Free Agent Signings
The Giants didn’t make a huge “splash” this spring, but they did bring in a number of talented players who will make them a stronger team in 2015. The most attention was devoted to Shane Vereen, who has been a key part of New England’s offense for the past three seasons. As a pass-catching specialist who can also run the ball from scrimmage, Vereen will balance out a Giants running game that already features the rumbling Andre Williams and the injury-prone Rashad Jennings.
The defense also got some upgrades with the additions of George Selvie, Kenrick Ellis, and Jonathan Casillas. None of those guys are star players, but they can make plays and provide depth at key positions. Selvie will help a pass rush that didn’t pressure the quarterback consistently in 2015, while Ellis should add some oomph to the interior line that saw Jonathan Hankins become a breakout star last year. Casillas is a quick linebacker who can cover opposing halfbacks in the passing game.
Perhaps the most important addition the Giants made, though, was applying the Franchise Tag to Jason Pierre-Paul. The veteran defensive end had suffered through two straight lackluster seasons with the Giants since his breakout 2011 campaign, but in 2014 Pierre-Paul showed that he was back to being a top pass rusher. He registered 12.5 sacks while improving his run defense to become New York’s top defensive player.
It would have been nice to see general manager Jerry Reese import some help for the secondary, but he did a nice job finding values in other areas.
Free Agent Departures
It’s going to be tough for Big Blue fans to shed a tear over any of the guys leaving the team this offseason. Antrel Rolle is the biggest name who is departing, but his pass coverage left much to be desired in 2014. The Giants will be better off investing his money in younger players. Likewise, Quintin Demps and Stevie Brown are leaving a safety corps that the front office should be eager to rebuild with higher upside performers.
Other departures like Peyton Hillis, Jerrel Jernigan, and Mathias Kiwanuka are players who didn’t have a big impact last season. Even though Kiwanuka won a pair of Super Bowls with the Giants and is one of their longest-tenured players, it was time for the player and team to part ways given the former’s declining performance. Zack Bowman leaving could have an underrated impact on a Giants team that depended a lot on the veteran cornerback in 2014, but if Prince Amukamara is able to stay healthy next year, the secondary will improve anyway.
The Giants let some expensive veterans go and maintained most of their impact players.
The two biggest areas that are still holes for the Giants are secondary and offensive line. Although Marshall Newhouse was imported to beef up the line, the Giants can choose Iowa’s Brandon Schreff with their ninth-overall draft pick to add both upside and versatility to the unit. Schreff would immediately compete for a starting guard spot in training camp with the possibility of him moving outside to tackle if things go well.
As for the secondary, the Giants are likely losing three safeties in free agency. There are other options on the roster, but recent draft picks Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe are both green and unproven. Perhaps reaching for Landon Collins out of Alabama in the first round could inject some athleticism and intimidation into a secondary that struggled to contain opposing tight ends in 2014.