Making the Call on New York Giants' Top Free Agents
As New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo continues his work on assembling a staff, those coaches who are on board, along with the personnel department, have been conducting evaluations of every player on the roster.
One such evaluation that will have to take place, if it hasn’t already, is which of the Giants’ upcoming free agents fit in with the team’s 2016 plans. According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants are set to have 21 free agents with the restricted and unrestricted designation.
Of that list, 12 are set to be 30 or older by the time the 2016 season commences. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Giants should show all of those players the door.
So let’s go through the list and determine which free agents potentially fit in with the 2016 plans and which do not—and why.
WR Rueben Randle
Rueben Randle has everything a team could want in a receiver, specifically size, skill and youth.
What he doesn’t have, however, and what is likely to be the deciding factor in his likely departure from the Giants, is consistency.
That’s right: In four seasons with the Giants, Randle has caught just 59.3 percent of the passes thrown his way. More alarming is the fact that he’s been the intended target of 17 interceptions thrown by quarterback Eli Manning and has dropped 13 balls over that same span.
The good news, if there is any, is that Randle is still young at 25 years old. He also posted a career high in touchdowns (eight) and career lows in interception targets (four) and dropped passes (three).
However, year in and year out, he can't seem to get on the same page as his quarterback and has proved to be no higher than a third receiver, a position for which players quite frankly come a dime a dozen in the NFL.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul
Despite numerous surgeries to his hand, the most recent of which took place this week, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has never once thought that he wouldn’t be the player he once was.
The problem is that it’s been a long while since Pierre-Paul was the dynamic force that recorded 16.5 sacks in 2011.
Yes, he had a back issue that required surgery. And in 2014, he also had a shoulder issue that bothered him for a good part of the year, before he finally went on to record 9.0 of his 12.5 sacks in the last five games of the season against teams with lesser offensive lines.
But with the cupboard left bare as far as pass-rushers go, the Giants might not have any choice but to try to hang on to Pierre-Paul.
That doesn’t mean that he should be franchised—the whole issue with his hand pretty much rules out that possibility, as the Giants saw what a one-handed Pierre-Paul was and wasn’t able to do.
Nor does that mean that the Giants should bestow upon Pierre-Paul a multiyear blockbuster deal that pays him like a top pass-rusher, a deal that Pierre-Paul is sure to want but is unlikely to get as long as questions remain about his right hand.
Pierre-Paul is still young enough and does keep himself in good shape. The issues with his back do appear to be in the rearview mirror, and the hope is that ultimately his right hand will fully heal and he’ll be able to grip opponents instead of having to wear that protective club that was a part of his game-day uniform in 2015.
If both he and the Giants are smart, they’ll come to an agreement on a two-year deal that is again loaded with incentives and which has the second year voidable, should Pierre-Paul fail to prove that he can indeed be the same player he once was.
DE Robert Ayers Jr.
Although Robert Ayers Jr. is on the wrong side of 30—he’ll turn 31 in 2016—he proved capable of filling that Justin Tuck dual role of defensive end and defensive tackle, recording a team-high (and career-high) 10.0 sacks in 2015.
Again, with the cupboard bare—the Giants won’t know if they’ll get the old Jason Pierre-Paul back, and Owa Odighizuwa, a pass-rushing specialist, lost his rookie season to assorted injuries, making what he is capable of doing at this level a question mark—it would probably behoove the Giants to resign Ayers to another contract, at least until they can restock the pass-rushers.
LB Jasper Brinkley
The Giants linebacker position needs an overhaul.
Jon Beason, the starting middle linebacker since 2013, missed last season due to a preseason knee injury.He told Sirius XM NFL Radio that he needs knee surgery and may retire if his body doesn’t respond to yet another round of rehab.
Devon Kennard, a fifth-round draft pick from 2014, has also missed chunks of time due to injury in his first two seasons, injuries that have included a hamstring strain and a season-ending foot sprain this year.
J.T. Thomas, the weak-side starter, missed time with a high ankle sprain and remains a bit of an unknown, given the time he had to miss. Jonathan Casillas dealt with an undisclosed neck issue earlier in the year, an issue that may need to be watched.
So yes, the Giants need an overhaul at linebacker, though that overhaul likely won’t be accomplished in one season.
They can start though by re-signing Jasper Brinkley, the soon-to-be 31-year old linebacker whom New York picked up off waivers from Dallas in Week 1. Brinkley turned out to be a solid addition at middle linebacker when Beason was sidelined, especially against the run, which seems to be his specialty.
If the Giants plan to draft young linebackers, keeping Brinkley around to serve as a mentor for the upcoming year—remember, it would be his second in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system—might not be such a bad idea.
DT Markus Kuhn
Markus Kuhn, a favorite of now-former head coach Tom Coughlin, has always been a hard worker and a model citizen.
As a football player, Kuhn, who turns 30 this year, has been just another guy, one who rarely makes a difference and who has had difficulty shedding solo blocking, let alone trying to tie up two blockers.
According to Pro Football Focus, Kuhn played in 320 defensive snaps, recording 15 tackles (10 solo). That’s not ideal production at all for the team’s 2012 seventh-round draft pick, who also has finished two seasons on injured reserve.
With Jay Bromley having shown signs of progression, it’s time to let the youngster compete for the snaps that Kuhn got.
K Josh Brown
Josh Brown, the Giants’ 35-year old kicker, had his best season in 2015, converting 93.8 percent of his field-goal attempts and taking a deep hold of the Giants record for consecutive field goals made (29).
Always one to take meticulous care of himself, there’s no reason why Brown can’t kick for another three years with the Giants, which just so happens to be what he told Bleacher Report he hopes to do.
CB Prince Amukamara
Despite the fact that Prince Amukamara has only made it through one 16-game season since turning pro, he’s shown signs of being a very capable cornerback, particularly in run support.
He’s also been solid in coverage, as teams have mostly thrown at him rather than test Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Last year before suffering his injury, Amukamara finished with an NFL rating of 85 or less in three of his first five games, according to Pro Football Focus, and has a career passer rating of 84.2.
In 2014, he didn’t allow a touchdown reception; this season, two of the three touchdowns he allowed happened after he returned from his injury.
The bottom line with Amukamara, though, is his injury history. He’s probably not worth the same type of coin Rodgers-Cromartie received, and it is probably a stretch to put Amukamara in the top tier of NFL cornerbacks. However, he’s still very productive and still young—he’ll turn 27 this year—and is approaching his prime years.
With the Giants already having several holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball, letting one of their starting cornerbacks go doesn’t make much sense.
Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.
Follow me on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.