Giants Sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to Cap Stellar Free-Agency Push

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMarch 17, 2014

USA Today

Maybe they're not done yet. Maybe they have another move or two up their sleeve. Right now, it's impossible to tell because these are not your father's New York Giants.

Hell, they aren't even your older brother's Giants. This isn't that fiscally conservative, draft-oriented franchise we grew to know during the first decade of the Tom Coughlin era. 

But if indeed the Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie signing—which took place just as the Giants were also wrapping up kick return specialist Trindon Holliday, according to Pro Football Talk—brings an end to one of the busiest and most expensive signing sprees in team history, the Giants and their fans should already be satisfied. In one week, this roster has improved by leaps and bounds, especially in areas it needed it most. 

DRC, who according to ESPN's Adam Schefter signed a five-year, $39 million contract with $15 million guaranteed, has had an up-and-down career. On one hand, this is his fourth team in seven seasons and he has at times looked extremely vulnerable in coverage, especially during his time in Philadelphia. But on the other hand, he's only 27 and coming off a season in which he was oftentimes unbeatable in Denver

Is that a lot of money? Yes, but the Giants had money to spend at the start of this process and are swinging the bat. They're still in fine cap shape, especially with Mathias Kiwanuka apparently reworking his deal, and there aren't any big-money free agents left this year anyway. Next year, the cap should grow. 

So it's a good investment regardless. And the best part is that while there's a risk Rodgers-Cromartie's career drops from a peak to another valley in 2014, he's not the sole centerpiece of what New York general manager Jerry Reese has constructed the last seven days.

Rodgers-Cromartie was an advanced-stats superstar in 2013, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete only 44.1 percent of their passes against him, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). The only qualifying corner in the league with a lower opposing completion percentage was Trumaine McBride, whom the Giants re-signed last week. 

In fact, with Walter Thurmond now on board as a slot corner, McBride back, DRC signed and Prince Amukamara still entrenched as a starter, the Giants actually have four of PFF's 34 highest-rated cornerbacks from 2013. 

Giants: Top seven defensive backs at a glance (PFF grades)
Corner2013 gradeSafety2013 grade
1. Prince Amukamara4.0 (34th)1. Antrel Rolle7.4 (10th)
2. D. Rodgers-Cromartie13.0 (5th)2. Will Hill15.7 (2nd)
3. Walter Thurmond4.8 (31st)3. Stevie Brown*4.1 (26th)
4. Trumaine McBride6.6 (24th)
* Brown's grade/rank from 2012 due to injury (Pro Football Focus rank out of 110)

Two of those guys—Thurmond and DRC—played major roles on Super Bowl teams this past season. Those four corners have been to a combined four Super Bowls, but none are older than 28. That's the mix of experience and upside you want. 

This was one of only six defenses in football to give up more than 8,000 passing yards between the start of 2011 and the end of 2012, but look at it now. With Stevie Brown back in town at safety and talented youngster Will Hill teaming up with experienced Pro Bowler Antrel Rolle in those starting-safety spots, this secondary is one of the best in football. 

Seth Wenig/Associated Press

I know what you're thinking. The Giants won those Super Bowls in 2007 and 2011 because of their pass rush. It's 2014, right? You can't win without a quarterback and dudes who can hit the quarterback. And that's legitimate, but the Giants have also missed the playoffs four times in the last five seasons, so it's quite refreshing to see them finally invest somewhere other than the defensive line.

Plus, who's to say the line is a problem? Folks don't love that Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck escaped as free agents, but Joseph would have cost so much that there's no way they'd have been able to make some of these moves for guys like Thurmond, DRC and linebackers Jon Beason and Jameel McClain. That's smart, considering that while Joseph is steady, he isn't exactly a playmaker. And Tuck is well past his prime. 

And that's what brings us back to the Giants we used to know—the franchise that trusted in its scouts and their drafting acumen. The G-Men drafted Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore last year, and they should expect them to evolve into successful starters in 2014, just as Jason Pierre-Paul, Tuck, Joseph, Osi Umenyiora and Barry Cofield did before them. 

The Giants are obligated to gamble on that happening. And if it does, they'll have one of the best defenses in football right away.

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

Don't forget about Pierre-Paul, who was one of the best pass-rushers in football before shoulder problems derailed his 2013 campaign. So it's not as though this group lacks talent up front. And Beason is back, joined now by McClain, who also has starting experience on a Super Bowl team. 

Rodgers-Cromartie gave up a grand total of six catches during the second half of the 2013 season, per PFF. He surrendered only a single touchdown after Week 5. If indeed he is a late bloomer who is able to pick up where he left off and finally live up to the talent he possesses, this move will be the icing on the cake. 

But even if DRC stumbles here and there, the Giants have fortified themselves with so much talent in the secondary that they're bound to excel regardless. For once, they're making things easier on the pass-rushers, which might break from tradition but should be applauded, especially when you consider that the same strategy helped Thurmond's Seahawks win the Super Bowl six weeks ago.