New York Giants Free-Agency Tracker: Updated Signings, Rumors and Grades
The preliminary discussions are in the books, and at 4:01 p.m. ET, it’s time for the New York Giants to open up the checkbook and start inking those key free agents to new contracts.
Be sure to bookmark this page for all of the latest free-agency rumors, activity and analysis. I'll be updating this throughout the rest of the week.
Also, don't forget to follow me on Twitter for as-they-happen updates and quick reactions.
Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.
OL John Jerry Re-Signs
Before anyone becomes too panic-stricken, the return of veteran offensive lineman John Jerry, who can play both tackle and guard, is most likely a depth signing.
With the Giants unable to sign a fifth starter for their offensive line, they went back to old friend Jerry, who started 16 games for them last season.
That doesn’t mean that Jerry is going to start 16 games for them again this year. The Giants could be using this signing as a bit of a smokescreen in that prior to signing Jerry, it was obvious to everyone in the league that they had two glaring holes on their team, at safety and on the offensive line.
When a team enters the draft with two glaring holes, it potentially limits what they can do in terms of maneuvering around the draft if they need to or getting the players that they want, especially if another team behind them has a little more leverage to trade up ahead of them.
By re-signing Jerry, the potential is there for him to start again; however, if they draft an offensive lineman—and it would be surprising if they don’t—they could start the season with Jerry in the starting lineup before eventually moving the draft pick into the mix.
Another reason why this is so important is that Weston Richburg will be a first-time NFL center this year. The coaches might have been squeamish about putting a rookie next to a first-year NFL starting center (yes, Richburg played center in college but this is the NFL, which is a completely new ballgame).
This way if a potential offensive line draft pick isn’t ready to play right out of the chute, Richburg will have the benefit of having two veterans—Geoff Schwartz and Jerry—flanking him on the on-set.
As Richburg becomes more comfortable with the line calls and as the still to be determined rookie becomes more comfortable in his technique and transition, then we’ll likely see the offensive line the Giants intended to field all along.
Giants Re-Sign CB Chykie Brown
Acquired off waivers from Baltimore on November 5, Brown stepped in at cornerback late in the season, starting the final four games at right cornerback, and actually seemed to benefit from the change of scenery.
Brown finished with 37 tackles in eight games for the Giants. In coverage, he allowed 21 out of 32 pass targets to be completed for 270 yards, with just 49 of those coming after the catch.
As a slot cornerback, Brown only played seven snaps with no pass targets thrown in his direction.
Regardless, Brown, who reunites with Steve Spagnuolo, his position coach with the Ravens who’s now the Giants defensive coordinator, will most likely compete with Trumaine McBride for the slot cornerback role.
S Antrel Rolle Signs with Chicago
Antrel Rolle agrees to three year, $11.25M contract with Bears, per agent Drew Rosenhaus. $5M guaranteed.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 12, 2015
Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) March 12, 2015
As expected, Rolle won’t be a Giant in 2015. The 32-year-old safety confirmed that he’s taking his talents to the Midwest, where he’ll play for former Giants defensive coordinator John Fox, the new head coach of the Bears.
The Giants and Rolle apparently weren’t even in the same ballpark on a new contract, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.
That much seems to have been evident when the Giants let Rolle walk out the door when the free agency negotiations period began.
Rolle, who joined the Giants in 2010 after being cut from the Cardinals, finished his Giants career having never missed a game.
Per Pro Football Reference, he recorded 464 tackles, 2.5 career sacks, 14 interceptions, 33 passes defensed and five forced fumbles during his five-year Giants career.
Rolle, a Giants defensive leader and co-captain who helped lead the 2011 team to a Super Bowl championship, was a rarity in that he completed every obligation in his Giants contract.
Last season, a year removed from a Pro Bowl berth, Rolle’s numbers dipped just a bit in that for the first time since 2010, he didn’t record at least 95 tackles (he had 87 in 2014).
According to Pro Football Focus, Rolle, who graded out with a minus-13.9 overall mark, allowed the sixth most yards after the catch (244) among safeties who took 75 percent or more of the snaps on defense.
PFF also had him down for 70 solo tackles, which was 20th among the safeties who took at least 75 percent of their team’s snaps.
Rolle’s departure opens the door for youngsters Nat Berhe and Cooper Taylor to step up and make some noise. The Giants will also no doubt try to add some veteran help at that position through free agency.
Report: Giants Interested in S Darian Stewart
— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) March 12, 2015
With safeties Ron Parker and Rahim Moore, two free-agent targets that have been linked to the Giants, reportedly not even scheduled to visit with New York, the Giants appear to be lining up a contingency plan.
That plan appears to be Stewart, who was coached by current Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo in Baltimore. Primarily a strong safety, Stewart started 14 games for the Ravens last year, finishing with a 7.0 overall grade and a respectable 2.8 grade in coverage from Pro Football Focus.
Speaking of coverage, Stewart allowed 21 of 33 passes thrown at him to be completed for 293 yards and two touchdowns. Of that yardage, 120 came after the catch as he finished 2014 with an 87.1 NFL Rating.
LB Mark Herzlich Re-Signs for 2 Years
Herzlich had his best season as a pro last year, posting a career-high in tackles and recording his first sack.
Surprisingly, once he moved to the strong side linebacker spot, he was stout against the run where, per Pro Football Focus, he finished as the third-best run defender behind defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
A solid special teams presence and a tireless presence in the community, Herzlich’s return is nothing more than a depth signing—he can play all three linebacker spots—and a move to keep a key special teams player on board.
He’ll join a crowded Giants linebacker room that already has holdovers Jon Beason, Jameel McClain, Devon Kennard and James Davidson, and newcomers Jonathan Casillas and J.T. Thomas.
FB Henry Hynoski Re-Signs for 2 Years
The Giants announced that FB Henry Hynoski re-signed with the team. While the team didn’t specify terms, Hynoski confirmed to me that his is a two-year contract, while his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ProFootballTalk.com the deal was worth $2 million.
Hynoski wasn’t used much in the new offense last year, a surprise given that the overall run blocking up front lacked punch, resulting in the running game finishing 23rd in the league last year.
It was also surprising that he wasn’t targeted in the passing game once considering that, according to data gathered from Pro Football Focus, he has caught 82.8 percent of the passes sent his way.
His return comes as no surprise. Hynoski, nicknamed “Hynocerus” hails from Elysburg, PA and has been a solid fit with the organization since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2011.
The fan favorite has 12 career carries for 33 yards and 24 receptions for 128 yards and one touchdown.
Report: Giants Interested in S Rahim Moore
This post actually hit on Tuesday night, so my apologies for missing it. Anyway, it’s no secret that the Giants need safety help, especially at the free safety spot.
With Kansas City’s Ron Parker reportedly drawing interest from multiple teams according to Jordan Raanan of NJ Advance Media, the Giants will need a backup plan, and that plan, as of right now, appears to be Moore.
LB Jacquian Williams Draws Interest from St. Louis
Agent just spoke with St. Louis...Gotta stay prayed up
— Jacquian Williams (@Jacquian57) March 11, 2015
Despite having impressive athletic ability which finally got him on the field last year as an every down linebacker, Williams was a bit too much of a gambler, at times appearing to not trust what he was seeing.
As a result, a fair amount of his 77 tackles last year (one less than his career-high 78 which he logged as a rookie in 2011) came several yards down the field while in pursuit.
CB Walter Thurmond Signs with the Eagles
Eagles reached agreement with former Giants and Seahawks CB Walter Thurmond, per source. Thurmond now teams up again with Byron Maxwell.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2015
Walt, we hardly knew ye.
In what will probably go down among the most disappointing free agency acquisitions of general manager Jerry Reese’s tenure, slot cornerback Walter Thurmond III, who last year signed a one-year “prove it” deal with the Giants worth $3 million, has taken his talents down the turnpike to the Eagles.
As a Giant, Thurmond played in just two games—67 snaps, per Pro Football Focus—before a season-ending pectoral injury knocked him out for the rest of the year.
The day after the season ended, Thurmond told various reporters, including yours truly, that he was interested in returning to the Giants. So where did things break down?
Considering Thurmond was so insistent on a one-year contract when he signed with the Giants last year and that he has reportedly inked another one-year deal with the Eagles, per Zach Berman of Philly.com, it’s possible the Giants might have wanted Thurmond for a longer deal to help space out the cap hit.
Thurmond, meanwhile, who told Dan Graziano of ESPN last year that he wanted the incentive to prove himself as a viable cornerback in this league, which is why he rejected a three-year deal from the Giants last offseason.
As for who will replace Thurmond as the slot cornerback, figure Trumaine McBride will get the nod, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the Giants look to add via the draft for that position.
LB Mark Herzlich Re-Signs
Source confirms #Giants have re-signed linebacker Mark Herzlich.
— Nick Powell (@nickpowellbkny) March 11, 2015
Linebacker Mark Herzlich, who last year had his best as a pro, has re-signed with the Giants. Herzlich, who can play all three linebacker positions, will continue to provide depth there and will also continue to contribute on special teams.
With the reported additions of free agent linebackers J.T. Thomas and Jonathan Casillas yesterday to go along with holdovers Jon Beason, Jameel McClain, Devon Kennard and James Davidson, the linebacker position is shaping up to have a lot of competition this summer.
Report: Giants Sign LB J.T. Thomas
The Giants have signed former Jaguars LB JT Thomas. Three years, $12M and $4.5M guaranteed, source confirms.
— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) March 10, 2015
Thomas, a sixth-round pick by the Bears in 2011, has experience playing on the strong side and in the middle. He has played in 47 games over three seasons, missing the 2011 season with a hip injury.
Thus far, he has 112 tackles, no sacks, two interceptions and four forced fumbles.
Last season, Thomas recorded a season-high 12 tackles against the Giants. He also forced a fumble in that game.
His signing likely could mean the end for unrestricted free agents Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger, both signed by the Giants in 2011.
Report: Giants Sign OL Marshall Newhouse
Marshall Newhouse agreed to a 2-year, $3.25 deal with the Giants.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) March 10, 2015
With the Giants not believed to be interested in re-signing James Brewer, and with John Jerry an unrestricted free agent, New York didn’t have veteran depth at the tackle position. Now that Newhouse is on board, they do.
It’s unlikely that Newhouse will be the fifth starter on the offensive line—he’s started 36 out of 62 games played since entering the league in 2010 as a Packers’ fifth-round pick.
The more likely scenario is that he will be used for depth, similar to the role Charles Brown was supposed to have last year until injuries forced the Giants to play him.
Giants Sign WR/KR/PR Dwayne Harris
The Giants managed to accomplish two objectives with the single signing of former Cowboys receiver/return specialist Dwayne Harris, who tweeted the news of his upcoming move in the NFC East.
The first objective is New York has additional insurance for Victor Cruz, who continues to rehab from a torn patellar injury suffered in October.
While the hope is that Cruz will be ready to go by training camp, as general manager Jerry Reese told reporters at the combine last month, “Until you get out there and move around, you never know how he is going to recover from that [injury].”
The other objective that the Harris signing accomplishes is it allows New York to remove Odell Beckham Jr. from punt return duties. Given how valuable Beckham has become to the offense, it was a risk for him to continue returning punts this year.
Harris, who last year averaged 24.5 yards per return on kickoffs and 9.1 yards per return on punts, should make for a smooth changing of the guard.
Source: Dwayne Harris expected to sign with the #Giants. 5yr deal. $17.5M— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 10, 2015
Report: Giants Sign LB Jonathan Casillas
Per @caplannfl, Giants have signed LB Jonathan Casillas, three years, $10.5 million.— Ebenezer Samuel (@ebenezersamuel) March 10, 2015
With three unrestricted free agents at linebacker—Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams—the Giants are in need of depth at the position, especially with Paysinger and Williams not looking like they're coming back.
Casillas, who played at New Brunswick High School in New Jersey, can also provide depth on special teams.
Per Pro Football Focus, Casillas has experience playing all three linebacker spots. He primarily lined up as an inside linebacker for the Patriots last season.
However, he struggled in coverage last season, allowing 13 of 16 passes against him to be complete for 106 yards, 71 after the catch and one touchdown, all good enough for a 115.1 NFL rating.
S Antrel Rolle to Meet with the Bears
Antrel Rolle is visiting the Bears but DOES NOT have any agreement with them or any other team at this time— Drew Rosenhaus (@RosenhausSports) March 10, 2015
This confirmation of Rolle visiting the Bears, which comes from his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, comes as little surprise.
Despite insisting that his numbers were as good if not better as the top safeties reportedly being pursued by the Giants, the numbers only told part of the story.
While Rolle’s tackle total (87) was behind Ron Parker’s 94—Rolle had three interceptions to Parker’s one, but Parker had one sack to Rolle’s zero—last year’s defensive co-captain allowed 244 of the 428 passing yards completed against him to come after the catch, the sixth-highest total of all safeties in that 75 percent range.
While Rolle has been durable—he didn't miss a game during his five-year Giants contract which began in 2010—the Giants are unlikely to be able to give him top-dollar given their other needs.
Report: Giants Re-Sign RB Chris Ogbonnaya
In much smaller RB news, the Giants will be re-signing Chris Ogbonnaya today.— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) March 10, 2015
This move actually comes as a bit of surprise considering Ogbonnaya didn’t take a snap on offensive for the Giants last year after they picked him up on Dec. 2.
Despite his lack of contributions to the offense, Ogbonnaya (6’0”, 225 pounds) can also contribute at fullback, a position where he saw some significant work in 2013 during his time with the Cleveland Browns, according to Tom Reed of Cleveland.com.
The Giants have already added fullback Nikita Whitlock to a reserve/futures contract. Might the return of Ogbonnaya, if it’s official, potentially mean that incumbent fullback Henry Hynoski, whom Pro Football Focus has as its top-rated free-agent fullback isn’t a lock to return?
Hynoski, remember, saw his snap counts drop to 209 last year in an offense for which he was thought to be a better fit.
Not counting his injury-shortened 2013 season, that was Hynoski’s lowest snap count total on offense since he signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent out of Pittsburgh in 2011.
Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo seemed to prefer using tight ends as lead blockers because of the versatility. Surprisingly, Hynoski, who has always been regarded as having good hands, wasn’t thrown to once last season.
The return, then, by Ogbonnaya would give McAdoo another versatile option that can perform fullback duties as necessary.
Report: Giants to Sign RB Shane Vereen
RB Shane Vereen to the Giants. Done deal, source says.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 10, 2015
Although general manager Jerry Reese was upfront in saying he hoped to find a running back to fill the David Wilson role as a homerun threat, the Giants’ pursuit of Vereen was initially surprising.
The 2015 running back draft class is regarded as being deep, at least according to Mark Eckel of NJ Advance Media. Usually when a class is that deep, solid prospects could potentially last until late in Day 3 and come cheaper.
So why go with a veteran? The answer could go back to the "win now" ultimatum the Giants are facing.
Historically, head coach Tom Coughlin doesn't play rookie running backs right out of the chute. With Vereen, he doesn’t have to worry about that problem.
In Vereen, he is getting a young veteran with good speed and elusiveness—seven of Vereen's career receptions have gone for 20 or more yards and three have gone for 40 or more yards.
As ESPN’s Dan Graziano points out, of those games Vereen has played in, he has topped 40 yards in 23 of them and 100 yards in five.
Also, as Paul Schwartz of the New York Post pointed out, Vereen's 52 receptions last year were 10 less than what the five Giants running backs combined to produce.
Love the Shane Vereen move by the Giants. Easy completions for Eli.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 10, 2015
Shane Vereen got $12.35 million over three years from the Giants. Strong $. Came up quickly over a few days.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 10, 2015
Report: Giants May Pursue DE George Johnson
ESPN’s Dan Graziano reports that the Giants “could make a run" at DE George Johnson, a restricted free agent who received an original-round tender.
After being rejected by Brandon Graham, who re-signed with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday, the Giants have not given up on the hopes of landing a veteran defensive end to pair with Jason Pierre-Paul.
The 27-year-old Johnson, who played his college ball at Rutgers, could fit that bill. The 6’4”, 263-pound Johnson, whose career stops also include the Vikings and Bucs, finished with 6.0 sacks last year, third on the team behind Ndamukong Suh (8.5) and Ezekiel Ansah (7.5).
If the Lions, who have the right to match any offer Johnson receives, don’t match an offer sheet from another team, the Giants wouldn’t owe Detroit a draft pick as compensation since Johnson was undrafted.
Report: Giants Are Interested in S Da'Norris Searcy
Source said the #Giants have sniffed around Bills safety Da’Norris Searcy. More of a strong safety type, hard hitter, plays in the box.— Nick Powell (@nickpowellbkny) March 10, 2015
With Devin McCourty off the market, it makes sense for the Giants to turn their attention to Da’Norris Searcy of the Buffalo Bills.
Searcy, graded as the 17th best overall safety in 2014 by Pro Football Focus, played primarily at strong safety for the Bills last season, making 13 starts at the position.
In coverage, Searcy was targeted 19 times last season, allowing nine completions for 89 yards and just 36 yards after the catch with no touchdowns allowed for a 21.5 NFL rating. In addition, last year, PFF marked him down for just two missed tackles in coverage and four against the run.
If the Giants are able to land Searcy, that would likely shut the door on a potential return by Antrel Rolle, who despite comparing his numbers against those safeties reportedly linked to the Giants, his situation is nearly identical to what Deon Grant found himself in a few years ago when he became a free agent.
Grant, remember, had been a starter for the Seahawks, When he came to the Giants, he received shorter contracts for less money and was the third safety in the rotation, a role that yielded a fair amount of snaps.
From a financial perspective, the longer the contract, the easier it is to absorb the cap hit of the prorated signing bonus (part of the guaranteed money).
If the Giants can get younger at the position with a similar or better talent, it would be surprising if they don’t take that route.
Report: LB Jon Beason Reworked His Contract
Giants LB Jon Beason reworked his contract, as he indicated he likely would. He will remain with the team.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 10, 2015
As far as middle linebacker Jon Beason’s contract was concerned, there was never a question as to if it would be redone; rather, it was a question of when it would be redone.
Beason, who was due to count for $6.691 million in 2015 per Over the Cap, had a $1 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the new league year (March 14) and a base salary of $3.6 million, $900,000 of which was guaranteed.
That number was considered too high and risky for a 30-year-old linebacker who has struggled to stay on the field and has played in just 24 games since 2011.
Beason’s latest injury, suffered last offseason, was to the big toe on his right foot. He tried to rest it and did everything he could to avoid surgery, but in the end, the injury only became worse. and he was forced to have season-ending surgery after playing in just four games in 2014.
According to Jordan Raanan of NJ Advance Media, Beason’s cap number dropped from $7.4 million to $4.154 million, a savings of $3.246 million.
Raanan also reported that Beason’s base salary of $3.6 million was shaved down to $1.9 million. He will have a chance to earn back some of the money he gave up through incentives.
A realist, Beason, voted as a defensive co-captain last year, spoke about his continued love for the game and his desire to contribute to the Giants in 2015.
“I want to be a Giant,” he said during his SiriusXM NFL Radio interview. “They took a chance on me when other people may have thought I was done. You want to go out and hold up your end of the bargain. When healthy, I feel like I’m the best in the business and no one can keep up with me.
“Ultimately I want to leave this game with a ring on my finger,” he added.
With reports of the Giants struggling to find veteran help on the defensive side of the ball, Beason’s return in 2015 is key in that he provides leadership and direction in the locker room.
A three-time Pro Bowler, Beason is projected to regain his starting middle linebacker role in 2015 if he can avoid further injury.
Report: Giants Are Interested in RB Shane Vereen
Giants are looking for a versatile RB, and to that end have shown significant interest in New England's Shane Vereen.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 10, 2015
After reportedly striking out in efforts to land help on the defensive side of the ball over the weekend, the Giants have turned their attention to the offense, where they hope to find a running back who can provide that home run threat the team was hoping to get out of the now-retired David Wilson.
That target is New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen (5’10”, 205 lbs), whom Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News reports sounds like a serious candidate to be among the first free agents from other teams the Giants sign when free agency begins.
While it’s too soon to say for sure what kind of role Vereen would play, if signed, his versatility would afford Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo some options.
In 42 games, Vereen has 907 yards on 217 carries (4.2 avg) with seven touchdowns. As a receiver, he has 107 catches for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns.
Last year was his first 16-game campaign, a season in which he started six games. He finished with a career-high 391 yards on 96 carries. He also posted career highs in receptions (52) and receiving yards (447), while tying his career high in receiving touchdowns (three).
Per ESPN stats, 42 of Vereen’s 217 carries (19.3 percent) have gone for first downs.
The Giants also have Orleans Darkwa, who impressed in limited snaps last season. Usually they keep four running backs and one fullback on the roster.
If Vereen ends up in the fold, the fourth running back spot could end up coming down to Darkwa and Michael Cox, assuming no other running backs are added via the draft.