What's Next for the NY Giants After the Initial Wave of Free Agent Signings

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What's Next for the NY Giants After the Initial Wave of Free Agent Signings
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

In case you happened to have been away on spring break or caught up in the tedious task of planning the perfect NCAA Tournament bracket, you might have missed the New York Giants’ busiest first week of free agency ever.

How busy was it? Try 20 free-agent contracts valued at more than $108.6 million, per Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. 

Yes, you read correctly. The Giants not only dove into the deep end of the free-agency pool this year, they threw in a cannon ball or two, the biggest being cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz and running back Rashad Jennings.  

Here is the rest of the Giants' free-agency activity so far: 

2014 New York Giants Free Agency Activity
Coming Going Staying
OL Geoff Schwartz TE Brandon Myers LB Mark Herzlich
RB Rashad Jennings S Ryan Mundy OL Dallas Reynolds
C J.D. Walton DT Linval Joseph CB Trumaine McBride
LB Jameel McClain LB Keith Rivers K Josh Brown
S/KR Quintin Demps DE Justin Tuck S Stevie Brown
CB Walter Thurmond III WR Hakeem Nicks RB Peyton Hillis
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie OL Kevin Boothe LB Jon Beason
WR/PR Trindon Holliday QB Curtis Painter
WR Mario Manningham FB Henry Hynoski
OL John Jerry LB Spencer Paysinger

Source: New York Giants

Although the Giants addressed several glaring holes, only five of the newcomers are projected to be starters (Schwartz, Jennings, center J.D. Walton, linebacker Jameel McClain and Rodgers-Cromartie).

Of the 10 Giants players who were re-signed, only one (linebacker Jon Beason) is a lock to be a starter at this point. 

Of the players lost, six of the seven were starters last season (tight end Brandon Myers, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, linebacker Keith Rivers, defensive end Justin Tuck, receiver Hakeem Nicks and offensive lineman Kevin Boothe).

So how much more still needs to be done?  

Plenty.

 

Tight End

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the Giants’ offseason roster rebuild thus far has been the lack of reported interest the team has shown in any tight ends after it voided the contract of Myers, last year’s starter,

The Giants have also passed on re-signing Bear Pascoe, an unrestricted free agent. While it’s possible that Pascoe could return at a later date if he's available, the team has already given away his jersey to Manningham, making such a move unlikely.

That leaves the Giants with two unproven young players entering year three at the position: Larry Donnell and Adrien Robinson, who have combined for three receptions for 31 yards, all by Donnell.

They also have Daniel Fells, a six-year veteran who was out of football last season after being cut by the New England Patriots in 2012. The Giants signed Fells, who has 92 career receptions for 1,086 yards and eight touchdowns, to a reserve/futures contract on Jan. 7.  

Without knowing exactly what kind of tight end new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is seeking, the Giants could potentially be looking to go in a direction not previously known to have drawn discussion.  

That direction would be Fells as a stopgap starter for one season, at least until a draft pick—who I no longer believe will be North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, by the way—is ready for full-time duty.

The Giants will look to draft a tight end in the draft somewhere between the second and fourth rounds—Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas is intriguing as is Georgia’s Arthur Lynch. The drafted tight end would be groomed to eventually take over as the starter, perhaps as soon as this coming season.

I also believe that they will keep one from the Donnell and Robinson group and that another player will be the third tight end.

 

Defensive Line

The Giants lost one-half of its starting defensive line when Tuck and Joseph walked out the door.

If the season were to start tomorrow, the starting defensive line would probably have Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka at the ends, and Cullen Jenkins and Johnathan Hankins at the tackles.

Kiwanuka, it should be noted, ended up as the worst ranked 4-3 defensive end in 2013 by Pro Football Focus (subscription required), this in his first year back at his natural position following a three-year stint at outside linebacker.

Pierre-Paul opted not to have shoulder surgery on the injury that cost him the final five games of the season, his hope being that rest and rehab will enable him to return to his 2011 form when he posted a career-high 16.5 sacks.

What about the defensive line's depth?

Great question!

At defensive end, there is Damontre Moore, the second-year player who, per The Star-Ledger, is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

At defensive tackle, there is third-year man Markus Kuhn, who played in just five games and recorded one tackle last season after opening the year on the PUP list while he continued his recovery from ACL surgery the year prior. 

Having two guys (Kuhn and Moore) who are coming off injuries and who have limited experience isn't a very settling picture. It's also a big (no pun intended) difference from last year when Reese made it a priority to give defensive coordinator Perry Fewell as many “big butts” as possible to beef up the run defense.

So how do the Giants address the holes on the defensive line?

They’ll probably be looking to draft a defensive lineman, perhaps as soon as the first day.

Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald would certainly make a nice addition, especially if the Giants believe that Cullen Jenkins can move outside to defensive end until Moore is ready for full-time duty.  

The last time the Giants drafted a defensive tackle in the first round, in case you were wondering, was in 2003, when they took former Miami Hurricanes lineman William Joseph. Since then, they’ve picked six defensive tackles, the highest being second-rounders Hankins, Marvin Austin and Joseph and the lowest being seventh-rounder Kuhn.

Jay Alford (third round, 2007) and Barry Cofield (fourth round, 2006) were the other two defensive tackles drafted.

I also think that the Giants will re-sign defensive tackle Mike Patterson, currently an unrestricted free agent, after the draft, unless they don’t come up with another option. Beyond that is anyone’s guess, though the Giants generally rely on veterans being cut loose from other teams after the draft.

So it's possible the Giants depth along the defensive line won’t be settled for several more weeks.

 

Receiver

Although the Giants added Mario Manningham and Trindon Holliday to their roster, neither is currently projected to be a replacement for Nicks.

Let’s start with Holliday, whose primary role will be as a return specialist. Holliday stands just 5’5” and weighs 170 pounds, which is not exactly ideal size for a receiver.

Over his four-year career, Holliday has just two receptions for 17 yards, both coming in 2012 as a member of the Denver Broncos. Last season, he also had one rushing attempt for Denver, that going for seven yards.

Dave Martin/Associated Press/Associated Press
The Giants are hoping that Mario Manningham's knee issues are behind him.

On paper, Manningham would appear to be legitimate competition for Rueben Randle for Nicks' old job, but the problem with Manningham is his health.

As a member of the San Francisco 49ers, Manningham tore the ACL and PCL in his left knee late in 2012. He began 2013 on the PUP list for the Niners, eventually making his 2013 debut on Nov. 10, but he ended up on injured reserve on Dec. 27 after suffering issues in that knee.

While it’s possible that Manningham will be good to go in 2014, the Giants apparently aren’t willing to take a huge gamble on him, which is probably why he was given a one-year contract for the veteran minimum, $795,000.

That leaves the Giants still searching for a receiver who might be able to compete with Randle and Jerrel Jernigan for Nicks’ old job.   

Fortunately, the 2014 draft class is very deep at receiver. Even if they don’t get one in the first round, the Giants should have a shot at a number of good candidates in subsequent rounds.

 

Offensive Line 

The Giants have yet to set foot on the field this year for a practice, let alone for a game, and already they have some injury-related concerns involving their offensive line. 

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Chris Snee (hip/elbow) and Will Beatty (broken leg) are probably the two biggest question marks the Giants have on this unit.

In February during the scouting combine, head coach Tom Coughlin, general manager Jerry Reese and even Snee himself all shared optimism about the 11-year veteran’s prospects for a return.

While Snee, who in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio, said he was feeling good, there is a difference between feeling good enough to do every-day activities and feeling good enough to handle football-related activities.

Beatty’s situation, meanwhile, is murkier, as the last time we had any kind of update was in early January, after he had surgery to repair a fractured tibia.

There's been no new information about Beatty's recovery, though Vacchiano noted that Beatty “should be ready”  for the start of the 2014 season.

If Beatty and Snee are good to go, the starting line will probably consist of Beatty, left guard Geoff Schwartz, center J.D. Walton, Snee and right tackle Justin Pugh.

Julio Cortez/Associated Press
Will Beatty suffered an ugly looking broken leg in the 2013 regular season finale that might limit him this spring.

However, my guess is that both Snee and Beatty are going to start training camp on the PUP list, where they could be joined by second-year guard/center Eric Herman, who, as reported by Art Stapleton of The Record (Bergen, NJ), underwent hip surgery this offseason.

The rest of the offensive line's depth, while believed to be healthy, is far from being settled.

James Brewer had a chance last year to nail down a starting job but was far too inconsistent, finishing with a minus-8.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
John Jerry

Brandon Mosley now has had two straight season-ending injuries and some shaky performances when he did play last season, factors that probably haven't inspired the confidence of Reese or the coaching staff.

The Giants signed John Jerry, who was identified by the NFL-commissioned Wells Report as a party that allegedly “engaged in a pattern of harassment" said to be directed at offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, now with the 49ers.

Because of Jerry’s alleged involvement in the workplace harassment investigation, he could still be subject to league-imposed discipline, which is why his one-year contract is a low-risk deal that would cost New York just $25,000 if he were to not make the final roster.

The Giants’ starting offensive line, like their cap space, remains fluid, pending the outcome of the draft, the injured players and the identities of any additional free agents who are brought in before the start of the 2014 season.

They’ll almost certainly look to pluck a potential starter from the draft—Notre Dame’s tackle Zack Martin is an intriguing prospect though, per NFL Draft Scout, teams might be looking to move Martin inside to guard.  

The beauty of the Giants current offensive line personnel is that every player is versatile enough to play multiple positions. 

If Martin was the pick and Beatty wasn't ready, Pugh could move to left tackle, Schwartz could go to right tackle, and Martin could play left guard. 

If both Snee and Beatty aren’t ready, the situation becomes even trickier because not only would a rookie have to play, but the team would have to hope that Jerry, who per PFF gave up 5.0 sacks and 16 quarterback hurries en route to a minus-2.9 overall grade in 2013, plays better if they have to plug him in at one of the guard spots.

 

Patricia Traina is the senior editor for Inside Football. All quotes and information, with the exception of contract details drawn from Rotoworld, obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter, @Patricia_Traina

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