Mar 052015
 
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Devin McCourty, New England Patriots (February 1, 2015)

Devin McCourty – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Free Agency Preview: The New York Giants have clearly been in a downward spiral since winning the team’s eighth NFL title in 2011. In the last three seasons, the Giants have finished in third-place in the NFC East, dropping from 9-7 to 7-9 to 6-10. This despite the team’s huge roster overhaul last offseason that included a free-agent spending spree and a solid draft. After the 2013 season, team President/CEO John Mara asserted the offense was “broken.” While the passing game improved in 2014, the running game remained one of the least productive in the NFL. And the Giants fell to 29th in total defense, giving up over 6,000 yards for the third time in the last four seasons and the only times in franchise history.

Since the end of the 2013 season, both the offensive and defensive coordinator have been fired. Many position coaches have departed too as have player stalwarts from the two Championship teams. But the key actors remain: Jerry Reese, Tom Coughlin, and Eli Manning. Nevertheless, the clock is ticking on Coughlin and Manning and their chances for one final ring.

It’s largely been demonstrated that teams can’t build championship-level rosters through free agency. The key roster upgrades must come through the draft. But free agency is an important part of the equation. And the Giants have had to be more active in free agency because of the team has little remaining to show for from the 2008-12 NFL Drafts. The ideal free agent is usually not the 30-something, big “household” name that everyone recognizes, but the 27-28 year old, lesser-known player who is coming off his first contract and entering his prime.

“I think we are in pretty good health. We are headed in the right direction with respect to the cap,” said General Manager Jerry Reese on February 21. “I think we will be able to do what we need to do. I think we will have enough money to do what we need to do in the offseason, as far as free agency goes and whatever we decide to do with the other guys.”

The biggest needs for the New York Giants? To regain control of the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense. To become a tough, physical football team once again.

Quarterback (Minimal Need): Eli Manning is the starter. Ryan Nassib is the back-up. The team prefers to only keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. The Giants might bring another veteran-minimum-type veteran to have an extra arm in camp along with (or to replace) Ricky Stanzi. No one with a legitimate shot to make an NFL roster will want to sign with the Giants because of Manning and Nassib.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • None

UFA’s of Note:

  • Matt Flynn (Green Bay Packers)

Running Back (Moderate Need): It’s likely that Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams are 1a and 1b on the depth chart. Jennings is well-respected and a solid all-around back. But he has been injury prone and is not dynamic. Williams did not flash as much as hoped during his rookie season, but the coaches seem to be very high on his future. What the Giants could use is a quicker, faster change-of-pace back who can pick up the blitz and threaten teams with his pass receiving. Michael Cox and Orleans Darkwa are still under contract. There are some interesting role players in the free agent market such as C.J. Spiller, Shane Vereen, and Roy Helu.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • Chris Ogbonnaya (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • DeMarco Murray (Dallas Cowboys)
  • C.J. Spiller (Buffalo Bills)
  • Shane Vereen (New England Patriots)
  • Roy Helu (Washington Redskins)
  • Mark Ingram (New Orleans Saints)
  • Reggie Bush (Detroit Lions)
  • Pierre Thomas (New Orleans Saints)

Fullback (Minor or Moderate Need): If the Giants re-sign Henry Hynoski, this really is a minor need, especially given the fact that the role of the fullback was minimized in Ben McAdoo’s offense. But if Hynoski leaves in free agency, the Giants will add a body to compete with with him and Nikita Whitlock in training camp.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • Henry Hynoski (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • John Kuhn (Green Bay Packers)

Wide Receivers (Moderate Need): There is a difference of opinion among fans about how pressing a need the team has at wide receiver. Much depends on how one views the likelihood of Victor Cruz returning from a serious knee injury and the immediate prospects for Rueben Randle. But keep in mind that even the Giants have said Cruz may never be the same player. Randle has been inconsistent, and even if he improves, he might want to leave the Giants when he becomes a free agent next offseason. The other seven guys currently under contract are no locks to even be on an NFL roster. There isn’t much out there on the free agent market.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • Jerrel Jernigan (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • Randall Cobb (Green Bay Packers)
  • Torrey Smith (Baltimore Ravens)
  • Jeremy Maclin (Philadelphia Eagles)

Tight Ends (Substantial Need): Larry Donnell was surprisingly productive in 2014, going from a complete no-name to a 63-catch target in one season. But his blocking still remains suspect. Daniel Fells was just adequate. And while Adrien Robinson took some baby steps forward in 2014, he continues to be a disappointing 4th-round draft pick. Based on his size, Jerome Cunningham is probably strictly an H-Back/receiving type. The problem is the top free agent tight ends are not very good blockers.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • Larry Donnell (Tendered Exclusive Rights Free Agent)
  • Daniel Fells (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • Julius Thomas (Denver Broncos)
  • Jordan Cameron (Cleveland Browns)
  • Charles Clay (Miami Dolphins – Transition Tagged)
  • Jermaine Gresham (Cincinnati Bengals)
  • Niles Paul (Washington Redskins)

Offensive Line (Critical Need): Fans also differ in opinion over the true state of the offensive line. Hopefully, the Giants have made the correct personnel evaluations and Will Beatty, Geoff Schwartz, Weston Richburg, and Justin Pugh are part of the solution. If not, then this line is really in sad shape. As it stands now, even if you are optimistic about the line, the Giants still desperately need one more starter. And the overall depth situation is not good at all. The big albatross is Will Beatty’s contract. Beatty will be entering the third year of his 5-year, $39 million contract. He will count over $8 million against the cap in 2015, even if the Giants cut him. The Giants need to become a tougher, more physical offensive line. Football games are still won and lost in the trenches. There are some interesting free agent players on the market, especially Mike Iupati, Bryan Bulaga, and Orlando Franklin.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • OT James Brewer (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • OG John Jerry (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • OG Adam Snyder (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • OG Mike Iupati (San Francisco 49ers)
  • OT Bryan Bulaga (Green Bay Packers)
  • OG Orlando Franklin (Denver Broncos)
  • OG Clint Boling (Cincinnati Bengals)
  • OT Derek Newton (Houston Texans)
  • OT Joe Barksdale (St. Louis Rams)
  • OG James Carpenter (Seattle Seahawks)
  • OT Doug Free (Dallas Cowboys)

Defensive Line (Critical Need): On paper, for at least 2015, the Giants appear set at two positions with defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins. But major questions remain at the other two starting spots. Who is the starting end opposite JPP? Damontre Moore? Kerry Wynn? Robert Ayers? Who starts alongside Hankins? Cullen Jenkins? Jay Bromley? Markus Kuhn and Mike Patterson played quite a bit in 2015 and did not perform well. The Giants need players here who can play the run and rush the passer. The good news is this is probably the deepest free agent group.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Franchise Player)
  • DT Mike Patterson (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • DT Ndamukong Suh (Detroit Lions)
  • DE Jerry Hughes (Buffalo Bills)
  • DE Greg Hardy (Carolina Panthers)
  • DT Terrance Knighton (Denver Broncos)
  • DT Nick Fairley (Detroit Lions)
  • DT Jared Odrick (Miami Dolphins)
  • DE Jabaal Sheard (Cleveland Browns)
  • DE Pernell McPhee (Baltimore Ravens)
  • DE Brian Orakpo (Washington Redskins)
  • DE Brandon Graham (Philadelphia Eagles)
  • DT Dan Williams (Arizona Cardinals)
  • DT Kendall Langford (St. Louis Rams)
  • DT Barry Cofield (Washington Redskins)
  • DT Vince Wilfork (New England Patriots)
  • DE Trent Cole (Philadelphia Eagles)

Linebackers (Critical Need): You can argue that the Giants haven’t ignored the position, but simply are terrible at scouting or developing linebackers. Or you can argue the Giants have not spent enough resources on the position. Regardless, the chickens have come home to roost. The Giants are in terrible shape at linebacker, lacking overall athleticism, speed, physicality, and most importantly, play makers. Devon Kennard shows signs of real ability but he’s probably best utilized as a line-of-scrimmage linebacker rather than a guy who you want playing in space. And since the game is more pass-oriented than ever, the Giants need better all-around linebackers. The free agent market for linebackers looks dreadful.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • Jacquian Williams (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • Mark Herzlich (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • Spencer Paysinger (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • OLB Derrick Morgan (Tennessee Titans)
  • MLB Rolando McClain (Dallas Cowboys)
  • MLB David Harris (New York Jets)
  • MLB Brandon Spikes (Buffalo Bills)
  • MLB Rey Maualuga (Cincinnati Bengals)
  • MLB Mason Foster (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Defensive Backs (Critical Need): The Giants are in much better shape at cornerback than safety, especially if they can re-sign Walter Thurmond. But if Thurmond leaves, depth becomes a concern since Prince Amukamara has been injury prone and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is coming off an injury-plagued season. The real concern is at safety where in one season the Giants went from a strength (the 2013 version of Antrel Rolle and Will Hill) to a mess (the 2014 version of Rolle, Stevie Brown, and Quintin Demps). The only safeties currently under contract are Nat Behre, Cooper Taylor, and Thomas Gordon. There are only a few defensive backs really worth pursuing in free agency.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • CB Walter Thurmond (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • CB Zack Bowman (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • CB Chandler Fenner (Tendered Exclusive Rights Free Agent)
  • S Antrel Rolle (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • S Stevie Brown (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • S Quintin Demps (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • S Devin McCourty (New England Patriots)
  • CB Bryan Maxwell (Seattle Seahawks)
  • CB Brandon Flowers (San Diego Chargers)
  • CB Kareem Jackson (Houston Texans)
  • S Rahim Moore (Denver Broncos)
  • S Da’Norris Searcy (Buffalo Bills)
  • S Marcus Gilchrist (San Diego Chargers)
  • S Ron Parker (Kansas City Chiefs)
  • S Tyvon Branch (Oakland Raiders)

Kickers (Minor Need): If the Giants release Steve Weatherford, this would become a major need.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • None

UFA’s of Note:

  • P Brett Kern (Tennessee Titans)
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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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