The New York Giants are approaching the most pivotal phase of free agency. While many teams wildly fling money around at high-risk free agents in the first few days of the "new league year", experienced general managers know the key is to wait for bargains.
A few deplorable deals have already been struck in the early stages of free agency (most notably Mike Wallace's deal with Miami Dolphins). Teams looking to make a splash have done so at the expense of truly finding optimal fits.
Arms races cease as quickly as they start, however.
Once the big names come off the market, the true mettle of NFL GMs is revealed. When the so-called third- and fourth-tier players are courted for comparable deals, talent evaluation is at a premium.
The Giants inability to sign expensive free agents will turn out to be a blessing.
Navigating what will be a tight salary cap for the foreseeable future, Big Blue understands they must surround their coveted players with inexpensive veterans. Being conscious of this blueprint is a battle within itself.
Since the Giants are well aware of the impending free agency of Hakeem Nicks and Jason Pierre-Paul in the coming years, their primary focus is to find players who complement their system.
Finding the best fit for New York requires a bit of patience.
Several NFL teams have conveniently decimated their lush salary cap resources in a matter of days. Once this process slows down, free agents begin to grow weary of the uncertainty surrounding their future. This presents an appropriate time for the Giants to begin initiating talks.
All you need to do is look at the Giants' recent track record to see how well this strategy of patience has worked.
Most NFL free agents would pounce on the opportunity to play in New York if they are offered a competitive salary. Once the first week in free agency has passed, the majority of players on the market are fielding similar offers from various clubs.
The Giants most notably took advantage of this fact when they signed tight end Martellus Bennett to a one-year $2.5 million deal last year.
Bennett had 55 receptions, 626 yards and five touchdowns in 2012 with Big Blue. He then parlayed those numbers this week into a bloated $20 million contract with the Chicago Bears.
Free agents are aware of the Giants ability to seamlessly plug veterans into their system.
A few more overpriced dominoes must fall before general manager Jerry Reese can actively pursue the players he wants in free agency. The Giants have done well to wait this long, considering the amount of holes they currently have.
Thus far, New York has replaced Lawrence Tynes and has brought back Aaron Ross for depth at cornerback. Their primary focus moving forward will be to add a left guard and a handful of linebackers (it's tough to put a number on this position when the cupboard is this bare).
The perks of patience are validated by the wasteful approach of other teams. Miami has reportedly tied up $61 million in Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe this offseason. Karlos Dansby and his 134 tackles have been cut at the expense of these signings.
Combining high-risk contracts with impatience is a toxic recipe.
Miami has signed two players who have experienced limited amounts of success (you can find three semi-productive years between their two careers). Plenty of other teams have fallen into the same trap; many times these franchises end up having to cut these overpriced players after just one season.
As a result, productive vets like Karlos Dansby now are unexpectedly looking for new homes and will evaluate their options only when teams have finished making egregious personnel decisions.
The Giants are a respected outfit that has shown how to make these types of marriages with discarded veterans mutually beneficial ones. All indications lead to this trend continuing into 2013.
Sitting idly by can be a productive strategy during free agency. Given the ghastly contracts already doled out this offseason, teams are willfully shooting themselves in the foot. As the monetary value of free agents crumbles, the quality should not. Expect Reese to pick up the pieces.