Best and Worst Moves of New York Giants' Free Agency so Far
Let’s be honest, free agency for the New York Giants has not been overly exciting so far.
Due to limited cap space, Big Blue has been bargain shopping since free agents hit the market on March 12 and even before that. Of the 12 signings (including their own free agents) that the Giants have made during or directly before the start of free agency, nine have been for one-year contracts. Many of those deals have totaled less than $1 million.
While New York isn’t grabbing any headlines or throwing around a ton of money, they’ve made their share of savvy and poor moves. Some involve players they’ve signed. Others, though, are actions that either have helped retain an important player or prevented them from pursuing a better option at a position of weakness.With that said, let's take a look at some of the highs and lows of the Giants journey through free agency to date.
Best: Tendering Victor Cruz
When a 26-year-old wide receiver has over 2,600 yards receiving and 19 touchdowns through his first two seasons in the NFL, it is enticing to offer that player whatever contract he is demanding.
The Giants smartly realized, though, that they don't have to give in just yet to restricted free agent Victor Cruz. That is why they slapped a first-round tender on him on March 11, the day before free agency started.
New York made an undisclosed offer that they deemed substantial and fair. Cruz and his camp decided against accepting the offer, figuring instead they would test the open market.
That market became a lot smaller, if not nonexistent, after Big Blue tendered him. Now if a team offers the Salsa King a contract and the Giants don't match, it has to give up its 2013 first-round draft pick to New York. Figuring that a contract that the Giants are not willing to match would have to be pretty extravagant, this is a lot for another team to give up for a wide receiver, even one of Cruz's caliber.
The first-round tender likely keeps Cruz in a Giants uniform for the 2013 season. It also provides the Giants with a bigger sample to determine his worth. The chances are remote that Cruz will top his first two seasons in the league, especially if Hakeem Nicks is healthier next season. This means that they may actually end up paying him less during or after next season compared to what they would have had to give him this offseason.
Cruz probably didn't like being tendered but it was a great business decision by his team, which will likely reap long-term benefits.
Worst: Not Cutting Corey Webster
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The fact that the Giants didn't cut Corey Webster reeks of nostalgia. It appears the organization couldn't get rid of a player whom they drafted in 2005 and who helped win them their two recent Super Bowl titles.
The veteran cornerback's play last year was atrocious. He had an -11.3 Pro Football Focus rating, mainly because he allowed 988 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. He also doesn't figure to get any better in his ninth season at 31 years old.
If Big Blue had cut Webster instead of restructuring his deal they would have saved an additional $4.25 million towards the cap, according to Over The Cap. That extra money could have netted them the following cornerbacks in free agency: Sean Smith (signed by the Kansas City Chiefs, counts slightly under $3 million towards their 2013 cap), Aqib Talib (resigned by the New England Patriots for one year at $5 million, which is a number the Giants could have gotten close to or matched), Chris Houston (resigned with the Detroit Lions, counts only $2.3 million towards next season's cap) or Derek Cox (inked by the San Diego Chargers for four years with only a $2.1 million 2013 cap hit).
All of these players are significantly younger then Webster, and they each performed better than he did in 2012. The Giants would have been wise to think with their head in determining Webster's future with the team—like they did with Cruz—and not their heart.
Best: Signing Cullen Jenkins
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Big Blue's first free-agent signing will probably end up being their best.
Jenkins makes a ton of sense for this team for several reasons. First and foremost, the guy stays healthy and plays, which was something his predecessor Chris Canty had trouble doing in New York. While Canty missed 15 games in his four-year stint with the Giants, including seven last season, Jenkins suited up for all 32 games in his two years in Philadelphia.
He has actually been pretty durable his entire career, registering 16 games in six of his nine seasons in the NFL.
Also, he is a great complement to his fellow starting defensive tackle, Linval Joseph. While Jenkins struggles against the run (he had a -9.8 PFF rating in 2012 with a mediocre 18 stops), Joseph excels at slowing down an opponent's ground attack, as witnessed by his 4.0 PFF rating and 28 stops last season.
On the flip side, Joseph is only an adequate pass-rusher (1.2 PFF rating in 2012 with four sacks and 16 quarterback hurries) but Jenkins is excellent at getting after the quarterback. He also had four sacks last season but netted a 9.7 PFF rating as a pass-rusher and hurried the signal-caller 25 times.
Finally, Jenkins' contract is reasonable from every angle. He is only being paid $8 million over a modest three years with $3 million guaranteed. Jenkins will only be 34 in the last year of the deal so it is very likely that he will stay in New York for all three seasons.
Any time a player avoids being a cap casualty it usually means that the organization made a good decision in signing that player. That should end up being the case for the Giants with Jenkins.
Worst: Not Cutting David Diehl
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David Diehl's situation is very similar to Corey Webster's with one big difference.
Like Webster, Diehl has spent his entire career with the Giants, is on the wrong side of 30 and was a big part of their last two Super Bowl wins. He is also coming off a bad 2012 season where he missed three games due to injury and didn't play well in the 13 games he took the field.
He had a -6.8 PFF rating largely due to the fact that he was a turnstile in pass-blocking. In only 487 snaps, Diehl allowed 19 quarterback hurries, seven hits and four sacks.
As a point of comparison, the best pass-blocking right tackle in the league for the 2012 season, Gosder Cherilus, allowed the same number of hits and sacks as Diehl (with eight more hurries) but accumulated 1,229 snaps.
The difference between Diehl and Webster, though, is that the latter had his contract restructured while the former is still carrying around an atrocious $6.825 million cap hit. If the Giants had thanked Diehl for the memories and sent him packing, they would have saved roughly $4.5 million.
That means it's time to play the "who could have been the Giants starting right tackle for the 2013 season if they had cut Diehl" game.
Cherilus would have been one realistic option. He signed a five-year, $34 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts, but if the Giants had back loaded the contract, he likely would have counted for less than $4.5 million towards the 2013 cap.
Also, given the size of Cherilus' deal, Big Blue could have probably also signed Eric Winston, who remains a free agent after being cut by the Chiefs on March 7. Winston is a few years older then Cherilus and was not quite as good in 2012 but he is still three years younger and significantly better than Diehl (Winston had a 13.1 PFF rating last season and played in 15 games).
Restructuring Diehl's contract should have been the bare minimum in dealing with his bloated cap figure. Cutting him, however, would have been the best move and would probably have led to them securing a younger, better starting right tackle then they currently have on their roster.
Best: Re-Signing Will Beatty
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Next to quarterback, left tackle is probably the most important position on a football team.
Why? Because he protects the team's most important player's blind side from the best-pass rushers in the NFL.
The Giants made sure they kept one of the better left tackles in the league on their team for the next five years when they resigned Will Beatty in late February.
After missing eight games in 2010 due to a foot injury and the last six games of the 2011 season (including the Super Bowl playoff run) because of a detached retina, Beatty stayed injury-free in 2012 and performed well. He garnered a 22.3 PFF rating and only allowed three sacks of Eli Manning. Amazingly, outside of those three sacks, he didn't allow one hit on his signal-caller in his other 967 snaps.
A contract worth nearly $38 million with potentially $19 million guaranteed may seem like a lot, but it is about the going rate for a good left tackle.
As an example, Jake Long just received a four-year, $36 million contract from the St. Louis Rams and he is coming off a season in which he missed four games due to a triceps injury. He also had ankle and back issues that cost him two games in 2011.
Long could be physically breaking down after arguably being the best left tackle in football in his first three NFL seasons. Despite this risk, he is still set to make more money than Beatty for the next four seasons.
The Giants prioritized correctly with this signing, and their franchise quarterback's health will be the main beneficiary.
Worst: Giving Two Kickers Guaranteed Contracts
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So the Giants grand plan for replacing Lawrence Tynes, who kicked them into two Super Bowls during his six seasons with the team, was to sign two kickers to guaranteed contracts? And this is all because Tynes had trouble making 50-plus yard field goals in 2012?
The funny part is that neither kicker is better than Tynes. David Buehler, who is making $630,000 next season, hasn't been a placekicker in the NFL since 2010. He wasn't even good at it that year, hitting only 24-of-32 field goal attempts and also missing two extra points (Tynes hasn't missed a point after since 2007).
The other kicker, Josh Brown, did make 11-of-12 field goals for the Cincinnati Bengals last season but was only 1-of-2 two from 50 yards or longer. In 2011, while kicking for the Rams in an indoor home stadium, Brown struck fear in the heart of opponents by making 75 percent of his field goal attempts. He was also a sharpshooter from long distance, making 8-of14 kicks from beyond 40 yards.
With that recent track record, it's no wonder the Giants guaranteed him $940K to play for them next season.
Instead of wasting nearly $1.6 million on these two guys, the Giants could have made a play for Phil Dawson. The 38-year-old connected on 29-of-31 field goals in 2012, including all seven he attempted from beyond 50 yards. He just left the Cleveland Browns after 14 seasons to join the Super Bowl-contending San Francisco 49ers for a one-year, $2.25 million contract.
The last time I checked the Giants are a pretty good team, too. Dawson would have likely listened if they tried to get his ear about signing with them.
And if Big Blue had cut Webster and Diehl, along with not signing the killer Bs, they could have topped the 49ers offer. Football, like life, is just a big circle.