Ranking New York Giants' Best Remaining Free Agency Options
The New York Giants made plenty of solid moves during the first week of free agency. However, they still have some work to do before this key part of the offseason can be deemed a success.
Since free agency started on March 11, New York has addressed need areas like the offensive line—through the additions of guard Geoff Schwartz and center J.D. Walton—and running back—with the Rashad Jennings signing. Also, re-signing middle linebacker Jon Beason and inking outside linebacker Jameel McClain solidifies the second level of Big Blue’s defense.
Even the secondary looks deeper than it has in recent years, with safety Stevie Brown and cornerback Trumaine McBride back on the team and newcomers in cornerback Walter Thurmond III and safety Quintin Demps also figuring as key contributors (the latter more so as New York’s possible new kickoff return man). New York may not be done either, with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie still firmly in their sights despite their slew of secondary moves.
The departures, though, of Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph have suddenly left the defensive line lacking depth and proven players. In addition, New York still needs to address tight end and wide receiver—two areas of need before free agency started.
The following slides list six players that the Giants should consider signing as free agency leaves the frenzy of the first week and enters calmer waters. The players are ranked based on three criteria; do they fit a need, how well do they fit that need and is it realistic that New York could sign the player.
Let's keep all this in the context that New York, as of March 16, is somewhere south of $12.8 million under the cap, according to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News.
James Jones, WR
Manningham was largely unproductive in two years with the San Francisco 49ers and does not look like the same player after a severe knee injury late in the 2012 season. He is also not the red-zone threat the Giants desire, having only eclipsed five receiving touchdowns in a season twice and not once in the last three years.
James Jones, on the other hand, is durable, with four 16-game seasons in the last five years. He also has 34 touchdowns in his last five seasons, including a whopping 14 in 2012.
The seven-year veteran only turns 30 at the end of March, so he certainly can’t be considered past his prime.
Given all of these positives, it is surprising that there hasn’t been any buzz about the Giants at least considering Jones as an option. While he is not a star player or obvious replacement for the departed Hakeem Nicks, Jones would certainly bring a proven track record to a New York wideout corps that only claims Victor Cruz as a player with any level of NFL success.
But since Big Blue doesn’t appear interested in signing him at this point, Jones brings up the rear on this list.
Anthony Spencer, DE
The Giants need to sign a defensive end before free agency winds down.
Mathias Kiwanuka is the only player at the position that was both healthy in 2013 and has significant NFL experience. Big Blue must add a player that can step in and be productive if second year man Damontre Moore doesn’t develop and Jason Pierre-Paul continues to struggle with injuries.
Also, while Kiwanuka provides some stability, he didn’t exactly have a good season last year. The 31-year-old, despite six sacks, mustered a miserable minus-28.1 Pro Football Focus rating (subscription required) in 2013.
The draft is not a realistic option to find depth at defensive end since the Giants would be better served continuing to address the offense in the first three rounds. Finding a defensive end that can make an immediate impact in Round 4 or later is hard to fathom.
With all this said, Anthony Spencer brings too many question marks to be considered an answer either, even though New York is clearly interested in his services.
Spencer is coming off microfracture knee surgery that kept him out for almost all of last season. He did have 11 sacks in 2012, but that is his only season with double-digit quarterback takedowns, and it came as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. The Giants run a 4-3 scheme, meaning Spencer would have to play defensive end.
Along with all these negatives, Spencer is not exactly a spring chicken at 30 years old.
The Giants should not sign Spencer, unless he comes dirt cheap on a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract.
Mike Patterson, DT
The loss of Linval Joseph was not a devastating blow for New York, as Johnathan Hankins should be a quality fill-in for him opposite Cullen Jenkins at defensive tackle.
The depth at this position, though, takes a hit with Joseph heading to the Minnesota Vikings. This is why Mike Patterson should come back to Big Blue.
The 30-year-old was solid as a part of New York’s defensive tackle rotation last season, sporting a 2.1 PFF rating (subscription required) in 413 snaps. He was particularly good against the run with a 6.4 rating in that area.
Patterson would not be a glamorous re-signing but a solid one at a position that suddenly has some question marks.
Kevin Boothe, OL
Kevin Boothe is another player that the Giants should seriously consider re-signing to provide depth.
The eight-year veteran has spent all but one of his NFL seasons with New York and has proven to be a versatile performer. Boothe has experience at both guard positions as well as center, which fits nicely with the current construction of Big Blue’s offensive line.
While Schwartz, at 27 years old, figures to be a reliable starter at left guard, the other two interior offensive line spots contain question marks.
Chris Snee looks to be the current starter at right guard. The 32-year-old played only three games last season due to a hip injury that required surgery. While he is healthy now, it would be overly optimistic to think he can be productive and injury-free over 16 games.
Walton appears to be the Giants' new starting center, and he comes with considerable health concerns as well. He has not played in a game since early in the 2012 season due to a serious ankle injury.
Having Boothe as insurance to back up both of these positions would be ideal. He can also be a solid veteran presence, along with Snee, for potential guard and center selections in the draft.
The Giants may very well agree. According to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com, they do appear to be considering re-signing Boothe.
Bear Pascoe, TE
New York also appears interested in retaining Bear Pascoe, per Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News. This is welcome news considering the current state of the tight end position for the Giants.
Right now, Adrien Robinson would likely be their starter with Larry Donnell as the backup. Combined, they have 110 NFL snaps and three receptions. Yikes!
While I fully expect Big Blue to address this position in the draft, potentially by selecting Eric Ebron out of North Carolina with their first pick, Pascoe is a must-sign to provide a veteran presence to what is shaping up to be a very green unit in 2014.
The five-year veteran is limited as a receiver, with only 38 career receptions, but he is a solid run-blocker (2.5 PFF rating (subscription required) in this area in 2013) and is the consummate team-first player. He would also likely command less than $1 million salary, based on what he was paid by the team in his last contract.
Robert Ayers, DE
Simply put, Robert Ayers has the potential to record double-digit sacks in 2014 if he ever carried a starter’s workload.
The 28-year-old was quietly terrific last season, racking up 6.5 sacks and 40 quarterback hurries in 616 snaps, playoffs included. A starting defensive end logs in the neighborhood of 900 snaps. This means Ayers could easily hit 10 sacks if he maintained his 2013 level of performance over this workload.
Unlike Spencer, Ayers provides more answers than questions—most notably in the fact that he is an ascending player with upside.
While there hasn’t been any public display of interest by the Giants for Ayers, according to Samuel, they reached out to him early last week.
Unless his price is prohibitive, which would be surprising given the fact that he has been a backup for most of his five-year NFL career, New York should try hard to sign Ayers. He would instantly make up for the loss of Tuck, likely at a fraction of the cost the Oakland Raiders paid to obtain the former Giants defensive captain.