Picking the Ideal Free Agent to Fill Each of the New York Giants' Holes
Riddled with holes at key positions, the New York Giants have a busy offseason ahead of them.
Up first is free agency, which is set to open at 4 p.m. EST on March 11. The Giants must scour the open market for affordable talent, as they search for the perfect candidates to begin filling vacancies.
The majority of New York's most pressing needs are on the offensive side of the ball, as the Giants look to implement a fresh unit under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. The defense could afford an infusion of talent, as well; last season's top-10 unit is only looking to improve in 2014.
The Giants need not rely fully upon free agency to fill each void—they will also utilize the draft to bolster their roster. This article, however, will only focus on the upcoming open market, as I select the ideal free agent to fill each of New York's biggest holes.
OT Jared Veldheer
The Giants are aching along the offensive line and few would deny its status as New York's weakest positional unit. If there's any sure bet in the Giants' plans for this spring, it's to target starting-caliber O-line talent in free agency.
Jared Veldheer should be on the shortlist. The 26-year-old tackle has played each of his four NFL seasons with the Oakland Raiders, but he could reach unrestricted free agency next month. That is, of course, only if the Raiders allow him to get that far.
Veldheer and the Raiders have reportedly been engaged in contract talks since early December, as the young left tackle then expressed a more positive outlook about returning to play another season in Oakland. He even said, "I want to be a Raider for life," according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle on Twitter.
The blind-side protector's patience is beginning to wear thin, though. Veldheer believes the Raiders' are dragging their feet, and, with free agency now just a month away, he'd "like to see a little more urgency" from the franchise he has always called home, according to 95.7 The Game on Twitter. He also specified that he's not interested in playing the 2014 season under the franchise tag.
The Raiders have a head-start and more estimated cap room than any other team, according to OverTheCap. If they fail to lock up Veldheer and allow other teams to get in on the action, the Giants could strike. At 6'8" and 322 pounds, the former third-round selection out of Hillsdale College (69 overall) could be protecting the edge of New York's offensive line instead of Oakland's in 2014.
TE Andrew Quarless
The starting tight end position became vacant the very moment Brandon Myers' contract voided. Fellow tight end Bear Pascoe—a blocking specialist that is known for no more than a stray target or two—is also set to hit free agency, so the Giants need to have multiple plans to shore up that positional unit.
Quarless has been overshadowed by Finley for much of his time in Wisconsin. He managed to play in all 16 games in 2013, however, starting in 10 of them after missing all of the 2012 season with a knee injury. With Jermichael Finley out of the lineup for much of last season, Quarless managed to grab 32 balls for 312 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Finley's return from a serious spine injury and pending extension with the Packers have been publicized more heavily than Quarless' quest for a new contract. Green Bay is only likely to retain one of these tight ends, while the other is bound to spring free. The Giants should extend an offer to whichever ever one ends up on the open market.
The Star-Ledger has already eyeballed Quarless' fit in New York's new scheme, which is to be devised by a former member of the 6'4", 252-pounder's coaching staff in Green Bay, Ben McAdoo. The prospect looks promising.
WR Riley Cooper
Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks appears to have his bags packed, so the Giants may use free agency as a tool to bolster quarterback Eli Manning's passing arsenal. Divisional foe Riley Cooper fits the bill for a veritable outside and downfield receiving threat—just what New York's deflated offense needs.
It was Cooper's moment of poor judgment that seemingly destined the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles to divided disaster. Instead, Cooper and the Eagles overcame a 3-5 start to finish the regular finish 10-6 and champions of the NFC East. Along the way, Cooper caught 47 passes for 835 yards—an impressive average of 17.8 yards per catch. Eight of his 47 catches went for touchdowns (17 percent).
The Eagles have both Cooper and the man he supplanted for the 2013 season, Jeremy Maclin, approaching free agency. Maclin is a first-round investment from 2009, but he has not played a game during head coach Chip Kelly's current run. There's no gauging Philadelphia's loyalty to the Andy Reid-era draft pick who is coming off a torn ACL.
If Cooper ends up getting the short-end of the stick from the Eagles, he'll reach free agency, where the Giants will have the opportunity to make a move. The situation with Cooper is slightly complicated, as phillymag.com has raised the question of Cooper's potential acceptance in a locker room other than Philadelphia's.
The former fifth-round selection out of Florida (2010; 159 overall) has a 6'3", 222-pound frame to help sweeten the pot for any buyers—including the Giants—who may be on the fence.
RB Joique Bell
Running back David Wilson hasn't turned out the way New York had expected upon drafting the Virginia Tech product with their first-round selection in 2012 (32 overall). That's not to say Wilson can't rebound and become the type of back the Giants need but time and opportunities are quickly running out for the flashy backflipper.
If the Giants want to take an aggressive approach to fortifying their offensive backfield, they should attack the restricted free agent market and look to steal Joique Bell from the Detroit Lions. Restricted free agents do not have as much leverage on the open market as their unrestricted counterparts, as the current club can designate each of its RFAs with a specific "tender" amount. Bell is expected to receive a second-round tender, according to detroitlions.com.
If that ends up being the case, the Giants will not only need to surrender a second-round pick to Detroit in order to acquire Bell, they will also need to offer Bell a contract that the Lions are unwilling to match.
Throw in the fact that there appears to be "mutual interest" in a long-term contract between Bell and the Lions, according to Detroit Lions senior writer Tim Twentyman on Twitter, and it looks like the former undrafted free agent from Wayne State may have finally found a home in the Motor City.
Is it even worth it for New York to pursue Bell? Well, the 27-year-old back—who bounced around from Buffalo to Philadelphia to Indianapolis, then back to Philadelphia and to New Orleans before landing with the Lions in 2011—has finally proven himself to be starting-caliber. He is a versatile back, with a promising blend of power and acceleration. At 5'11" and 220 pounds, the compact runner has accumulated 1,064 rushing yards and 1,032 receiving yards in only two seasons and four starts with the Lions, per Pro-Football-Reference.
That's the exact type of offensive firecracker to make you say, "David Who?"
CB Walter Thurmond III
Veteran cornerback Corey Webster had his contract voided recently, making him an unrestricted free agent on March 11. Webster played in just four games in 2013, as the two-time Super Bowl champion was unable to shake a series of mysterious injuries.
If the Giants want to attack the open market for a new cornerback to start opposite Prince Amukamara, they should take a long, hard look at Walter Thurmond III, who has played all four of his NFL seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. Thurmond is 26 years old and reaching free agency for the first time since he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft (111 overall).
Thurmond, who started only three games with the Super Bowl champion Seahawks in 2013, was largely overshadowed by Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and the other hard-hitting members of Seattle's "Legion of Boom" defensive backfield. He could, however, help infuse New York's secondary with a similar type of swagger that terrorized opposing passers all last season.
Thurmond does not come without baggage, though. His first three years in the league were plagued by injuries, as Thurmond appeared in just eight games in the 2011 and 2012 seasons combined. While healthy in 2013, he still missed four games late in the season due to a failed drug test for marijuana.
Still, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll described Thurmond as a "tremendous athlete" to The Seattle Times, a claim the former Oregon Duck backed up with a 29-yard touchdown return on his only interception of the 2013 season against the Vikings. It would not be out of character for the Giants to take a chance on a young, yet somewhat troubled, athlete like Thurmond in free agency.