Giants Free Agency Report Card
Given the entire sports world is on shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, NFL free agency gave fans something to talk about during this time of uncertainty. The New York Giants entered the 2020 league year with tons of cap space, and while they didn’t add the big names on the market (due to them all getting franchise and transition tagged), they did bring in a bevy of players. And I mean a lot of players.
With free agency slowing down a bit, I’ll take a look at each one of general manager Dave Gettleman’s signings and attach a grade to the transactions.
DT Leonard Williams
This signing didn’t come as a shock to many. Given that Gettleman surrendered their 2020 third and fifth-round picks to the New York Jets to secure Williams. He simply had to resign him. Both parties couldn’t work out the logistics of an extension, so the Giants officially placed the franchise tag on Williams, for a whopping $16.1 million.
It’s a huge price to pay, but for the sake of their draft capital, it had to be done. Granted, it was a questionable move from the start, but Williams performed admirably in a Giants uniform last year. But, as was the case during his time with the Jets, Williams could never get to the quarterback. He was always “just close.”
Either way, maybe a full season under a new regime could do Williams wonders.
CB James Bradberry
This is the move the Giants needed to make. New York had the youngest secondary in the league last season, and it showed performance-wise. With Janoris Jenkins waived last season, the Giants had to add a veteran cornerback on the open market.
So, Gettleman looked through his “Carolina Panthers rolodex” and signed James Bradberry to a three-year, $45 million contract ($31.8 million guaranteed). This isn’t the prototypical Panthers addition to New York (i.e. Jonathan Stewart). Bradberry is a physical corner who played against three of the top receivers in the game twice a year: Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, and Mike Evans. And if you look at their statistics last season, you can see that Bradberry effectively shut them down, limiting all three to a single touchdown (Thomas).
Oh, and Bradberry is only 26-years-old. The investment is worth it.
LB Blake Martinez
The Giants had to address their linebackers corps, due to their ineffectiveness last season. Alec Ogletree is gone, and his replacement is now Blake Martinez, formerly of the Green Bay Packers. The Giants locked in Martinez to a three-year, $30.75 million ($19 million guaranteed, which many called a slight overpayment, considering what Cory Littleton got from the Las Vegas Raiders. But, that’s the price to pay for a starting inside linebacker.
Martinez was lauded for his leadership, but more importantly, he’s a tackling machine. In fact, he’s recorded over 100 tackles in each of the past three seasons. While he can get after the ball carrier, he’s a bit of a liability in coverage. Even so, the Giants had to address the linebacker position, and Martinez was obviously their guy.
TE Levine Toilolo
The sudden retirement of Rhett Ellison left the Giants in a bind. They needed a blocking tight end. So, they looked to the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers, and signed Levine Toilolo to a two-year, $6.2 million ($3.25 million guaranteed) deal.
Toilolo is a massive human being, standing at 6-8 and weighing 268-pounds. That explains why the 49ers were one of the best rushing teams in the league last season. He doesn’t put up big receiving numbers, because that’s not his main priority. He’s a blocker that will greatly benefit Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley in 2020.
OT Cam Fleming
You had to expect the Giants would somehow, someway, get a hold of one of the offensive linemen from the Dallas Cowboys. New offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and offensive line coach Marc Colombo missed out on center Joe Looney, but they were able to bring in tackle Cam Fleming on a one-year, $4 million contract, who also has a connection with head coach Joe Judge during their time with the New England Patriots.
With Mike Remmers joining the Kansas City Chiefs, Fleming will fill in as the Giants’ starting right tackle (for now). Last season, Fleming played 134 snaps, and he only allowed 13 pressures.
LB Kyler Fackrell
The Giants continued to poach the Packers’ linebacker pipeline by securing Kyler Fackrell to a one-year, $4.6 million contract.
Fackrell lost playing time last season due to the additions of Za’Darius and Preston Smith, which explains his limited statistics. However, in 2018, Fackrell was a strong performer, where he recorded 42 tackles and a career-high 10.5 sacks. It’s important to note that Fackrell’s linebackers coach in 2018 was none other than Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Maybe Fackrell can become 2020’s version of Markus Golden.
ST Nate Ebner
It should come as no surprise that Judge brought in his best special teams player from New England in Nate Ebner.
The former Rugby star was a premier piece to Judge’s special teams unit from 2012-19, where recorded 98 tackles. Fun fact: Ebner has won a Super Bowl with the Patriots each time he was on the active roster. Ebner was inactive for Super Bowl LII, where New England lost to the Philadelphia Eagles.
QB Colt McCoy
The search for the Giants’ new veteran backup quarterback was an intriguing one. Reports indicated that New York was heavily targeting Matt Moore for the role, but the ex-Kansas City Chief turned down an offer. In response, the Giants signed former Washington Redskins signal caller Colt McCoy to a one-year, $2.5 million offer ($1.5 million guaranteed).
Since entering the NFL in 2010, McCoy went from starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, to a journeyman backup. McCoy only played in four games the past two seasons, where he threw for 494 yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions on a 64.2 completion percentage.
McCoy will likely win the backup job over Alex Tanney, but there’s no need to panic about this signing. He’s not meant to start games, because this is Daniel Jones’ team. Just have to hope that Jones stays healthy in 2020.
K Aldrick Rosas
Rosas is coming off a rather down season, especially when looking at his breakout campaign in 2018. Even so, the team still has confidence in the kicker, as they placed a second-round tender on him, worth $3.3 million.
Last year, Rosas made 12-of-17 field goal attempts, while successfully converting on 35-of-39 point after touchdowns. It’s highly doubtful anyone will match the offer and send a second-round pick to New York. Either way, this could be Rosas’ make-it or break-it season, considering Judge’s former kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, is now on the open market.
RB Dion Lewis
The Giants lacked a quality passing-downs running back on the roster since the team drafted Barkley. Now, the Giants won’t have to worry about putting too much on Barkley’s plate, as they brought in former New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans dual-threat back Dion Lewis on a one-year deal.
Lewis shined during his years with the Patriots, but once signing a huge deal with the Titans, Lewis’ role severely diminished due to the dominance of Derrick Henry. In his two seasons with the Titans, Lewis caught 84-of-99 targets for 564 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 726 yards and a score on 209 carries.
WR Corey Coleman
Coleman was expected to take on the No. 3 receiver role with the Giants in training camp. However, those plans came to a sudden end, as he suffered a torn ACL during team drills.
Even with a new coaching regime, the Giants opted to keep Coleman on a one-year contract. Coleman shined in his new role as complementary receiver, but really stuck out as a return man. Judge must’ve liked what he saw from the former 2016 first round pick on special teams, and opted to give him one more shot. Just don’t expect him to be a difference maker on offense.
WR/ST Cody Core
The Giants nabbed Cody Core off waivers at the start of last season, and it turned out to be a wise decision. Core made a name for himself on special teams, becoming their best player on the roster, where he recorded eight tackles.
Since Judge retained special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey, Core was bound to return with him.
DB Dravon Askew-Henry
In an unprecedented move, the Giants dipped their toes into the XFL market and reached a deal with a player. The Giants signed New York Guardians cornerback Dravon Askew-Henry to a two-year contract.
Askew-Henry played in five games with the Guardians this season, which was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. In that span, the cornerback recorded 12 tackles and six passes defensed. Football runs in his family, as Askew-Henry is the cousin of former New York Jets cornerback Darrell Revis.
Askew-Henry had a short stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers back in 2018, and joined the XFL to earn another shot in the NFL. Luckily for him, the Giants were willing to give him that opportunity.
DT Austin Johnson
In case you never caught on these past few years, I’m here to remind you that Gettleman LOVES his defensive tackles. Even with Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson, and BJ Hill on the roster, Gettleman added to the depth chart, signing former Tennessee Titan Austin Johnson.
Having spent four years in the NFL, the Galloway, N.J. native recorded 83 tackles, five quarterback hits, five passes defensed, and 2.5 sacks.
Johnson has a firm supporter on the coaching staff: defensive line coach Sean Spencer, who was Johnson’s position coach at Penn State. Even with the familiarity, it’s hard to envision Johnson be nothing more than a situational run stopper.
TE Eric Tomlinson
In their final transaction (as of now), the Giants brought back a familiar face in tight end Eric Tomlinson.
The Giants picked up Tomlinson last September after he was cut by the Jets. Tomlinson’s stint with the Giants lasted just three weeks, where he never saw the field. After being shown the door, Tomlinson bounced around to the Patriots and Oakland Raiders.
Jason Garrett likes to utilize as many tight ends in his offense as possible, so Tomlinson is now No. 6 on the depth chart. Don’t expect him to see extended playing time, however.
Overall, the Giants did as much as they could in terms of the amount of positional needs they had entering the new league year. The moves Gettlman and Co. made were good as a whole, with Bradberry sticking out as the best signing of the offseason. Now, it’s onto the NFL Draft to really improve the team.
Overall Grade: B-
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