By no means is an NFL roster anywhere near finalized by mid-March. There will be additional free agent signings and re-signings. Teams may cut players who the New York Giants have an interest in. And of course, the most important offseason personnel activity remains: the NFL Draft in April. But with the initial flurry of intensive free agency activity over, and almost all of the top free agents now off the market, let’s assess what the Giants have and have not accomplished at each position on the roster.
Quarterback: As expected, the status quo remains here. Eli Manning is the unquestioned starter and Ryan Nassib is the primary back-up. The Giants could still add another cheap arm for training camp.
Running Back: The biggest free agent acquisition looks to be Shane Vereen (3-Years, $12.35 million). While Vereen will likely not start, he should become a critical role player in Ben McAdoo’s West Coast-style of offense as a dynamic and trustworthy pass receiver out of the backfield. Ideally, he should catch 50 passes, ranking him around the #3 or #4 receiver on the roster. In terms of the big picture, barring injury, it looks like the running back position is already largely settled heading into the 2015 season with Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, and Vereen being the top three backs. The Giants also re-signed Chris Ogbonnaya, who will compete with Michael Cox and Orleans Darkwa in training camp for possibly a spot on the 53-man roster. The team cut Peyton Hillis.
Fullback: The Giants re-signed Henry Hynoski to a 2-year, $2 million deal. He will likely remain the team’s sole fullback on the roster.
Wide Receiver: The key characters still remain. Odell Beckham is the #1. Hopefully Victor Cruz is the #2. Rueben Randle should be the #3. Assuming Cruz can regain much of his old form (a big “if”) and the flashes Randle demonstrated late in the season were not a mirage (another big “if”), then really the main questions are who are the #4 and #5 guys on the roster. Almost assuredly, one will be newly-acquired receiver/returner Dwayne Harris (5-Years, $17.5 million), leaving one game-day active spot on the 53-man roster. Will that spot be for a 2015 draft pick (possibly as high as the first-round pick)? Or will the final spot go to Preston Parker, Kevin Ogletree, Marcus Harris, or Corey Washington?
Tight End: No change. Larry Donnell remains the #1 tight end. Some expect big things from him, others do not. Daniel Fells remains an unrestricted free agent who could be re-signed. The disappointing Adrien Robinson enters the final year of his rookie contract. Jerome Cunningham is a raw but intriguing receiving-type tight end. The Giants could use another body or two here, especially someone who is a reliable blocker.
Offensive Line: Many expected for the Giants to pursue one of the top free agent linemen. They did not. The Giants signed the CFL’s top offensive lineman, center/guard Brett Jones; re-signed journeyman center/guard Dallas Reynolds; re-signed wildly inconsistent guard John Jerry; and signed tackle Marshall Newhouse, a huge lineman who can play both tackle spots but who has also been benched twice by two different teams. The team also cut 2014 starting center J.D. Walton.
For the starting five, as it stands now, Will Beatty will remain the left tackle and Weston Richburg will be the new center. Geoff Schwartz will start at one of the two guard spots. Justin Pugh will start at right tackle or the other guard spot. Unless Newhouse (2-Years, $3 million), Jones, or Jerry surprise, many fans hope the final starting spot will be the first- or second-round pick from the 2015 NFL Draft. They also hope Newhouse is a big upgrade over James Brewer, Jones is an upgrade over Walton, and Jerry stops making so many mistakes. How good the starting five will be, and the overall depth situation, remain huge question marks.
Defensive Line: The Giants franchised Jason Pierre-Paul, released Mathias Kiwanuka, and re-structured Cullen Jenkins’ contract. But no new bodies have been added yet. Will the Giants and JPP be able to agree to a long-term deal? Or does this situation turn ugly? Who will start at end opposite Pierre-Paul? The candidates include Damontre Moore, Kerry Wynn, and Robert Ayers. Will the Giants sign a veteran? Or do the Giants take a defensive end early in the draft? Inside at tackle, Johnathan Hankins will start. Jenkins could remain a starter or be demoted to backup. Does Jay Bromley make a push for serious playing time? Mike Patterson remains unsigned and Marcus Kuhn is still on the roster. There are a lot of open questions at this position.
Linebacker: For better or worse, things are clearer at linebacker. The Giants and Beason agreed to a contract re-structure so he will have one more chance to prove that he can stay healthy. The Giants did not cut Jameel McClain before he was due a $400,000 roster bonus on March 12, so he will be back. The team re-signed Mark Herzlich to a 2-year, $2.6 million deal with a $400,000 bonus. Meanwhile the Giants seemingly have decided to replace unrestricted free agents Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger with J.T. Thomas (3-years, $10 million) and Jonathan Casillas (3-years, $8 million). Factoring in impressive rookie Devon Kennard, on paper, the Giants appear to have six linebacker spots already locked up. Of course someone could be drafted who might push one of these veterans off of the roster.
Defensive Backs: What a difference a year makes! Last year at this time, the secondary appeared to be the strength of the team and many were saying one of the best in team history. Now there are a lot of question marks. Corner is not quite as settled as some think. Barring injury, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara form a very strong starting duo. But Amukamara is entering the final year of his contract. In addition, with Walter Thurmond leaving for Philadelphia (1-Year, $4 million), who becomes the all-important nickel corner? And who is the first guy off of the bench if one of the starting two get hurt? The main backups are now Trumaine McBride, re-signed Chykie Brown (2-years, $2 million), Mike Harris, and Chandler Fenner. Not exactly an imposing group. Don’t be shocked if the Giants take a corner high in the draft.
Safety is in far worse shape. Gone is Antrel Rolle to the Bears (3-Years, $11.25 million). Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps remain unsigned, and questionable talents at best even if re-signed. Unless former 5th rounders Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe surprise, the Giants have glaring holes at this position. There isn’t much left available in free agency, and the draft is supposedly weak at this position.
Special Teams: Both kickers remain under contract. The Giants did add kick/punter returner Dwayne Harris, who also is a very good gunner. J.T. Thomas and Jonathan Casillas should help on specials as well.