On a day when the Giants came to an agreement with no fewer than five free agents, no addition will be causing as much buzz as running back Shane Vereen. Expected to sign a four-year deal with the team, the 26-year-old former New England Patriot brings a receiving threat out of the backfield that will provide a major lift for Eli Manning.
Taken in the second round of the 2011 draft, Vereen has been a fixture the past two seasons in New England’s deep running back stable, carving his niche as the group’s premier receiving threat. Vereen has hauled in 99 receptions the past two seasons and made a lasting impression in his final game as a Patriot when he led the Super Bowl winners with 11 receptions. The new signing also happened to lead the Patriots in carries this past season, albeit with a meager total of 96. Make no mistake, the Giants targeted Vereen for one reason.
The addition of Vereen makes it back-to-back years the Giants have signed a veteran running back to a long-term deal. Rashad Jennings, the key running back free agent last year, had a mixed first season in New York as injuries and an ineffective offensive line slowed his production. Additionally drafting Andre Williams in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, the Giants had built for last season a running back stable with size and power but lacking style and grace. Quick and smaller sized at 5-foot-10, 206 pounds and with receiving skills that will make Giants fans forget about Andre Williams’ struggles in that area; Vereen certainly fits the mold of a missing piece in the team’s running back stable.
The signing also signals the next logical step in the evolution of the Giants offense under Ben McAdoo. Eli Manning has his new number one receiver in Odell Beckham Jr., but Manning must have a deeper core of targets in order to continue improving. The hope is a combination of a healthy Victor Cruz and improving Rueben Randle will assist in creating receiver depth the Giants lacked throughout 2014, but that is just a start. A running back with legitimate pass catching skills is a major piece of any strong West Coast Offense. While Jennings is a competent pass catcher, the group lacks a true specialist that has to be accounted for as a receiver coming out of the backfield. With an established young player like Vereen now in the fold, the Giants have their man.