The New York Giants have certainly been busy this week. Here are a few thoughts on what they have — and have not — accomplished in free agency this week.
Gone in a flash!
For months, all Giants fans could do — well, when they weren’t arguing about the draft or trashing GM Dave Gettleman — was salivate over the amount of salary cap space the Giants would enter this free agency cycle with.
That hovered somewhere between $72 and $79 million, depending on want source you use or who you believe.
Well, less than 24 hours into the “official” Wednesday afternoon start of free agency, that money is gone.
Poof! Just like that the Giants don’t have much left to spend. Here are the cap hits, per Over The Cap, for players they have added or re-signed:
DT Leonard Williams ($16.126 million)
CB James Bradberry ($16M)
LB Blake Martinez ($14M)
Edge Kyler Fackrell ($4.6M)
LB David Mayo ($3.55M)
PK Aldrick Rosas ($4.4M)
TE Levine Toilolo ($3.25M)
WR Cody Core ($2M)
OT Cameron Fleming (unknown)
ST Nate Ebner (unknown)
That’s $62 million and change before adding in Fleming and Ebner. The Giants need roughly $12 million for their rookie class. So, without re-structures or cuts beyond safety Antoine Bethea, there isn’t a whole lot of room left.
The Giants have done a smart thing with the way they have structured contracts. None of the deals they handed out were for longer than three years, and they were all front-loaded using roster bonuses rather than signing bonuses.
What’s the difference? A roster bonus can be paid entirely upfront while signing bonuses are spread through the life of a contract. That leads to dead money when you move on from a player. What the Giants did is a bit more costly upfront, but allows them to get out of a contract without carrying dead money should they need or choose to.
What about the pass rush?
I know, I know. You’re freaking out because the Giants haven’t — and probably won’t — sign Jadaveon Clowney. They couldn’t sign Dante Fowler Jr. or Vic Beasley. Swinging a tag and trade for Yannick Ngakoue is unrealistic. They couldn’t, or didn’t, bring back Markus Golden. They couldn’t even compete for Leonard Floyd, Devon Kennard and a host of other lower-tier pass rushers.
Kyler Fackrell on a one-year “prove it” deal? That’s it? Perhaps. I’ve been trying to tell you for a while that hooking a big pass-rushing fish was unlikely. The Giants have worked to improve their defense in free agency, but coming away with a premium pass rusher was always going to be difficult.
It’s my understanding the Giants still have an interest in Clowney. Thinking he will be a Giant, though, seems unrealistic. As we have talked about, the Giants don’t have the cap space to pay him $17 million or more per year. His injury history is also a problem. I’m told the Giants don’t want to pay him big money without being able to perform a comprehensive physical, which the league won’t allow right now because of travel restrictions related to COVID-19.
Offensive line upgrades?
This is the other thing I know some of you are going crazy about. The Giants need help on the offensive line, and Cameron Fleming can’t be their big move on the offensive line. Can he?
News flash — in my view, the Giants have sent a crystal-clear message that they will be looking to supplement the offensive line in the 2020 NFL Draft.
They have, mostly, spent their money on defense. Argue about whether or not they chose the right players, but that was the correct priority.
This draft happens to have four offensive tackles who could be top 10 picks. I hate to break it to Isaiah Simmons fans, but I think the Giants are telling us that one of those four — trade down or not — is going to be a Giant. Maybe I will be wrong, but that’s my current read.
Even if that doesn’t happen, some developmental tackles should be available on Day 2. There are a handful of Day 2 or early Day 3 centers.
It certainly is setting up, though, like the draft is the place they are going to look to seriously upgrade their offensive line.
Early on I was a proponent of the Giants going all-in on Jack Conklin. I see now that was never the plan, and I think the Giants did the right thing.
As for Fleming, I happen to like the move. He’s familiar to both Joe Judge and Jason Garrett, having played in New England and Dallas. He can play both sides. He can play guard in a pinch. He gives them options — and depth — if he doesn’t emerge as a full-time starter.
The familiarity pattern
Well, that pattern of bringing in players familiar to the GM and coaching staff is repeating itself. Bradberry was drafted by Gettleman, and, Martinez, Fackrell, Ebner, and Fleming are all guys who played previously for Judge, Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, or offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. I’m OK with it.
There is always some advantage for a new coaching staff that is trying to establish its credibility and get its program off on the right foot to have some players in the locker room and on the field they already have trust in.
In this uncertain time when no one has any idea if there will be an offseason or what training camp might look like whenever it begins having some players on the roster who already know what they will be asked to do has to be beneficial.
Of course, it will help if they are the right players. Still, in free agency and with a rookie head coach, leaning on the known vs. the unknown is understandable.
The Giants have gotten better
It’s impossible to know right now which free agent signings will work out and which didn’t. It’s also impossible to know if the Giants will win more games in 2020.
The Giants did not land the absolute best free agent at any position. Maybe Cory Littleton is a better player than Martinez. I will take Martinez over Alec Ogletree, though. Byron Jones is probably a better player than Bradberry, but I’ll take Bradberry over anything else the Giants have on the roster. I’ll take Bradberry’s three-year deal over Jones’ five-year deal, too. Like the contract or not, the Giants’ defense is better with Leonard Williams than without him. Cameron Fleming gives the Giants veteran depth they didn’t have a year ago.
The Giants haven’t made the splashiest moves. They have, though, filled some holes and given themselves a chance to go into the draft with fewer obvious needs.