The New York Giants have had a quiet but successful offseason thus far. Their efforts in free agency may not have wowed a lot of people. Still, there should be little question as to whether or not the team will be better in 2015.
The moves were not flashy by any means. Not a single “big name” player was added, but perhaps general manager Jerry Reese deserves more credit for the work he’s done over the past two years to rebuild a championship caliber club.
Here’s a look at the additions and subtractions the Giants have made in free agency and how those moves grade out...
All things quiet on this front, and that’s a good thing. The Giants are set at quarterback for the foreseeable future with Eli Manning and backup Ryan Nassib in tow. Don’t be surprised if the G-Men restructure and extend Manning’s deal sometime this offseason, however.
The Giants’ backfield has been an issue for a few years now, but adding Shane Vereen may have given Manning and the offense the potent weapon they’ve been in search for. Vereen isn’t an elite back by any means, but he’s a superb receiver unlike Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. Knowing the punishment running backs take, you can never have too many on the roster. The trio will likely split carries, but Vereen could be a game changer in Ben McAdoo’s West Coast offense.
Retaining fullback Henry Hynoski’s services was also vital. He ranked as Pro Football Focus’ second-best fullback, mostly due to his abilities as a blocker in pass and run situations.
Thanks to the breakout rookie season of Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants are actually pretty comfortable at receiver. That is, assuming Victor Cruz can return to form once he’s back to full health. After a slow start, Rueben Randle has proven he can be a viable No. 2 or No. 3 option with little issue spelling Beckham and Cruz if both are blanketed well.
The loss of Jerrel Jernigan will hardly go noticed, especially since the signing of Dwayne Harris will compensate for what Jernigan could never be and more. Harris is a return specialist who will compete for a gig returning kicks and punts that has been one of the Giants’ greatest weaknesses through Tom Coughlin’s head coaching tenure. Harris will hopefully enable the G-Men to remove Beckham from the risk of returning kicks. His playmaking abilities make him much too valuable to risk on special teams.
The market wasn’t strong, so there was little the Giants could do to bolster their group of tight ends. Re-signing Daniel Fells provides stability, but he’s not a game changer, or even a potential starter. They will need to look for answers in the draft, because it didn’t appear that Larry Donnell was a long-term fix at the position last season after a hot start.
Subtractions:James Brewer (Jets), Adam Snyder
The Giants’ need to improve along the offensive line, but there wasn’t much they could do through free agency. They added Marshall Newhouse, a former starting tackle for the Packers while McAdoo was in Green Bay. In New York, he’s more likely to be reliable depth versatile enough for fill in at either tackle or guard slot.
Additions:Kenrick Ellis, George Selvie
Of all the problems the Giants do have, the defensive line isn’t really one of them. With new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo in town, the G-Men are betting on his scheme to generate pressure with the talent they already have. Still, they went out and improved by adding the big defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis and defensive end George Selvie, who was a former teammate of Jason Pierre-Paul’s at USF.
Both men should add quality depth to the defensive rotation up front. With JPP, Cullen Jenkins, Johnathan Hankins, Robert Ayers and Damontre Moore also on the roster, the G-Men could boast a rather formidable defensive line in 2015.
Additions:Jonathan Casillas, J.T. Thomas
Subtractions:Jacquian Williams, Spencer Paysinger
The Giants’ additions of linebackers Jonathan Casillas and J.T. Thomas were the team’s most underrated moves thus far this offseason. A substantially improved player since moving to the outside, Thomas might just be the defense’s starting weakside linebacker. Meanwhile, Casillas’ undersized frame and athleticism could make him a great fit as a nickel linebacker or third safety in certain packages for Spagnuolo.
Perhaps the biggest move at linebacker was re-signing Mark Herzlich. His presence alone is a value on the team’s sideline. His abilities against the run and on special teams make him an asset the franchise would have been foolish to part with.
Subtractions:Walter Thurmond III (Eagles), Zackary Bowman
If the Giants’ lose Zackary Bowman, it would be one of the most detrimental losses of the offseason for them. That’s a positive statement about this offseason but also reason for concern when it comes to New York’s oft-injured secondary.
Bowman wasn’t great by any means in 2014. In fact, he was the team’s second-worst cornerback in front of just Chykie Brown (who the G-Men re-signed). Coupled with the loss of Walter Thurmond III, the Giants’ cornerbacks group is in trouble. They have a solid trio in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara and Trumaine McBride, but the latter two had their season cut short due to injury. Who’s to say that won’t happen again?
In a pass-happy NFL, a team requires a sturdy secondary to be successful. Right now, it’s difficult to gauge whether or not the Giants have that, but losing two key players in Thurmond and Bowman didn’t help.
Subtractions:Antrel Rolle (Bears), Stevie Brown, Quintin Demps
The G-Men decided to let the veteran Antrel Rolle walk and have yet to sign Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps, meaning the three men who held down the deep half of the field last season no longer wear Giants blue.
Both starters gone means the Giants will have to find replacements through free agency, the draft or in house. What they plan to do remains to be seen, so until the massive voids in their defensive backfield have been filled, it’s tough to be positive about Big Blue’s lack of activity in addressing their safeties issue.