Ranking the 2014 Impact of New York Giants' Free-Agent Signings so Far
Utilizing an unusually aggressive approach, the New York Giants have significantly bolstered their 2014 roster through free agency. The team has already signed 10 new free agents through Sunday, March 23.
The parts these free agents will play next season are still up for debate. In the coming months, they will go through organized team activities, training camp and, eventually, the preseason before their regular-season roles are determined. There's also a draft between now and then that could further complicate things.
Looking ahead, however, we can make loose projections about these new Giants. Based on their past production with former teams, the terms of the contracts they recently signed, as well as where they fit into the cast of returning Giants at their respective positions, we can make an educated guess about their potential production in 2014.
In this slideshow, I will rank the 2014 impact we can expect from each of New York's free agent acquisitions—from least impactful to most impactful.
Kevin is a New York Giants Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter here. All contract information courtesy of Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com, unless specifically noted otherwise.
10. S Quintin Demps
The Giants have focused heavily on improving their defensive backfield this free-agency period, and the acquisition of safety Quintin Demps shows that. Last season, Demps started six games at free safety with the Kansas City Chiefs.
With the Giants, Demps was likely signed for depth. His six starts in 2013 aside, the 28-year-old failed to record a single start with either the Philadelphia Eagles (2008-09) or the Houston Texans (2010-12). New York is returning last year's starting tandem—2013 Pro Bowler Antrel Rolle and rising star Will Hill—along with Stevie Brown, who is recovering from an ACL tear after an eight-interception campaign in 2012.
Demps also has extensive experience as a return specialist. Although the Giants also signed explosive return man Trindon Holliday, Demps still expects to see some of that duty, according to Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com. Demps has accumulated 2,630 kick return yards and two touchdowns in his six years as a pro.
Brought in on just a one-year deal worth $1 million, nothing groundbreaking is expected of Demps in 2014.
9. OL John Jerry
Another area of concern heading into this free-agency period was the offensive line. One man expected to contribute to the turnaround is former Miami Dolphins guard John Jerry.
The Giants are taking a considerable risk by bringing in Jerry. His name, along with Richie Incognito's and Mike Pouncey's, was tainted by Ted Wells' bullying scandal report. He has also had issues maintaining his weight in the past. Before the Giants made a move for him, it was uncertain if any of the NFL's 32 teams would be willing to sign Jerry.
However, considering the shape New York's offensive line was in by the end of the 2013 season, it made sense to bring in Jerry on a one-year, $770,000 contract. There is very little risk involved, and the Giants are receiving a player who has started all 16 games in each of the past two seasons.
The 27-year-old Jerry, who is 6'5" and 335 pounds, has experience playing both guard and tackle, which sets him up to be a versatile, behemoth backup. He could find the starting lineup if either left tackle Will Betty (leg) or right guard Chris Snee (hip) suffers a setback in their respective rehabs.
8. LB Jameel McClain
The Giants can usually afford an upgrade at linebacker, and they may have accomplished that with the signing of former Baltimore Raven Jameel McClain.
McClain, 28, played six seasons in Baltimore, five of which were alongside future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis; together, they won Super Bowl XLVII. He now joins the Giants defense, which features several players with Super Bowl experience of their own.
With the Ravens, McClain became a full-time starter in 2010. Most of his experience is on the weak side, but with Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams now entering year four of a competition for WILL duties, McClain projects to start on the strong side.
Although McClain is a quality linebacker, he may only find himself on the field in situational roles as a true SAM. If he excels beside middle linebacker Jon Beason, though, he may be tough to take off of the field. Whatever the case, the Giants expect his contributions to be worth $4.1 million over the course of two years of service.
7. WR Mario Manningham
The Giants brought in a familiar face to fortify the receiving corps when they signed Super Bowl XLVI hero Mario Manningham.
The Giants selected Manningham in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft (95 overall), but his ability to stretch the field never translated into sustainable production. Following a nine-touchdown 2010 season, in which he started only eight games and fell just shy of 1,000 yards, Manningham was primed for further breakout. Instead, teammate Victor Cruz stole his thunder.
With the San Francisco 49ers, the team Manningham signed with before the 2012 season, it has been a downward spiral for the University of Michigan product. Both of his seasons by the Bay were hampered by knee issues stemming from a multi-ligament tear in 2012.
Due to the knee concerns, New York signed Manningham to just a one-year deal worth $795,000. It's unlikely he reaches his original draft-day potential in his second go-round with the Giants, as he projects to be no higher than third on the depth chart with both Cruz and third-year pass-catcher Rueben Randle returning for the 2014 season.
6. KR Trindon Holliday
The Giants saw the effects a premier return man can have when then-rookie David Wilson terrorized kickoff coverage units in 2012. However, Wilson is no sure-shot to play next season, so Trindon Holliday was brought in to do the honors.
Holliday is one of the most feared return specialists in the league and an upgrade from even the ultra-athletic Wilson. A sixth-round selection by the Houston Texans in 2011 (197 overall), the 5'5", 170-pound Holliday didn't truly catch on until he was waived and subsequently awarded to the Denver Broncos early in the 2012 season. Since then, Holliday has recorded six total return touchdowns, including a punt and kick return touchdown in the 2012 divisional playoffs.
The Giants have lacked an elite threat on punt returns for some time now, and the speedy Holliday is just the type to pump some life back into the New York's special teams. He will make a difference whenever he is on the field, which doesn't project to be very often—his extremely small stature, by NFL standards, limits him to just return duties.
New York values Holliday's athleticism at $700,000 for one year's work.
5. CB Walter Thurmond
In the Giants' rush to land quality defensive backs, former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond now finds himself in New York.
Seattle's dominant defensive backfield of 2013 was well documented, but Thurmond was not one of the highly touted members. He started in just three games, missing four to a suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. If he stays on the straight and narrow with the Giants, Thurmond could prove to be one of the best signings of 2014.
One former NFL executive called the signing of Thurmond to a one-year, $3.5 million deal a "tremendous value signing," per Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com. At 5'11" and 190 pounds, Thurmond has both the size and strength to play on the outside, as well as the athleticism to excel in the slot.
That's good news for New York, as Thurmond may not be a starter in the secondary. Prince Amukamara is firmly entrenched as the Giants No. 1 corner and the high-profile signing of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie may be the glitziest of New York's offseason. Thurmond will be a valuable asset in the nickel package, at the very least.
4. C J.D. Walton
When the Giants signed former Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins center J.D. Walton, few anticipated he would be the Giants' starting solution. Although David Baas was undoubtedly out of the picture, Walton has not played a game since fracturing his ankle in 2012—an injury that required a pair of surgeries to correct.
However, when the details of Walton's contract arose—two years, $5 million ($3 million guaranteed)—it was apparent that the Giants were serious about the 27-year-old's ability to start if needed. If healthy, there's no question he can do it; Walton has started all 36 of the games he has played in since his rookie year.
Walton is unlike most O-linemen the Giants usually target, in the sense that his versatility is unproven. He has only played center at the NFL level, so if he does not win the starting job, he will almost certainly ride the bench. Right now, Dallas Reynolds is the only other center under contract through the 2014 season, but this may be a position New York targets with intent to start in this year's draft.
If that's the case, expect a heated camp battle between Walton and said rookie.
3. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
As stated earlier on the Walter Thurmond slide, the Giants' signing of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie may have been their flashiest of this free-agency period. In monetary terms, it certainly was—DRC will cost the Giants $39 million over the next five years (per Adam Schefter of ESPN).
It will be money well spent, as Rodgers-Cromartie finds himself on the fringe of the NFL's coveted shutdown-caliber cornerbacks. With the Giants, opposite Prince Amukamara, he may be able to take that final step he couldn't quite muster as a member of the Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos.
Rodgers-Cromartie, 27, was the Cardinals' first-round selection in 2008 (16 overall), playing two seasons with safety Antrel Rolle (2008-09). The tandem will pair up once again, this time in New York—a reunion Rolle is presumably very excited about. This could very well be the final stop on DRC's NFL tour, so it's best that he makes the most of it.
The Giants are assembling the makings of a downright dominant defensive backfield, as there's no way Rodgers-Cromartie finds himself outside defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's starting lineup.
2. OL Geoff Schwartz
The Giants' biggest move made to improve the offensive line was the signing of former Kansas City Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz. After three consecutive springs spent as an unrestricted free agent, Schwartz finally landed a long-term deal with the Giants in 2014. He actually wrote a first-person account of his free-agency experience this March for Bleacher Report.
With the Chiefs last year, Schwartz usurped Jon Asamoah's left tackle job, earning seven starts to close out the season. They were his first starts since his days as a Carolina Panther in 2010—the only season Schwartz started all 16 games. In New York, however, the big, 340-pounder looks to flip the script and expects to step in on day one, specifically at left guard.
The Giants are paying him a pretty penny to do so. Playing under a four-year, $16 million deal, Schwartz's services are not coming cheap. They should be well worth the expense, though, as the Giants are receiving a massive, battle-tested lineman that should be formidable in both pass protection and run-blocking.
Schwartz should be the Giants' most reliable offensive lineman in 2014.
1. RB Rashad Jennings
The Giants had absolutely no consistency at running back last season, and, often times, the lack of a solid back left quarterback Eli Manning feeling very lonely in the offensive backfield. It showed in his career-high sack (39) and interception (27) numbers set in 2013. With the addition of Jennings, this year will be different.
Jennings is not a flashy runner, but he is an effective one. Expected to be the team's featured back, Jennings will get more exposure than he ever did behind Maurice Jones-Drew or Darren McFadden in Jacksonville and Oakland, respectively. The 28-year-old former seventh-round selection has minimal wear and tear from his five seasons as a backup, although he did miss all of 2011 with a knee injury.
In his first season as a starter, Jennings will reach a career milestone by eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing. With a respectable running game, Jennings will help take some pressure off of Manning and his passing game. He will also be a reliable pass-blocker who rarely fumbles—a true Tom Coughlin-type of back. That's likely why he earned a four-year, $10 million deal.
Jennings will be a viable cog in the Giants offense whose contributions will go beyond the stat sheet, making him the most impactful free-agent signing of 2014.