Last year, with two of their fiercest division rivals still handcuffed by a combined $46 million in league-imposed salary cap sanctions, the New York Giants got a little wilder than usual in free agency.
And then they went out and put together their worst season since Eli Manning was a rookie in 2004. Maybe there's no cause and effect factor there, but it sure is odd.
Then again, the G-Men weren't exactly swimming in cash last year either, which is why they had to say goodbye to some key players who might have helped them immensely during that rough 2013 campaign.
This year, they enter free agency with even more money to spend, but they also have some work to do if they want to keep some of their own quality contributors.
Here's a free agency preview from Big Blue's perspective.
The Giants are on track to enter free agency with about $19 million to spend, according to OvertheCap. That's solid, but 15 teams—including the division-rival Redskins and Eagles—are even further below the cap.
But as NJ.com's Jordan Raanan reports, they could save upwards of $7.5 million by redoing deals belonging to veteran interior offensive linemen Chris Snee and David Baas (which is very much expected to happen).
So you're looking at over $25 million in cap space.
So they have lots of money, but they also have lots of holes and plenty of unsigned players, including unsung hero defensive tackle Linval Joseph, a potential long-term starter at safety in Stevie Brown, 2013 sack leader Justin Tuck, bounce-back defenders Terrell Thomas and Jon Beason and longtime starters Corey Webster and Hakeem Nicks.
Plus, there are underrated contributors Ryan Mundy, Mike Patterson, Kevin Boothe and Trumaine McBride. And they have to find a new tight end to replace Brandon Myers, who has already been dumped.
|The Giants have a lot of free agents|
Even if they let a lot of those guys walk, you've got to spend lots of money just replacing them. So don't expect the Giants to go on a spending spree on the open market.
Who they'll have to let walk
Of the 12 guys we mentioned above, you can forget about Myers, Webster and Nicks. Mundy, Patterson, Boothe, McBride and Thomas should be easy to re-sign, and those moves would be prudent.
But the real debate comes regarding Joseph, Brown, Beason and Tuck. None received the franchise tag and most if not all of them should fetch plenty of interest on the open market.
The 25-year-old Joseph is a very important cog. I'd keep him and let Tuck escape. He got hot late in 2013, but that was a contract push and the guy is past his prime. He'll be overpaid on the open market.
I'd try to keep Beason and Brown, too. Brown shouldn't be too difficult because he's coming off that ACL injury, but Beason is a big name who really found new life after being dealt to New York in October.
He's representing himself and is already starting to advertise on the market, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, so this one's a toss-up.
The goal, though, should be to keep him. You can build around a guy like that. And he's still only 29.
What they need
Where to start? The Giants could use a tackle to push the struggling Will Beatty or force Justin Pugh inside. They could use a guard and/or a center because the interior of the line is old and fading fast.
They could use a tight end because they don't really have one. They could use help right across the defensive line, especially if they lose Joseph and/or Tuck. They could use help everywhere at linebacker, especially if they lose Beason. And they could use help everywhere in the secondary, especially now that Webster is toast and Mundy, Brown and Thomas are free agents.
Wow. Is that it?
Who they should chase
If they re-sign everybody except Tuck, Nicks, Myers and Webster, I'd imagine they'll be down to less than $10 million, which is actually about half of that when you consider the rainy day fund and what you need to sign your draft picks.
As a result, I really don't think the G-Men will be signing players on the open market. They'll go back to the draft well that they believe so strongly in and look for support for Jason Pierre-Paul and Damontre Moore up front, as well as some linebackers, some offensive linemen and probably a tight end.
If they're going to mine for depth in free agency, here are some names we'd recommend:
Wesley Woodyard (LB, Broncos): He's got a knack for making plays and could come in and start from the get-go. I could see the 27-year-old thriving with this coaching staff.
Jermichael Finley (TE, Packers): This one's obvious. If Finley's healthy, you'd have to think new offensive coordinator and former Green Bay tight ends coach Ben McAdoo would be pushing hard.
Akeem Jordan (LB, Chiefs): Remember him from Philly? After a solid year with the Chiefs, he could come in and compete for a starting job.
Captain Munnerlyn (CB, Panthers): It all depends on who they bring back in the secondary, but Munnerlyn could be a quality starter for many years to come.
What can wait for the draft
The tight end has to be starting-caliber, and that's just not there in free agency unless you land Finley. Don't overpay a guy who doesn't have a starting grade. That can be a draft focus, as can most of the offensive line needs, especially since they'll have at least a year to bring guys along there.
Finally, I don't think they'll swing the bat at top-notch pass-rushers or defensive tackles, mainly because they have the option to keep their own solid players in those spots.
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