The first couple of days of the free-agent frenzy featured historical dealings and trades – with the opening 24 hours alone accruing 46 official signings that tallied $375.975 million in guarantees and $827.57 million in total values.
The New York Giants, however, as per their custom, stayed away from making the mega-splashes that even their MetLife neighbor New York Jets like to make. While the “other” New York franchise was busy trading for Brandon Marshall and signing Darrell Revis, Big Blue focused on making secondary signings to fill up their depth chart.
The Jets have been acting like great white sharks, while the Giants are essentially becoming the epitome of bottom feeders. None of the players that Big Blue recently signed will be opening day starters – but if they are, the team is in trouble. But with the signings of running back Shane Vereen (Patriots), linebackers J.T. Thomas (Jaguars) and Jonathan Casillas (Patriots), offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse (Bengals), and receiver/kick returner Dwayne Harris (Cowboys), the Giants have filled holes that will eventually prove to be important in the grand scheme of things.
The Giants’ offensive line was atrocious last season – either through injury or lack of ability – so to add a former starter like Newhouse to push the current starters is a savvy move by general manager Jerry Reese. Newhouse was once a starter in Green Bay, but was most recently a very solid swing tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals last season. Justin Pugh is the current starter at right tackle, and a very good one, but left tackle Will Beatty has struggled since signing his big contract two seasons ago. Newhouse will definitely increase the depth at the tackle spot.
The rushing attack was inconsistent at best last season. And even though Vereen isn’t considered a pure running back, he’s a better between-the-tackles runner than people think, and arguably the best receiving running back in the league – as his 11-catch Super Bowl performance displayed.
Both Casillas and Thomas offer very good open-field tacklers and depth along their unit and special teams.
Likewise for Harris, who played in all 16 games last season and averaged 24.7 yards on 30 kickoff returns (12th in the NFL), and 9.2 yards on 30 punt returns (tied for ninth). He also led the Cowboys with 12 special teams tackles (10 solo).
Reese noted that “Harris is a well-kept secret to a lot of people, except the teams in NFC East … He is one of the top all-around special teams players in league and a solid third or fourth receiving option.”
The recent transactions have been too good a buy that the general manager couldn’t pass. And look for that to continue going forward for the Giants.
The recent signings shouldn’t be a shock to Giants’ fans, though, as Reese’s modus operandi has always been to get as many bargain-basement veterans as possible. It might not have worked I recent years, but that route has at least provided Giants’ fans with two rings in the last seven season.
And even with the increased salary cap of $143 million, this course was to be expected – especially since the Giants’ cap space is among the lowest remaining, at roughly $6 million. Only two teams – the Chiefs and Saints – have less wiggle room within the cap constraints.
So, while the other teams in the NFC East and around the league continue to delve deep into their salary cap excess, Big Blue backers will need to stay patient as Reese tries to work his magic, because he wouldn’t be able to splurge even if he wanted.
Big Blue notes:
- Linebacker Jon Beason took a pay cut from $7.4 million to $4.2.
- Casillas, a native of New Jersey, was born in Jersey City and attended New Brunswick High School. He’s a two-time Super Bowl champion -- New Orleans in his rookie year (2009) and with the Patriots last season.
- According to sources, the Giants appeared to have moved on from re-signing linebacker Jacquian Williams, cornerback Jayron Hosley, defensive tackle Markus Kuhn, and offensive tackle Brandon Mosley.
- The Giants will still have to deal with last season’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, as he will reportedly jump ship from the Cowboys to the Eagles.
- Former Giants safety Antrel Rolle will sign with the Chicago Bears.