franchise tag. Jeremy Fowler from ESPN is reporting that Williams may file a grievance over the tag, since as a defensive tackle his franchise tag is $15.5 million, but the organization might be smart to place the tag on him given what his replacement might cost on the open market.
Emily: This one is tricky. Williams is likely to cost more than $10 million per season, according to multiple reports. The Giants do not want to pay Williams what he is asking for, but the defensive lineman has a lot of leverage. The Giants traded multiple draft picks (third-and-fifth-round selections) to the Jets to obtain Williams last season. For this reason alone, the Giants basically have to sign Williams despite him finishing with just half a sack and two tackles for loss in 16 games last year. He showed flashes of promise but not the type the Giants were hoping (or paying) for. So, I think Williams will be a Giant in 2020, albeit somewhat begrudgingly by New York.
Joe DeLeone: He will be a Giant in 2020. While resigning the veteran defensive lineman does not make sense for the current holes on the roster, Dave Gettleman has invested too much to let him walk. Gettleman even made remarks at the combine that he’d look foolish if he traded picks for a player he didn’t end up resigning. It’s clear the attitude toward Williams’s situation is to bring him back regardless of cost. If that requires the franchise tag, that might be in play as well.
Joseph Czikk: It seems we all agree he probably shouldn’t be a Giant. I’ll go contrarian and say I don’t think he’ll actually be a Giant. I think Gettleman knows he made a hasty decision to give up two draft picks for Williams last season. It’s time for Gettleman to own up to his risky decision and move on.
Valentine’s View: Will. Gettleman might have “thick rhino hide,” but I think he’s going to cover his backside here and use a tag to get at least a full season out of Williams.
Over or under? The number of Patriots who sign with the Giants is 2.5
Nick: Under. 2.5 is a very interesting number, though. I feel 2 Patriots will sign with the Giants, and I would love for Devin McCourty and Van Noy to be those two, which would push me to the Over, but I believe McCourty may stay in New England; his brother’s option was picked up by the team and it makes sense for him to stay, unless they don’t meet his demands. The Patriots have several free agent defensive players, who are young, and can fill a need: Fullback/LB Elandon Roberts, EDGE/DL Shilique Calhoun, and the not so young, but effective, LB Jamie Collins. I feel one of the four players listed above, possibly two, will be brought onto the Giants. Another interesting player is wide receiver, but mainly special teams ace, Matthew Slater. There’s an obvious connection with Joe Judge here, and he’s the best in the game, but it may be somewhat redundant if the Giants do bring back Cody Core. I still feel like 2 is the realistic, most probable, number.
Chris: Under. As I said above, I think (hope) the Giants cast a wider net than just the cast-offs from the teams their coaches coached last year. That being said, the Pats have a bunch of free agents who can be depth pieces and role players, so I can certainly see one or two being signed.
Matt: That is just a huge number! Not to mention, I bet the Dolphins have their eye on quite a few Pats as well.
Mark: I’ll go with the under. I think, as outlined above, Van Noy takes his talents to South Beach. Matthew Slater certainly has a connection with Joe Judge, but given the value that Bill Belichick places on special teams, I believe the Patriots keep in him Foxborough. Another special teams player for the Patriots, however, could be coming to New York in Nate Ebner, so that gets you one. Devin McCourty likely returns to the Patriots, given his brother’s recent new deal. As for Jamie Collins, given that his most productive years came in New England, he might look to return to the Patriots. And don’t get me started on #12...
Emily: The way I see it, there are three Patriots who have a (somewhat) strong potential of signing with the Giants, though I doubt all three make the switch. I think linebacker Kyle Van Noy is the most likely to sign with New York and then special teams star Matthew Slater and linebacker Jamie Collins are the other possibilities. Of course, the biggest selling point is the connection that all three players have to Joe Judge. I have a hard time seeing Slater leave New England though. He’s 34 years old and has been with the Patriots since 2008 where he has been voted to eight Pro Bowl teams. So I’m going to go with under two for the number of Patriots who might sign with New York.
Joe DeLeone: Over 2.5. Typically when former Patriots coaches under the Bill Belichick tree, they snag players from New England on their way out. The list of unrestricted free agents in New England is not overly enticing, and most of the big names will sign elsewhere or return. That doensn’t rule out Joe Judge seeking out backend roster players and role players to fill out the depth chart with players he’s familiar with. Overall coaches appreciate already knowing players well and how to coach them. If Joe Judge wants coachable guys, he’ll take some from New England.
Joseph Czikk: Under. I just don’t see how three Patriots will join Big Blue with Slater off the market. Devin McCourty and Kyle Van Noy could be the two, but beyond that I don’t think Judge goes crazy for Boston cast-offs in his first offseason under the microscope.
Valentine’s View: Under. I think the Giants will talk to all of the New England free agents. I just don’t see them collecting them like, oh, former Carolina Panthers.
Yes or no? Jadeveon Clowney is worth $22 or $23 million per year for 5 years or more?
Nick: Yes, I feel $22-23 million is fine, but the 5 years plus is concerning, although I feel he’ll ultimately receive it. I have reservations about Clowney; yes, he hasn’t missed many games, but he constantly plays dinged up which hinders his overall effectiveness. A $22 million deal will reset the market by one million over Demarcus Lawrence’s contract. Lawrence had more sacks, pressures, and hurries than Clowney, but tackles for a loss go to the former Texan & Seahawk. It’s all about the market; Clowney is going to reset it no matter what, and the cap will keep increasing every season, rendering the contract as less of a burden than it may look like when signed. The Giants could use Clowney’s game changing skill-set, excellent run defense, and number one pass rusher upside to help a defense that has less than $30 million invested into its players.
Chris: I’ve been wrestling with this one for a while. The Giants absolutely need a “1-A” pass rusher for whom offenses need to account. But $22 million (or more) is a huge chunk of change considering how many other needs the Giants also have. For the Giants — specifically, and particularly if they decide to move Lorenzo Carter to off-ball linebacker — I might be more inclined to sign multiple pass rushers, like some combination of Dante Fowler Jr., Jason Pierre-Paul, and Vic Beasley.
Matt: A big no. Clowney is a great player and is going to get paid huge. But he simply didn’t affect the passing game enough on a consistent basis to be worth that kind of crazy money.
Mark: In a vacuum, yes. However, Clowney’s desire to ink a “market-setting” contract might be undercut this year when you look at other potential edge rushers that will be available. Both Shaquil Barrett and Yannick Ngakoue could be on the market, and a team that is looking to content immediately but has minimal cap space might look at the cost for Clowney, then compare that to potential short-term deals that Robert Quinn, Jason Pierre-Paul and Dante Fowler would be looking for, and move to a Plan B situation.
Emily: I think that many Seattle Seahawks fans would say that Clowney is worth at least $22 million a year for five years. I don’t see the Giants, however, being able to afford the elite pass rusher despite their need for one. New York has about $75 million to spend but paying for Clowney would eat up a lot of money that would limit the Giants in the rest of their free agency pursuits. Clowney would be a valuable addition, but I don’t see it in the cards for New York right now because of his price.
Joe DeLeone: Yes by a significant margin. I understand the reasoning for people choosing to be wary of Clowney. Statistically, he’s not the most productive pass rusher. You have to acknowledge that Clowney’s impact comes from generating pressure and QB hits. Sacks look nice on the stat sheet, but disrupting the timing of an offense and getting in the head of opposing quarterbacks is what is really important. Adding Clowney to a unit that is stacked at interior defensive line will decrease the amount of attention offensive lines can give him. With as much cap space as the Giants have, they should spend it on the best pass rusher available.
Joseph Czikk: That’s a hard no for me. While Jadaveon Clowney has had some excellent seasons in Houston, like 2017-2018, his 2019 down year has sort of dampened people’s hype on him. Throw in his early-career history of injuries and it’s not a great look. Look, I’m not saying he won’t get a raise from 15 AAV, but I don’t think he’ll earn more than Demarcus Lawrence. Give him 18-19 million max.
Valentine’s View: No. I’ve been over this. It’s a very bad, horrendous, terrible idea. Somebody is going to pay Clowney that money. Whoever it is will wish they hadn’t.
True or false? The Giants will make Byron Jones the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback?
Nick: False, *insert huge frowny face emoji* As of right now, Jones is my number one target for the New York Giants. An accomplished cornerback, who is an elite athlete, that quarterbacks avoided throwing towards; according to PFF, Jones was targeted only (ranked 89th) 53 times, surrendering 30 receptions for 331 yards and 3 touchdowns, while predominantly guarding the opposing team’s number one option. Essentially, he’s a stud, who rarely gets injured, and he’s only 27 years of age. The Dolphins’ Xavien Howard is currently the highest paid corner in the league, with a contract slightly over $15 million per year. Jones is expected to command about $16, which I think is fair. I just have a bad feeling; despite the Giants having $78 million in cap space, and the Eagles only having $41 million, I feel the Eagles may still land the talented corner, leaving the Giants with a lot of unproven, or unrefined, talent at the cornerback position. I hope to be wrong, obviously, and I really would love to see Jones in Giants’ blue next season.
Chris: I’m going to say “True”. Dave Gettleman knows he is on the Hot Seat and needs this season to rebound from the last two in a BIG way. And given that the Giants’ defense hemorrhaged big plays and the rookie secondary was anything but dependable, I fully expect the Giants to make a big play to add a top-level veteran. Also, the last time Gettleman was an executive for the Giants, they had a tendency to sign former-Cowboys (notably Chris Canty and Martellus Bennett). Now, whether that is because they were familiar with them or an attempt to strengthen the Giants’ roster at the expense of the Cowboys, I can’t say. But it might be something to keep an eye on.
Matt: False. I see Jones quite possibly becoming the highest-paid corner in the league, but my money is it happening with the Texans.
Mark: I’ll say true. Everything Nick says about Jones is accurate, in that he has true lockdown corner ability and also positional flexibility, given his background as a safety. The Dallas Cowboys seem to be moving towards inking Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper to long-term deals, using tags if necessary, which will make bringing Jones back impossible under the cap. Both the Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles are in position to swoop in, and given that a potential bidding war might ensue, I’ll place my bet on the team with the most financial resources to win it.
Emily: I’m going to go false, though adding Jones would provide some much-needed talent to the Giants’ young secondary. We saw last season how poorly the trio of DeAndre Baker, Sam Beal and Corey Ballentine performed and so the Giants are in desperate need of some veteran presence. Similar to Clowney though, I do not think New York will spend a significant amount of its cap space on Jones because I think they would be better served spending less than $16 million per season on him. Also, the young Panthers cornerback James Bradberry is on the market as is Chiefs defensive back Kendall Fuller. Fuller did not record an interception last season, but Jones himself has only made two interceptions in 79 NFL games and is not known for his game-changing plays. I think the Giants could significantly improve the secondary with players like Bradberry and Fuller without having to exhaust their spending money.
Joe DeLeone: True. The Giants have over $75 million in cap space with a general manager that’s on the hot seat. Gettleman is in no position to play it safe by signing marginal players. In 2016 Jerry Reese spent an egregious amount of money to sign players like Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins. While those signings weren’t good for long term success, they bought Reese another year because of the Giants’ success the following season. Gettleman is in a similar boat, and signing top defensive talent could buy him another year.
Joseph Czikk: False. With Jason Garrett in town, the Giants are going to table a strong offer to Byron Jones. But will it be at $16 million? Is Byron Jones the best corner in the league? I don’t believe that. Is he worth of more money than guys like Patrick Peterson, Xavien Howard and Stephon Gilmore? Perhaps, but it’s not a slam dunk in my eyes by any means. I don’t think he’ll get top corner money!
Valentine’s View: I want this to be true. I think Jones is going to look at the Giants, though, and opt for a team with a better shot at winning right away. Like the Eagles, unfortunately. The Giants are going to have to shoot lower for veteran cornerback help. So, false.