The Giants’ likely goners and bargains in a quieter free agency | New York Post
At this time a year ago, the Giants moved into free agency armed with $56.6 million in salary-cap space — only four teams hit the open market with more — and a spree was anticipated. Thus, when the Giants in rapid fire landed Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins and Damon Harrison for nearly $200 million, the size of the contracts was staggering, but the spending frenzy was not.
Teams do not want to be in position for huge free-agency spending in consecutive years — it is a sign of a bad and often mismanaged team. The Giants this year arrive at free agency $13.1 million under the salary cap, and only the Cowboys, Chiefs, Chargers and Eagles have less money to spend. As opposed to last year’s splash, the Giants this time around will look to make some ripples in the shallow end of the pond.
Finding additional cap space is not difficult — the Giants can rework some contracts or cut a few fringe veterans — but this has all the makings of a subdued free-agency year for the Giants.
“You take a look at free agency, and if you have a chance to hit with some clean players you feel good about, that can make you better, then you take your shot,” coach Ben McAdoo said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine. “If not, you move on and look forward to the draft.”
Free agency officially opens up at 4 p.m. Thursday, but teams can begin negotiations with player agents — it’s called legal tampering — Tuesday. This is why Thursday, at approximately 4:01 p.m., more than a handful of deals already will have been secured.
Of the Giants’ 17 unrestricted free agents, only a few are viewed by the front office as important to try to bring back. Jason Pierre-Paul already has been hit with the franchise tag, so he is not going anywhere in 2017, and the hope is a long-term contract can be worked out, as the Giants do not want to be burdened with the $16.9 million cap hit for JPP that comes with the franchise tag.
The most coveted Giants player figures to be defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, who is young (he turns 25 in three weeks) and an established starter. The Giants like him and want to keep him but, as they were four years ago with Linval Joseph, they are prepared to see Hankins leave. They have a load of money invested in their defensive line, and Hankins could command $8 million-$10 million a year on the open market. The Giants also would like to bring back linebacker Keenan Robinson, a deal more likely to happen.
Given how good the Giants were on defense in 2016 and how disappointing they were on offense, it seems safe to assume the focus will be on adding pieces along the offensive line, at tight end and running back and trying to find a receiver with size. There are reports the Giants have interest in Terrelle Pryor, who is coming off a 77-catch, 1,007-yard breakthrough season with the Browns. Pryor is big (6-foot-4) and fits the profile but wants to get paid big money and probably will get it, which would eliminate the Giants as contenders.
Not all of those areas on offense can be addressed in free agency, and McAdoo disputed the notion the thrust this year will be adding players to that side of the ball.
“I don’t think you look at it like that,” McAdoo said. “You go through the evaluation process, and whether it’s free agency or the draft, you try to come up with the best players you can that make the most sense for the long-term health of the organization.”
Fans are imploring the Giants to find a replacement at left tackle, allowing Ereck Flowers to move to the right side. This is not an appetizing group of left tackles in free agency — Andrew Whitworth (Bengals) is excellent but is 35 — and the fits might not be right for the Giants.
John Jerry, the starting right guard in all 16 games last season and a starter in 40 games the past three years, is an unrestricted free agent, and the Giants would like to find a more explosive run-blocker at that position. So while fans and the media obsess about ditching Flowers, the Giants are searching for a new starting guard. From his Packers days, McAdoo is familiar with T.J. Lang, a Pro Bowl guard coming off hip surgery.
Other than the Giants tagging Pierre-Paul, the only one of their own free agents to re-sign thus far has been long-snapper Zak DeOssie (two years, $2.3 million). Kicker Robbie Gould went 10-for-10 on field goals last season — he missed three extra points — but is headed to the open market, where proven kickers such as Steven Hauschka and Greg Zuerlein are unrestricted free agents for the Giants to consider.