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We are only a few days from the start of the 2015 NFL free agent period. Other teams can begin negotiating with a team’s free agents on March 7 and officially sign those players on March 10. As of March 4, the New York Giants currently have 20 free agents not under contract: 18 unrestricted free agents and two exclusive rights free agents. If the two exclusive rights free agents are tendered, those two players can only re-sign with the Giants.
New York has already re-signed restricted free agent center/guard Dallas Reynolds (1-year, $700,000) and wide receiver Kevin Olgetree (1-year, $745,000). The team has also designated defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul the team’s franchise player. Pierre-Paul has not yet signed that tender, but it currently will count $14,813,000 against the team’s salary cap.
Twenty free agents sounds like a lot. But not surprisingly for a 6-10 team, many of these unsigned New York Giants free agents are not very good. Here is my recommendation on who to re-sign and who to let walk:
Exclusive Rights Free Agents (if tendered):
TE Larry Donnell (Use ‘Em): Tendering Donnell is a no-brainer. He is a cheap, up-and-coming player who finished 9th in the NFL among tight ends in receptions totals in 2014 after only catching three passes in 2013.
CB Chandler Fenner (Lose ‘Em): The ex-Seahawk Fenner was signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad in October 2014. While he played in 11 games, he was quickly surpassed on the depth chart by players signed to the roster later in the season. It’s questionable whether the Giants will tender Fenner and unknown if the coaching staff thinks he has any long-term potential.
Restricted Free Agents (if tendered):
OC/OG Dallas Reynolds (Re-Signed – Lose ‘Em): The Giants re-signed Reynolds in February, but why bother? The 30-year old journeyman lineman simply is not very good. The Giants should have moved on.
Unrestricted Free Agents:
RB Chris Ogbonnaya (Lose ‘Em): Ogbonnaya is a 28-year old journeyman back who is currently with his fifth NFL team.
FB Henry Hynoski (Use ‘Em): The fullback role in Ben McAdoo’s offense has been marginalized, but the team still needs one fullback for those times in games that it decides to employ one. Hynoski is a good blocker, but the Giants should only give him a veteran minimum-type deal.
WR Kevin Ogletree (Re-Signed – Use ‘Em): The Giants re-signed Ogletree in February. That seemed like a reasonable move for a team that could use some cheap, veteran competition at wide receiver in training camp. That said, there is a good chance that Ogletree will be cut before the season.
WR Jerrel Jernigan (Lose ‘Em): The Giants are sometimes too patient with draft picks. Jernigan teased at the end of 2013 but reverted back to his previous form in training camp and the preseason, and ended up on Injured Reserve after two games. John Mara’s quip aside, Jerngian is a 2011 3rd-round bust.
TE Daniel Fells (Use ‘Em): Fells is “just a guy” but he knows the system and the team doesn’t currently have a lot of other options at tight end. Re-sign him to a veteran minimum contract and see if someone can beat him out in training camp.
OT James Brewer (Lose ‘Em): Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane. It’s time to move on from this 2011 4th-round bust.
OG John Jerry (Lose ‘Em): Jerry is a “coach killer”, meaning that while there are times when he flashes great ability, his screw ups are so common that they lose football games. Jerry is simply far too inconsistent for a 28-year old veteran. It would be better to move on and use the roster spot on a younger player with an upside.
OG Adam Snyder (Lose ‘Em): An aging, declining veteran with knee problems.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Use ‘Em): The problem with JPP is we really don’t know which way the arrow is pointing with him. He had one great season (2011), two very disappointing seasons (2012-13), and an inconsistent but productive season where he showed flashes of his old outstanding play (2014). How would he react to a big, fat, long-term contract? On the other hand, how many two-way defensive ends with impact ability are there in the NFL? I’d keep JPP, but I would actually not sign him to a long-term deal. I would have him play the entire year under his $15 million franchise tender unless you can re-sign him to a reasonable long-term deal (unlikely). If he has a great season in 2015, then you franchise him again or sign him to a longer team deal. The $15 million is more than 10 percent of the team’s salary cap, but that one-year hit would be better than a multi-year humongous cap-killing error.
DT Mike Patterson (Lose ‘Em): The 31-year old Patterson started eight games on one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL. He didn’t make any big plays. It’s time to move on.
LB Jacquian Williams (Lose ‘Em): The Giants linebacking corps sucks. Williams been here four seasons and the Giants have little to show for it. He’s an athlete who makes few plays.
LB Mark Herzlich (Lose ‘Em): See comment above. Herzlich has also been here four years. He’s a big linebacker who struggles in space.
LB Spencer Paysinger (Lose ‘Em): See comment above. Paysinger is also part of the 2011 linebacker class who hasn’t done much. It’s time to move on.
CB Walter Thurmond (Use ‘Em): Thurmond, who proclaims himself to be one of the best corners in football, signed a 1-year “show me” deal with the Giants after violating the NFL’s drug policy in 2013. He tore his pectoral muscle in Week 2 and was lost for the season. In an ideal situation, the Giants would sign him to another “show me” contract this offseason. Will Thurmond bite? He’s probably still the third-best corner on the team, a de facto starter.
CB Chykie Brown (Use ‘Em): Brown was an in-season cut by the Ravens after getting burned once too often in Baltimore. He played surprisingly reasonably well in the eight games he played for the Giants. Chances are he is an inconsistent player who may struggle to make the team, but I would give him a shot in training camp if he signs a veteran minimum deal.
CB Zack Bowman (Lose ‘Em): Bowman is not a terrible player, but he’s 30 and lacks speed. He also started to fall down the depth chart as the season progressed. The Giants should try to get younger and faster at the back-up positions.
S Antrel Rolle (Lose ‘Em): A year after playing arguably his best season at safety, the 32-year old Rolle arguably had his worst. I’d re-sign him to a veteran minimum type deal, but Rolle won’t accept that. He’s an important leader on defense, but that defense finished 29th in the NFL.
S Stevie Brown (Lose ‘Em): As feared, Brown’s big season in 2012 was a mirage. He’s simply not a play-maker.
S Quintin Demps (Lose ‘Em): Demps looks the part but he’s another “coach killer” who has now played for four NFL teams.
So of the 20 free agents, I would prefer to keep only seven, plus Rolle if he would choose to accept a low-end deal. Hopefully the Giants will move on from most of these players and give a chance to new faces coming out of college. Not only will they be cheaper and be locked into playing for the team for 3-4 seasons, but they have a potential upside that most of these guys do not. In particular, the Giants need to clean out the dead weight on the offensive line and defense.