Is Big Blue Back? New York Giants Select Free Agents
Is Big Blue back? Using an unusually forceful approach, the New York Giants have significantly aided their 2014 roster through free agency.
The roles these free agents will play next season are still up for discussion. In the coming months, they will go through OTAs, training camp and, eventually, the preseason before their regular-season roles are determined. There’s also a draft between now and then that could further change things.
Looking ahead, however, we can make projections about these new Giants. Based on their past production with former teams and where they fit into the cast of returning Giants at their respective positions, we can make an educated guess about their potential production in 2014.
I will go through the list of the signings and rank them from 10-1; 10 being the least impactful and 1 being the most. All the acquisitions have something to prove and they will want to maximize their talents for Big Blue this fall.
10. S Quintin Demps: The G-Men focused a great deal on improving their secondary and this signing proves just that. Last season, Demps started six games at free safety with the Kansas City Chiefs.
With the Giants, Demps was signed for depth. His six starts in 2013 aside, the 28-year-old failed to record a single start with either the Philadelphia Eagles (2008-09) or the Houston Texans (2010-12). New York is returning last year’s starting tandem, 2013 Pro Bowler Antrel Rolle and rising star Will Hill, along with Stevie Brown, who is recovering from an ACL tear after an eight-interception season in 2012.
Demps also has experience as a return specialist. Although the Giants also signed explosive return man Trindon Holliday, Demps still expects to see some of that duty. Demps has accumulated 2,630 kick return yards and two touchdowns in his six years as a pro.
Brought in on just a one-year deal worth $1 million, nothing groundbreaking is expected of Demps in 2014.
9. OL John Jerry: Another area of concern heading into this free-agency was the offensive line. One man, who is expected to contribute to the turnaround, is former Miami Dolphins guard John Jerry.
The Giants are taking a considerable risk by bringing in Jerry. His name, along with Richie Incognito’s and Mike Pouncey’s, was blemished by Ted Wells’ bullying scandal report. He has also had issues maintaining his weight in the past. Before the Giants made a move for him, it was uncertain if any of the NFL’s 32 teams would be willing to sign Jerry.
However, considering the shape New York’s offensive line was in by the end of the 2013 season, it made sense to bring in Jerry on a one-year contract. There is very little risk involved, and the Giants are receiving a player who has started all 16 games in each of the past two seasons.
8. LB Jameel McClain: The Giants can usually afford an upgrade at linebacker, and they may have accomplished that with the signing of this former Baltimore Raven.
McClain, 28, played six seasons in Baltimore, five of which were alongside future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis; together, they won Super Bowl XLVII. He now joins the Giants defense, which features several players with Super Bowl experience of their own.
With the Ravens, McClain became a full-time starter in 2010. Most of his experience is on the weak side, but with Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams now entering year four of a competition at weak side duties, McClain projects to start on the strong side.
7. WR Mario Manningham: This familiar face returns to the Big Apple after spending the last two seasons with the 49ers. The Giants selected Manningham in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft (95 overall), but his ability to stretch the field never translated into sustainable production. Both of his seasons by the Bay were hampered by knee issues stemming from a multi-ligament tear in 2012.
Due to the knee concerns, New York signed Manningham to just a one-year deal worth $795,000. It’s unlikely he reaches his original draft-day potential in his second go-round with the Giants, but he does add depth to a WR unit that lost Hakeem Nicks to the Colts.
6. CB Walter Thurmond: In the Giants’ rush to land quality defensive backs, former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond now finds himself in New York.
Seattle’s dominant defensive backfield of 2013 was well documented, but Thurmond was not one of the highly touted members. He started in just three games, missing four to a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. If he stays on the straight and narrow with the Giants, Thurmond could prove to be one of the best signings of 2014. 5’11” and 190 pounds, Thurmond has both the size and strength to play on the outside, as well as the athleticism to excel in the slot.
That’s good news for New York.
5. KR Trindon Holliday: New York has seen the effects of what a dangerous return man can do. (i.e. Desean Jackson) So, they went out and signed one of their own. Holliday is one of the most feared return specialists in the league; he was a sixth-round selection by the Houston Texans in 2011, the 5’5″, 170-pound Holliday didn’t truly catch on until he was waived and signed to the Denver Broncos early in the 2012 season. Since then, Holliday has recorded six total return touchdowns, including a punt and kick return touchdown in the 2012 divisional playoffs.
The Giants have lacked an elite threat on returns for some time now, and the speedy Holliday is just the type to pump some life back into the New York’s special teams. He will make a difference whenever he is on the field.
4. C J.D. Walton: When the Giants signed former Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins center J.D. Walton, few anticipated he would be the Giants’ starting solution. However, when the details of Walton’s contract arose, two years, $5 million ($3 million guaranteed), it was apparent that the Giants were serious about the 27-year-old’s ability to start if needed. If healthy, there’s no question he can do it; Walton has started all 36 of the games he has played in since his rookie year.
3. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: The Giants’ signing of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was their flashiest of this free-agency. DRC will cost the Giants $39 million over the next five years.
It will be money well spent, as Rodgers-Cromartie finds himself opposite Prince Amukamara; he will be able to excel because he has another corner on the opposite side that will perform well. The Giants are assembling the makings of a potential dominant defensive backfield, as there’s no way Rodgers-Cromartie finds himself outside of the starting lineup.
2. OL Geoff Schwartz: The Giants’ biggest move made to improve the offensive line was the signing of former Kansas City Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz. After three consecutive offseasons spent as an unrestricted free agent, Schwartz finally landed a long-term deal with the Giants in 2014.
Schwartz’s services are not coming cheap. They should be well worth the expense, though, as the Giants are receiving a massive, battle-tested lineman that should be formidable in both pass protection and run-blocking.
Schwartz should be the Giants’ most reliable offensive lineman in 2014.
1. RB Rashad Jennings: The most impactful free-agency signing of 2014 will prove to be former Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars running back Rashad Jennings.
The Giants had absolutely no consistency at running back last season, and, often times, the lack of a solid back left quarterback Eli Manning feeling very lonesome in the offensive backfield. It showed in his career-high sack (39) and interception (27) numbers set in 2013. With the addition of Jennings, this year will be different. Jennings is not a flamboyant runner, but he is an effective one. Expected to be the team’s featured back, Jennings will get more exposure than he ever did behind Maurice Jones-Drew or Darren McFadden in Jacksonville and Oakland, respectively. The 28-year-old former seventh-round selection has minimal wear and tear from his five seasons as a backup.
Jennings will be a valuable piece in the Giants offense whose contributions will go beyond the stat sheet, making him the most impactful free-agent signing of 2014.
This team still has position needs, most glaring TE and DL, but both needs will be addressed in the upcoming draft. As seen by all the signings above, the Giants had a serious lack of talent that needed to be addressed and the front office has attacked those issues head on.
More analysis of this team will come as they ready themselves for a draft that has some serious talent in it. There is certainly work that needs to be done, but the G-Men are headed in the right direction as they try to get back to the top of the NFL Mountain.
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