The first day of 2021 NFL free agency was a predictably quiet one for the New York Giants. Meaning that it was also a particularly frustrating one for the team’s fan base.
The Giants did not get the deals done with Leonard Willians and Nate Solder that they need to create salary cap space, lost defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson to the Minnesota Vikings, curiously spent a chunk of their limited resources on a backup running back and retained defensive tackle Austin Johnson.
Here are some of the ‘things I think’ as we head into another day of the NFL’s free agency negotiating window.
Losing Dalvin Tomlinson is unfortunate
The Giants didn’t want this to happen. Tomlinson was a draft choice, albeit by Jerry Reese. He was a good player and a key part of a solid defensive line. He was a locker room leader who was voted a team captain last season. He was the kind of player you would like as part of your core.
Yet, Tomlinson moving on always felt inevitable.
It always seemed like the Giants were going to have to choose between Tomlinson and Leonard Williams. By franchise-tagging Williams at a cost of $19.351 million the Giants made their choice clear.
Much will be made about the fact that the Giants turned down an opportunity to send Tomlinson to the Green Bay Packers at last season’s trade deadline.
Here is what coach Joe Judge said at the time:
“Listen, there are some foundational pieces that we’re definitely looking to build with in this program. We’re happy with the way our players are working right now. We’re happy with the progress they’re making. This was a position right here that we want to keep building with this team right there. We want to keep building with the guys we have.”
Now, one of those foundational pieces has been lost. It’s a cruel twist of fate that Tomlinson’s two-year, $22 million deal ($16 million guaranteed) is with the Minnesota Vikings. It was the Vikings who signed defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who went on to make the Pro Bowl twice with them, away from the Giants in 2014.
All the Giants can do now is hope Tomlinson’s career doesn’t follow a similar upward trajectory.
A backup running back? Really?
That was the reaction of much of the fan base when news broke that the Giants were signing Devontae Booker to a two-year, $6 million deal.
I found it a curious use of the Giants limited cap resources, as well.
First, it’s a clear sign that Wayne Gallman is moving on. I don’t know what Gallman’s market or price tag will be, but he clearly believes he can get more money than the Giants paid Booker, as well as a bigger opportunity, elsewhere.
Booker is a good player, but it was surprising to me that the Giants would spend that kind of money early in free agency on a backup for Saquon Barkley rather than wait and find a bargain backup later on.
With the Giants having such limited resources it is absolutely fair to question why Booker was a priority.
Leonard Williams and Nate Solder
Giants fans know the deal with Williams and Solder. It is the $19.351 million franchise tag the Giants placed on Williams and the $16.5 million cap hit Solder carries that are currently crushing the Giants’ salary cap situation.
The Giants know it, too. We know they are trying to open cap space by getting a long-term deal done with Williams and to re-structuring Solder’s deal. They are, though, running out of time.
As Pat Traina said Monday on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast, perhaps Williams’ desire to be considered a defensive end rather than a defensive tackle that is holding up a deal. The way defensive ends and edge rushers are getting paid in this market it’s hard to blame him. Yet, this situation is why I really hoped the Giants wouldn’t use the tag on Williams to begin with.
As for Solder, it’s clear the Giants want him back. Not, though, at the massive cost of his current contract. The Giants also don’t want to take the $10.5 million cap hit that cutting him would necessitate. if no deal is reached soon, they might have to.
Another shopping day
Perhaps the biggest shopping development on Monday was that wide receiver Kenny Golladay did not sign anywhere. That means the Giants might still have a chance at the player many believe to be their primary free-agent target. The only real big-name receiver who came off the market Monday was Corey Davis, who landed with the New York Jets on a three-year, $37.5 million deal.
Edge rushers were flying off the shelves Monday, but Haason Reddick, Kyle Van Noy and Jadaveon Clowney are still out there.
There are plenty of good offensive guards and cornerbacks available, as well. I mean, Bill Belichick did fail in his apparent quest to sign every available free agent. Monday wasn’t a great day for the Giants, but the offseason is long, the roster-building process and games aren’t played until September.
Let’s see if today will be a better day.