Setting Realistic Expectations for Each New York Giants Free Agency Signing
The team has addressed needs on both sides of the ball, specifically on the offensive line and in the defensive secondary. Now, some of the freshest faces in the Giants organization are expected to plug these holes immediately.
In this slideshow, I have set realistic expectations for each player New York has acquired in the first week of free agency.
Geoff Schwartz will start somewhere along the Giants offensive line, after joining the team as a Day 1 free-agency acquisition.
Through five NFL seasons, playing with three different teams, Schwartz has experience at both guard and tackle. Although Schwartz was most formidable with the Kansas City Chiefs last season as a guard, Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com has already projected Schwartz' fit at tackle in New York's offense. Schwartz, however, expects to step in as the starting left guard, according to Kimberly Jones of NFL Network.
The Giants' O-line, which was a major problem in 2013, could use Schwartz's services at any position.
The 27-year-old stands 6'6" and weighs a hefty 340 pounds, making him the largest member of New York's offensive front. The Giants have paid him accordingly, offering the big University of Oregon product a four-year, $16.8 million contract.
For that type of money, the Giants are hoping to get a multiyear starter around whom to build the offensive line.
A lot of weight has been placed on Rashad Jennings' shoulders upon his signing with the Giants (per Dan Graziano of ESPN).
Andre Brown isn't likely to be retained, and David Wilson is no lock to be healthy in time for training camp, leaving Jennings as the Giants' "No. 1 back," according to the New York Daily News. To back up Jennings, the Giants also re-signed Peyton Hillis.
The 2009 seventh-round selection spent his first four NFL seasons backing up Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville, but last year with the Raiders, Jennings had a chance to showcase his ability in place of Oakland's Darren McFadden. He played in all but one game (starting eight), eclipsing 1,000 yards from scrimmage and scoring six touchdowns.
The Giants will expect Jennings to be a durable, every-down running back for the next few years—that's why New York signed him to a four-year, $10 million contract. In his first season as a featured back, Jennings will have his first 1,000-yard rushing season.
Walton was last with the Washington Redskins but hasn't snapped in a game since 2012 when he was a Bronco. Before fracturing his ankle that season, Walton had started every game since entering the NFL in 2010 (36 starts total).
He has undergone two surgeries on that ankle since then. Walton's recovery has been slow, as he failed to step foot on the field in 2013. The Giants, however, seem to have faith in the 2010 third-round pick out of Baylor.
In addition to letting Baas go, the Giants also allowed two-time Super Bowl champion Kevin Boothe to sign with the Oakland Raiders (per Pro Football Talk). New York signed Walton to a two-year, $5 million contract with $3 million guaranteed—a salary suited for temporary starter.
The Giants are always in need of a linebacker, and this year's reclamation project is former Baltimore Raven Jameel McClain (per Michael Silver of NFL.com).
This is not an unusual move for the Giants. Keith Rivers, a 2008 first-round pick (No. 9 overall), was acquired in a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals before the 2012 season. Jon Beason, a 2007 first-round pick (No. 27 overall), was acquired in a mid-season trade last year. That was after the Giants union with Aaron Curry, a 2009 first-round pick (No. 4 overall), had already failed.
While the Giants aren't likely to spend draft picks on linebackers themselves, they sure don't mind recycling other teams' poor linebacker picks. McClain is slightly different, though—he crashed the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2008.
McClain was a consistent starter with the Ravens, even overcoming a serious spinal-cord injury, suffered at the end of the of the 2012 season, to start the final 10 games of the 2013 season. With Beason retained to man the middle and Spencer Paysinger/Jacquian Williams combo continuing to hold down the weak side, McClain factors in as the starting strong-side 'backer, according to the New York Daily News.
Thurmond struggled with injuries early in his career, but he displayed surprising playmaking ability when healthy in 2013. He played in all 12 of games in which he was not suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy last season.
For three games last season, Thurmond was a starter in Seattle's celebrated "Legion of Boom" defensive backfield. The 5'11", 190-pound cornerback has the size to line up on the outside, but his best fit may be in the slot, where he is a better option than 2012 third-rounder Jayron Hosley to replace Terrell Thomas, who has not been offered a new deal (per Dan Graziano of ESPN).
Thurmond's one-year deal worth $3.5 million is typical of a promising player with red flags. The 2010 fourth-round pick will have his first shot to shine in New York's secondary—the Oregon product must make the most of it.
Quintin Demps was the next defensive back signed by the Giants (per USA Today).
Demps, a 28-year-old veteran, has played with the Philadelphia Eagles (2008-09), Houston Texans (2010-12) and Kansas City Chiefs (2013) since entering the league as a fourth-rounder out of the University of Texas at El Paso. His most successful moments at the NFL level have come as a kick returner, having posted 2,630 career return yards and two touchdowns.
While Demps never started a game with either the Eagles or the Texans, he did carve out a roll in Kansas City in his second go-round under head coach Andy Reid. He played in all 16 games last season—starting in six of them—and the Chiefs defense finished the season ranked fifth in terms of points allowed.
Demps is an athlete who could be a standout on special teams. However, with Antrel Rolle, Will Hill and now Stevie Brown in the mix at safety (per Connor Orr of The Star-Ledger), Demps projects to be no more than an insurance policy on defense, especially now that Ryan Mundy has signed with the Chicago Bears (per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune).
The final and most noteworthy defensive back New York signed in the first week of free agency was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (per Adam Schefter of ESPN).
Rodgers-Cromartie was the 16th overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft. Selected out of Tennessee State by the Arizona Cardinals, Rodgers-Cromartie became a full-time starter and a Pro Bowler in only his second year. He then crashed as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles' ill-fated "Dream Team" of 2011, only to rise to Super Bowl-caliber heights in 2013 with the Denver Broncos.
It is strange that the Giants offered DRC a five-year, $39 million contract, considering the 28-year-old cornerback's open rumination on retirement following the Super Bowl. To validate that contract, the Giants must see Rodgers-Cromartie as a viable long-term option at corner.
He has the track record to backup his value. With 92 games played and 19 career interceptions, five of which were returned for touchdowns, Rodgers-Cromartie projects to be one of the most productive and relied upon members of the Giants' secondary.
The Giants capped off the first week of free agency with the signing of kick returner Trindon Holliday (per Pro Football Talk).
In Holliday, the Giants are getting a premier return man. In the past two seasons, the speedster has scored two punt return touchdowns and two kick return touchdowns, accumulating 2,079 return yards in the process. None of that is including the 90-yard punt return touchdown and 104-yard kick return touchdown Holliday had in the Denver Broncos' 2012 Divisional Round loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
The 5'5", 162-pounder out of LSU has little use outside of the return game, though. Holliday has just two career receptions for 17 yards; don't expect him to explode in Eli Manning's passing attack.
As long as Holliday's 4.21-second 40-yard dash time lasts, so too will his reign of terror over NFL coverage units. The Giants will reap the benefits of fielding one of the league's most dangerous return threats—an X-factor 2012 first-round pick David Wilson was unable to provide with last fall.