As expected, the New York Giants were busy in the 2020 free agency cycle. A defense that desperately needed to replenish talent was addressed by the following signings:
- Cornerback James Bradberry on a three-year $45 million deal, with $32 million guaranteed.
- Linebacker Blake Martinez to a 3-year $30 million deal, with $19 million guaranteed.
- Edge Kyler Fackrell — one-year $4.6 million.
- The Giants also slapped the franchise tag on defensive lineman Leonard Williams, which is costing the Giants $16.1 million this season.
The Giants also added to their offense by signing offensive tackle Cameron Fleming, quarterback Colt McCoy, and tight end Levine Toilolo.
The special teams unit was upgraded with the signing of former Patriots’ “safety’’ Nate Ebnar and the re-signing of Cody Core, the Giants’ special teams ace last season.
Roughly $76 million in cap space has been reduced to slightly more than $15 million, according to Over The Cap. Since a lot of the new contracts are front loaded, the burden of funds falls on 2020, providing the team with a lot more flexibility in the coming years, which is when bigger contracts will possibly be allocated to the Giants young studs.
The Giants need to save money for the 2020 draft class, but there are still holes on the roster that must be entertained. The single high safety position is an issue, a starting right tackle and starting center are needed, along with edge and linebacker depth, and maybe another wide receiver. Can all these problems be fixed in the draft? Probably not. Some can, and some will be, but veteran depth can still be had, at a very cheap price, on the free agent market.
Depth that can provide value and possibly even be a diamond in the rough like Markus Golden in 2019 or Jonathan Casillas in 2015. Some players over-value their markets and have to settle for cheap, prove it, deals. Here are 10 free agents that the Giants may be interested in on the cheap.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Vikings
The veteran running back market is filled with talented backs, but few have signed, which tells us how they’re valued. The former second-round pick out of Nebraska, by the Lions, had a nice resurgence with the Vikings. He wasn’t a focal point on offense, due to Dalvin Cook’s presence, but split time with Mike Boone when Cook was out. Abdullah caught 15 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown, while adding 115 yards on the ground, averaged 5.0 yards a carry. He was significantly involved as a kick returner and on special teams. I also like how former Vikings’ offensive coordinator and now Browns’ head coach Kevin Stefanski utilized Abdullah in two-running back personnel packages. Abdullah’s skill set is vastly different than Saquon Barkley’s, yet they’re both incredible athletes:
All his athletic testing traits are off the charts, except his 40 and 10-yard split. When I watch Abdullah, I never see any kind of speed concerns, so I’m willing to overlook those metrics, but he is explosive. Abdullah would be a cheap option to bring in and spell Barkley, while giving offensive coordinator Jason Garrett a viable athletic option to mismatch against linebackers in two -back personnel groupings.
Marcus Johnson, WR, Colts
The cheaper alternative to Demarcus Robinson, who is also still available. In a loaded wide receiver draft class, former undrafted free agents who don’t have a lot of production may be forgotten.
Johnson is an explosive athlete and lit up the Texas Longhorns Pro Day back in 2016:
10-yard split: 1.53 — 68th percentile; 20-yard split: 2.48 — 96th percentile; 40-yard dash: 4.39 — 87th percentile; Vertical jump: 37 inches — 71st percentile; Broad jump: 135 inches — 98th percentile; 3-cone: 7.26 — 8th percentile; Bench press: 22 reps — 94th percentile.
Johnson more than likely have to sign a one year “prove it” deal, since his production was scant and came late in the season with Charles Rogers, Parris Cambell, and Devin Funchess out due to injury. The Giants could use a cheap, field stretching, receiver to open up the short-intermediate passing options. With a receiver like Johnson on the boundary side, and Darius Slayton on the field side, safeties would have to respect the vertical threats, which creates one on one matchups, while opening up the underneath options.
Devin Funchess, WR, Colts
Funchess broke his collarbone in Week 1 after signing a oneyear, $10 million prove it deal. The injury negated the proof, and Funchess is back to square one, which could be good for a team looking for a big-bodied receiver. The Giants are in that market, as the big-bodied receiver has been an important aspect to Garrett’s offense.
Funchess would have to work for snaps in this offense, but I feel he would slide into goal line, short yardage, and boundary roles. Funchess lacks speed, but he had more than 107 catches, for 1,389 yards, and 12 touchdowns in his final two seasons in Carolina with a run-heavy team that had an inaccurate quarterback. If the Giants don’t land a big bodied receiver in the draft, bringing Funchess in late isn’t the end of the world. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound 25-year-old may still have something left in the tank, but he has to prove it.
Evan Brown, OC, Miami
Brown was an undrafted rookie free agent in 2018 who latched on with the Giants until he was eventually released and picked up by Miami in the midseason of 2019. Ironically enough, Brown saw his first action for the Dolphins against the Giants and played decently.
The 6-foot-2, 302-pound, Brown is only 23 years old and could provide solid depth at a huge position of need. Brown did not receive a Combine invite, but at SMU’s Pro Day in 2018, he opened some eyes by posting a 5.03 40-yard dash, an insance vertical of 36 inches, which is insane, and a broad jump of 113 inches. The guy had a better 20-yard shuttle (4.46) than Funchess. Quick feet can help with positioning and lower body explosiveness helps with power at the point of attack. Bringing Brown back on a small deal would be a smart move, and the Giants should do it, especially since there has to be a lot of competition at that center position. Is Brown that upgrade? Maybe not, but it doesn’t hurt to add depth.
Kamalei Correa, EDGE, Titans
Selected in the second round of the 2016 draft by the Baltimore Ravens, Correa was buried on the depth chart and ultimately was traded to the Tennessee Titans in 2018. Through his two seasons in Tennessee, Correa had 8.5 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss, playing as a situational pass rusher behind Harold Landry and Cameron Wake. Correa took on a bigger role in 2019. He has the ability to play in space as an outside linebacker and play with his hand in the dirt. Correa could possibly play the “LEO” (hybrid between linebacker and end) role in a situational capacity for the Giants, with the upside of earning a starting job.
I have talked ad nauseam about the Giants’ lack of proven talent at the EDGE position. You can add all the secondary pieces you want, but if no one can rush the passer then the secondary will be exposed. Is Correa the fix to the problem? No, but he’s a depth piece that fits the Giants’ defensive system. Correa can contribute and compete for snaps at a thin position group and provide veteran depth at a low cost, similar to Kyler Fackrell.
Elijah Lee, LB, 49ers
The Giants added their defensive signal caller for the foreseeable future by signing Blake Martinez. They6 also re-signed David Mayo, but the position group is still thin, especially if you’re talking about athletic ability.
If the Giants don’t draft Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, I really hope they can land Appalachian State linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither at pick No. 99. An athletic linebacker is a necessary addition to the roster as it would help the team with mismatch capabilities, sub-packages, and special teams.
Lee was buried on the depth chart in San Francisco behind Fred Warner, rookie Dre Greenlaw, and Kwon Alexander. A seventh-round selection by the Vikings out of Kansas State, Lee played significant snaps for San Francisco in 2018 He played valiantly and graded out in a solid manner from Pro Football Focus. Lee had 65 tackles, three for a loss, one sack, two passes defensed, and started five games for the 49ers. He was relegated to mostly special teams in 2019. Lee isn’t the athlete Davis-Gaither is, but he’s a solid mover in space who just turned 24. Lee’s a low cost player that can come in and compete for snaps, at a position that is relying heavily on a rookie that is coming off a torn ACL in Ryan connelly.
Stephone Anthony, LB, Saints
As I stated above, the Giants should be in the market for an athletic linebacker, and Anthony is that.
Anthony has ideal size for a linebacker with incredible athletic ability, along with college production, which is why the Saints selected him 31st in the 2015 draft. Anthony immediately rewarded them with an exceptional rookie campaign, notching more than 100 tackles.
It was all downhill from there as Anthony struggled with injuries and was traded to the Miami Dolphins for a fifth-round pick in 2017. The Dolphins declined his fifth- year option and the Saints picked him up off the scrap heap in 2019, where he basically only played special teams. Now, a free agent, and only 27 years old, Anthony will be lucky to make a roster.
I feel the Giants should give him a shot. He’ll be cheap, and what do the Giants have to lose? If this coaching staff really prides itself on teaching, why not see if Anthony can be a reclamation project? Anthony must stay healthy, and become much better at taking on blocks at the second level, but he’s certainly worth a look. At his age, with previous NFL production, the athletic traits, and ideal size, the Giants should see if thy can salvage the former first-round pick.
Tramon Williams, CB, Packers
Despite being 37, Williams has been effective the last couple of seasons. He graded as the seventh overall cornerback in terms of coverage in 2019, and the 21st-rated ornerback in terms of total defense. The thing I love most about Williams isn’t just his effectiveness, it’s where he plays — the nickel. The Giants did not bring in Darqueze Dennard or Mackensie Alexander, and Logan Ryan’s asking price is thought to be around $10 million a year. Williams could start for the Giants at their biggest vulnerability spot in the secondary. Corey Ballentine and Grant Haley struggled at the nickel position last year. Williams could shore the nickel up, and even help further the careers of the young corners on the team. Even at his advanced age, Williams should be an automatic upgrade from the Giants’ 2019 nickel position.
Jahleel Addae, FS, Texans
Addae has a ton of experience playing free safety. Playing for the Giants could be a homecoming of sorts for Addae, who was born in the Bronx. The longtime Charger is 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, and is 30 years of age. In 2019 for Houston, he had 45 tackles, three passes defensed, and two interceptions, while grading out adeqautely on PFF’s platform. Addae is much more athletic than Bethea, and he understands how middle of the field safety works. He gets the angles, Cover 1 concepts, and Cover 3 concepts in the deep third. He may not have the range that he used to have, but he still has some juice left, and I feel he could start for the Giants on a one-year, prove it, type of deal.
Michael Thomas, DB, Giants
Resign the man! Thomas provided solid snaps on defense and was a special teams captain in 2019. There’s certainly value in almost all aspects of what Thomas can offer, and that’s not mentioning his positive impact in the locker room. I don’t feel like the addition of Nate Ebner should deter the Giants from bringing back Thomas on a short-term, low-money, contract. Thomas had 37 tackles in 2019, 11 of them being classified as STOPS, which is a PFF metric that measures offensive plays that are deemed failures. Off the top of my head I can remember several big defensive plays Thomas made near the line of scrimmage, just off the end man on the line of scrimmage or on bubble screens. He has a high football IQ and his character is off the charts. I wouldn’t mind seeing him back with the Giants. Thomas just turned 31 years of age on March 17.