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Giants free agent spending: How well have they spent their money?

New York Giants v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap has released a study on how NFL teams allocate their money through free agency relative to the number of wins they earn. The study looks at the free-agent periods and games won between 2017-2020. It’s important to note that the Giants did change their general manager, and coaches, after the 2017 season, so a different direction was set. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at these dismal graphs.

(Overthecap.com graph)

Teams like the Bills and Bears spent more money relative to the rest of the league in this time period and had records above .500. The Buccaneers, 49ers, Colts, Panthers, Dolphins, Jaguars, Lions, Raiders, Browns, Cardinals, Broncos, Jets, and, of course, the Giants spent more than league average, yet still finished well below .500 (The Colts were just under the threshold).

Both New York teams had the same winning percentage (28.1), but the Jets spent more in free agency by total contract value, the average amount allocated to players per year, and annual value per win. Let’s see the graph that suggests free agent spending per player versus the record of the team.

(Overthecap.com graph)

The Giants, along with several other teams, have shifted left to below the average spending pool, which indicates that may have signed more free agents to some lesser deals. Teams like the Packers, Vikings, Bills, and Bears weren’t signing as many free agents, but the free agents they did add were higher priced (which will be apparent in the next graph). Similar to the Giants, the Bears, 49ers, Lions, Raiders, and Bills all shifted left, and all had general manager or coaching turnover which could prompt more spending in free agency.

The lack of effective drafting from 2013-2016 also doesn’t help with free-agent spending - there weren’t players being retained. From those drafts only wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard signed a second contract, and the former was shipped out of town a year after signing a five-year, $90 million extension. Overthecap.com then excluded smaller contracts and only analyzed contracts given of $5 million a season. Let’s check that graph out.

(Overthecap.com graph)

The Giants land just under middle of the pack in terms of bigger contracts given, but their win percentage is just horrid. However, the Jets added $171 million in annual contracts, around $120 of those were bigger contracts, and their winning percentage is equally as piteous as their New York counterpart. The Jets are spending about $9.5 million per win. The Lions and Jaguars are about $7 million per win, and the New York Giants aren’t far behind with $6.8 million per victory.

The Patriots, Steelers, and Seahawks are all at a winning percentage around 67, yet they spend very little on big contracts in free agency. New England and Pittsburgh retain talent they drafted and sign players with high upside who may have not worked out with the team that drafted them (plus, they have two hall of fame quarterbacks). The Seahawks have acquired talent through trades and free agency isn’t as high of a priority for them. Even the Saints, Chiefs, Ravens, and Rams have high winning percentages but fall short of the median spending line. The Titans, Bills, Packers, Bears, and Vikings are the teams that have spent big and it has relatively paid off for them on the football field.

From 2017-2020 the Giants have signed 37 free agents with a total annual contract value of $123,082,500, which ranks 10th-highest in the NFL. The 37 free agents rank eighth-highest. Teams like the Steelers, Rams, and Chargers have signed 15 or less in that time frame.

The Giants rank 13th in total contract value of $298,007,500 which would have spanned over a collective 59 years at $5,050,975 per year (20th highest). The average allocated towards a player was $3,326,554, and that ranks 22nd. The Giants aren’t spending as much on singular free agents, but they had to add 37 of them in this time frame.

The sad reality is that the Giants only have 18 wins in this span of time, and they rank fourth-worst in the league with an annual value per win at $6,837,917 just ahead of the Jets, Lions, and Jaguars. It has not been pretty and this team struggles to win football games. Some want to blame the previous regime, others point fingers at the current one - it’s collective.

Gettleman has swung and missed in free agency (Golden Tate, Nate Solder, Patrick Omameh, Kareem Martin, Jonathan Stewart), but he was facing an 0-2 count. It wasn’t the best position to assume, and there have been plenty of mistakes he’s made along the way, but we shouldn’t forget the lack of depth this Giants’ roster possessed just a few short years ago.

The Giants aren’t in the best current cap position heading into the 2021 free-agent period. 2020 signings Blake Martinez and James Bradberry have been home runs. Offensive guard Kevin Zeitler can be either traded or released and that would result in an extra $12 million in cap space. Wide receiver Golden Tate and linebacker David Mayo were both released, saving $8.4 million in 2021 cap space. That may prove to be valuable in the effort for the Giants to retain defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson, but more moves will have to be made to make that work.