The 5 Moves the New York Giants Should Make in Free Agency
The season of change is about to descend upon us, and no, I’m not talking about the long-awaited end of winter, of which I’m sure many who have felt the wrath of snowstorms are all too glad to see leave.
I’m talking about NFL free agency, the first phase of the offseason in which teams begin to shape their rosters for the upcoming year.
It’s a tough time on one hand, as often teams have to say goodbye to fan favorites and/or longtime veterans, but at the same time, new talent is brought in with the goal of helping the team improve on its record from a year ago.
Such will be the case with the New York Giants, whose general manager, Jerry Reese, told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine that the 2014 roster will have “significant differences” by the time he gets done with it.
Just how different will the 2014 Giants roster look? With an estimated $19.288 million of cap space, the team, coming off a 7-9 record, is expected to have many new faces.
Here’s a look at five potential moves I think the Giants will seriously contemplate.
Re-Sign Linebacker Jon Beason
Although this doesn’t involve signing a player from another team’s roster, it’s the No. 1 move that needs to happen.
Jon Beason has made no secret of his desire to re-sign with the Giants, and now comes word, via Jordan Raanan of NJ.com, that the Giants are so focused on making that happen that the team has put all of its other unrestricted free agents on the back burner in order to get a deal done with the 29-year-old linebacker.
With the two sides apparently wanting each other, the question now becomes who blinks first. Certainly, Beason’s arrival last year provided a huge shot in the arm for the Giants defense, where he was especially effective against the run.
However, in coverage, Beason, who in 2013 was coming off consecutive season-ending injuries suffered in 2011 (Achilles) and 2012 (knee), proved to be a liability based on the weekly analyses done by Pro Football Focus, who gave Beason a minus-16.0 overall grade.
That could, however, be a result of Beason needing to spend time rehabbing rather than fully training for the 2013 season. Prior to suffering the first of his two injuries, Beason was effective in coverage, earning just two negative grades that entire season as a member of the Carolina Panthers.
While it’s not known what kind of money Beason is looking for—the linebacker is representing himself in negotiations after parting ways with agent Drew Rosenhaus—he certainly has a good case for a healthy pay raise.
As noted in NJ.com’s report, without him in the lineup, the Giants defense allowed an average of 36.4 points; with him, that average dropped to 18.3 points per game en route to an eighth-place finish in the NFL.
With Beason having a chance to spend an entire offseason training instead of rehabbing, concerns about his coverage ability should dissipate.
Certainly, the leadership that Beason brings to a unit cannot be overstated, especially if the Giants end up not re-signing defensive end Justin Tuck.
Sign Center Evan Dietrich-Smith of the Green Bay Packers
If you’ve been reading me from the beginning, you know that I had Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack at the very top of my Giants free-agency wish list.
After all, what is there not to like about a 28-year-old center who’s been named to two Pro Bowls and who hasn’t missed a game due to injury since he was chosen in the first round of the 2009 draft by the Browns?
Sadly, it doesn’t sound like Mack is going to be an option because the Browns placed the transition tag on him, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter:
Browns are placing the transition tag on center Alex Mack, which will give Cleveland chance to match any offer sheet he would sign.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 3, 2014
What that means is that another team can sign Mack to an offer sheet, but the Browns would have the right to match it within a set period of time.
With the transition tag carrying a one-year salary of more than $10 million, Mack would probably be better off signing the tender and then hitting the open market in 2015.
Fear not, as Evan Dietrich-Smith of the Green Bay Packers looks as though he might be hitting the market. The 27-year-old center is ranked just behind Mack in Pro Football Focus’ top available free-agent centers.
Like Mack, he’s been durable, having never missed a game due to injury.
Want another reason why Dietrich-Smith makes just as strong of an option? Yes, his connection to offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who has said that he plans to meld together elements of the system he came from in Green Bay into the Giants’ existing system.
How nice would it be for the Giants to have a center already familiar with those elements of the West Coast offense making the line calls and directing traffic? My guess is just as nice as having a center whom they can count on to be out there week after week.
Sign Running Back Toby Gerhart
That’s why in a press conference with reporters at the combine, general manager Jerry Reese reiterated that the team would be on the watch for help at running back in both free agency and the draft.
Some intriguing names that have been mentioned as a possibility in free agency include Green Bay’s James Starks, the Houston Texans’ Ben Tate, the Oakland Raiders’ Rashad Jennings and the Minnesota Vikings’ Toby Gerhart.
I’m not so sure that Jennings will hit the market, not if the Raiders don’t plan to re-sign Darren McFadden. I also don’t think that Tate is going to be receptive to a reasonable contract.
That leaves Starks and Gerhart. I think of those two, Gerhart will be the guy given that he has a better injury history than Starks and a little less tread on his tires.
In fact, I could see the Giants working out a deal with Gerhart that is filled with performance incentives, a negotiating ploy that would make sense if he were to come to New York.
That’s because the 6’0”, 231-pound Gerhart , who has averaged 4.7 yards in his career on 276 carries, would probably be looking at the first extensive playing time given the uncertainty involving Wilson and the fact that Andre Brown is headed to free agency.
Sign Receiver James Jones of Green Bay
Given the anticipated departures of Hakeem Nicks and Louis Murphy, both unrestricted free agents, the Giants are believed to be leaning toward using a combination of free agency and the draft to help fill some holes and create competition at receiver.
A veteran receiver who would be a good fit for them is James Jones of the Packers, whom the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports will probably not be re-signed.
Jones, who will be 30 years old later this month, is a seven-year veteran who’s caught 310 passes for 4,305 yards and 37 touchdowns.
The Giants might not be completely sure about the seldom-used Jerrel Jernigan, who showed flashes of promise when given the opportunity.
The same holds true about Rueben Randle, of whom general manager Jerry Reese said at the combine that he wasn’t sure if “he’s a one, if he’s a two, (or) if he’s a three."
Thus, a veteran such as Jones, who by the way is someone with whom new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo would have familiarity, could be just what the Giants need for two reasons.
First, he not only would be a positive influence in the wide receiver room working in tandem with Victor Cruz, but also could help the passing game as it transitions to the new offense.
Sign Guard Jon Asamoah of Kansas City
If the Giants are hoping to make a run while their quarterback is in his prime, they must address the offensive line with veterans and use the draft to develop youth so that they never find themselves short-staffed again.
Signing a free-agent guard such as the Kansas City Chiefs’ Jon Asamoah, who will turn 26 on his next birthday, would be a good start.
Michael Renner notes that Asamoah, a Pro Football Focus “Secret Superstar” from 2012, has yet to put together a complete season in terms of maintaining a high level in both pass blocking and run blocking:
If you were to take Asomoah’s 2011 pass-blocking grade and combine it with his 2012 run-blocking grade, he would have been the fifth-highest graded guard last season. The fact that he’s shown prowess in both the pass and run blocking disciplines is very promising.
There are a few concerns though with making this transaction. First, Asamoah ended up losing his starting job to teammate Geoff Schwartz, who is also an unrestricted free agent. Players who are on the upswing usually don’t see their snaps decline.
Second, there is the elephant in the room, longtime starting right guard Chris Snee. Snee said in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio last week that he feels good and is still working to rehab his elbow.
However, as I have noted in the past, there is a big difference between feeling good in terms of doing everyday activities and feeling good to do football activities, the latter of which Snee has yet to test himself out doing.
If Snee ends up making it back and if the Giants were to sign Asamoah, who’s primarily played right guard most of his career, which one do they move to the left side? And how will that player deal with such a transition?
If things were a lot simpler and Snee were not coming back, Asamoah would probably be a no-brainer. That could still be the case, but it’s something that the organization will need to weigh in making a final decision.
Unless otherwise noted, all salary information via Over the Cap, all player rankings via Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and all quotes and information obtained firsthand. Follow me on Twitter, @Patricia_Traina.