The NFL free agency negotiating window opens March 14, a little more than a month from now. Between now and then the New York Giants hope to clear roughly $40 million salary cap space. New GM Joe Schoen also has decisions to make on 21 unrestricted free agents who may or may not have played their last snap with the revamping Giants.
Let’s begin going through those 21 players to see which, if any, the cap-strapped Giants should try to keep. We will use a list from Over The Cap. We start with defensive tackle Austin Johnson.
2021 cap hit: $3 million
Making the case
Johnson was a full-time starter for the first time in his six-year career during 2021. He posted career highs in snaps played (664), tackles (72), sacks (3.5), pressures (11), tackles for loss (6) and quarterback hits (7).
Pro Football Focus gave Johnson a mediocre 58.3 grade, ranking him 41st out of 56 qualifying interior defensive linemen.
Johnson is, at least, a solid rotational piece on the interior of the defense. His reputation is that of being a solid run defender, though his 53.9 run defense grade in 2021 was a career-worst.
Question is, was Johnson’s improved production in 2021 simply a result of the Giants needing him to play more snaps, or is he a player reaching his peak?
The bigger question is, whatever the new Giants regime thinks of Johnson is it worth paying to keep him in 2022?
My answer is, probably not. There is at least one NFL team out there likely to match or exceed the $3 million Johnson made from the Giants in 2021. The Giants can’t go there in 2022 for a player who probably shouldn’t be playing starter snaps. My bet would be that the Giants can get similar production for less money.