4 Players New York Giants Should Still Evaluate on the Free-Agent Market
Free agency is not over.
Sure, the cream of the 2014 crop has already claimed its costly contracts. Even the second- and third-wave signees have settled into new roles with new teams by now.
Still, some free agents are left unsigned, forgotten on the open market. Many of them are veterans, hoping to duck retirement for at least one more season. Others are bound to resurface somewhere, yet a health concern prevents them from doing so at the moment.
The New York Giants, with a currently full, 90-man roster, will not sign any of these free agents in the next month. All bets are off, however, when the team opens up training camp, bodies start flying and injuries begin to mount.
This slideshow will highlight four high-profile, unsigned free agents, all of whom New York is likely to examine in the coming months. Could one of these five end up a Giant sometime in 2014?
Read on to get a breakdown of and prediction for each player scenario.
All statistical information courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.
WR Santonio Holmes
It has been eight years since Santonio Holmes, then a 22-year-old, blazing-fast Ohio State product, was selected in the first round, 25th overall, by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It has been five years since a 25-year-old Holmes was named Super Bowl MVP for his game-winning touchdown grab in the back of the end zone, lifting his Steelers to a 27-23 lead over the Arizona Cardinals with less than a minute to play.
It has been three years since a 27-year-old, unrestricted free agent Holmes agreed to the terms of a five-year, $50 million offer to play football for the New York Jets.
And since then, it has been one free fall at terminal velocity for a now-30-year-old, unemployed Holmes.
The allure of the Giants' projected starting trio—Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr.—is undeniable, but what guarantee is it that all three stay healthy?
At the end of the 2013 season, Jerrel Jernigan proved a reliable reserve for Cruz in the slot; the Giants are less secure on the outsides. If Randle or Beckham were to be lost for the season, New York's remaining depth chart looks like this in terms of career catches:
- Mario Manningham (211)
- Preston Parker (44)
- Trindon Holliday (4)
- Everybody else (4 WRs with NO NFL catches)
If Manningham instills confidence in you, realize that he is still missing practices from a knee injury that originated in December of 2012. Holmes is no clean bill of health either, however, his career reception, yardage and touchdown totals are all roughly double those of Manningham's.
Holmes was cut from the Jets roster this spring, saving the franchise from burning several more millions of dollars. He is still without a team, although the wide receiver is a priority free agent for a team that loses a starting talent.
The Verdict: The Giants are tempted to bolster their wide receiver depth with a tested veteran, but Holmes' asking price is still miles outside of New York's ballpark. No deal, as the Giants move on with the young, inexperienced talent they already have under contract.
TE Jermichael Finley
- New Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is familiar with Finley from his time in Green Bay, some of which was spent as Finley's direct positional coach. Their reunion will be New York's benefit.
- The Giants are without a clear front-runner for the starting tight end job. Although health is a concern, Finley is a productive, starting-caliber tight end with receiver-type ability as a pass-catcher.
The buzzing free agent most everyone suggested the Giants target earlier this offseason was Jermichael Finley, a Green Bay Packers tight end from 2008-2013.
The argument went like this:
Complicating what seems like a no-brainer is the status of Finley's neck, after he underwent spinal fusion surgery to correct career-threatening damage sustained in a game versus the Cleveland Browns last October. Finley has only recently received full medical clearance, so teams have been slow to react to his late availability.
Dating back to even the early offseason, almost nothing has changed for the Giants at tight end.
Ex-Seahawk/Bear Kellen Davis was signed more so as a blocking specialist than as a pass-catcher, and New York neglected the position in the draft. Former fourth-round selection Adrien Robinson is going on his third consecutive season of failing to pull away from the tight end pack, leaving Giants fans with few rooting options outside of Xavier Grimble, an undrafted free agent with an appreciation for the franchise's storied the past.
And Finley's still out there somewhere.
The Packers appear prepared to move on from Finley. Other teams have poked their heads into the mix, and Connor Orr of The Star-Ledger reported around the time of Finley's clearance that the Giants "at least reached out to" the tight end.
The Verdict: Fed up with the lack of development at tight end, Giants General Manager Jerry Reese makes one final bold move this offseason by signing Finley and reeling in a new starting tight end.
LB Jonathan Vilma
Some panic has spread within the Giants fanbase since Jon Beason injured his foot, putting him out for the remainder of the offseason. Beason was the glue that held New York's fragile defense together in 2013, and without him available, the Giants are experimenting with unnerving options.
The current course of action utilizes Jameel McClain at middle linebacker. Alongside him, on the strong side, is a rookie fifth-rounder Devon Kennard of USC. McClain may not possess Beason's every-down capability, and Kennard presents a clear liability in terms of experience.
Both exceptional starters and quality depth have been hard to come by in New York ever since the Giants switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base defense in the early 1990s. The names Spencer Paysinger, Jacquian Williams and Mark Herzlich fail to strike the same fear in opponents that the names Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson and Carl Banks once did.
If the Giants become dissatisfied with their linebacker situation, 32-year-old veteran Jonathan Vilma will be there waiting.
Vilma has extensive experience at middle linebacker, both as a New York Jet and a New Orleans Saint. Through 10 NFL seasons, the 2004 12th-overall selection has thrice been named a Pro-Bowler and has accumulated nearly 900 tackles.
Although Vilma has struggled with injuries to both his knees, if healthy he would man the middle of New York's defense with an authority just as convincing as Beason's. Even though he's inarguably past his prime, Vilma would be the biggest name the Giants have fielded at linebacker in quite a while.
If you are thinking this move is too crazy to ever take place, I bet you were thinking the same thing about the potential for a Beason trade at this time last year.
New York plays it cool in the absence of Beason, figuring it makes little sense to replace the injured middle linebacker with another injury-prone 'backer in Vilma.
CB Terrell Thomas
If there ever was an interchangeable part to a football team, it would be the cornerback.
These athletes—usually the smallest on the field (other than kickers and punters)—seem to miss the most time to injury. Whether its a nagging hamstring or a debilitating torn ligament, the cover men are the juicy prey most often bitten when the injury bug makes its unwelcome appearance.
No corner knows this better than Terrell Thomas, who, with the Giants, tore his ACL in back-to-back years, missing all of 2011 and 2012. He also tore that same ligament in college as a member of the USC Trojans.
Thomas persevered to play in all 16 games last season, mostly as New York's slot corner in the heavily utilized nickel package. Despite an impressive comeback in 2013, teams in free agency have been reluctant to touch Thomas, whose knee must appear to NFL general managers like a hot potato.
However, as Thomas once learned the hard way, players go down and offseason roster spots open up. This year, for a change, Thomas can be the mid-summer addition to fill a void left in the wake of an ill-timed injury.
Like the receivers, New York's top three corners—Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara and Walter Thurmond III—look world class on paper. Assembling them was one task, getting them on the field together and healthy is another.
When able to play, Thomas was one of the Giants' most reliable cornerbacks. Even though New York is deep at the position this summer, Thomas' phone will be the first one to ring if one of the Giants' top three cornerbacks is injured for the long-term.
After losing a top cornerback to injury during training camp, the Giants fall back on Thomas, offering him one last opportunity to compete for a roster spot.