The Giants and Jets have taken different roads this offseason in rebuilding their respective rosters, mainly due to an abundance of salary cap space for one (Big Blue), and a lack of funds and defections for the other (Gang Green).
Both franchises will look different when the 2016-17 season kicks off, with the Giants’ facelift considerably different – especially on the defensive side of the ball. While Giants general manager Jerry Reese cannonballed his way into the free agency pool during the opening week, Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan made subtle ripples in replenishing his running back stable by adding Matt Forte and Khiry Robinson to the mix – while also re-signing valued dual-threat running back Bilal Powell. Those moves definitely offset the loss of Chris Ivory, who took more money to join the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Reese, though, has been able to make bigger splashes because he entered the free agent frenzy with over $56 million to reconstruct his roster – which allowed him to dole out over $200 million in total salaries on his defense alone.
The Giants likely overpaid for a few of those needs, but it was a necessary evil to splurge on a defensive end who’s never made a Pro Bowl (Olivier Vernon), a nose tackle who basically plays two downs (Damon Harrison), and a cornerback who admitted that his effort wasn’t always there during his tenure in St. Louis (Janoris Jenkins).
That’s three of the top-seven offseason signees in regards to guaranteed money, as Vernon will receive $52.5 million guaranteed, Harrison will net $24 million, and Jenkins $28.8 million.
And as absurd as those numbers are, the Giants aren’t done spending. Reese is still armed with over $24 million in cap space, and with the blessing of his boss, team owner John Mara, Reese has been encouraged to spend whatever is necessary to get the Giants back in playoff contention.
Look for the Giants to still address safety help opposite Landon Collins, as the remaining bodies only include Craig Dahl, Nat Berhe, Mykkele Thompson, and Cooper Taylor. Linebacker and wide receiver depth will also be addressed – especially the wideouts, with the thought being Rueben Randle has likely played his final game in a Giants uniform and Victor Cruz’s health is the great unknown.
The best available names at safety include Dashon Goldson, William Moore, Reggie Nelson, and Louis Delmas. All could be brought aboard at a reasonable price, and all have good pedigree to help the younger safeties on the roster.
Curtis Lofton, Chad Greenway, DeMeco Ryans, and Karlos Dansby all are available veteran help at linebacker, while the unsigned wideouts include Andre Johnson, Marques Colston, Anquan Boldin, Roddy White, and Dwayne Bowe. The linebacking unit could use more flexibility, as all the above can play multiple positions.
As for the available wideouts, all are past their primes, but are cost-effective help. Percy Harvin is also a free agent, but Mara has already said he wants “clean” players added, meaning no one with major injury histories, as the Giants have been snakebitten in that department.
The Jets, though, don’t have the luxury of splurging, even for older talent. Aside from adding the perennial Pro Bowler Forte, Maccagnan’s moves were more understated, and it’ll have to remain that way, as they have roughly $3 million remaining in cap space. But that doesn’t mean the second-year general manage can’t be creative and sign bargain-basement help.
Gang Green still needs to figure out what to do with unsigned signal caller Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is coming off a career year and seeking franchise-quarterback level money. Maccagnan has already acknowledged the two sides are at a stalemate, which means someone is going to have to blink first, or the Jets will have to move on and entrust the quarterbacking role to either Geno Smith or the untested Bryce Petty.
Jets fans surely would rather have Fitzpatrick back in that slot, but Maccagnan could definitely find cheap help to bolster the position’s depth. The available talent remaining in the free agent pool isn’t much to ring in the confidence, as aside from Robert Griffin III – who is reportedly close to signing with the Browns — there’s not much out there. Names like Josh Freeman, Ryan Lindley, Brandon Weeden, Johnny Manziel, T.J. Yates, Jimmy Clausen, and Michael Vick doesn’t help the Jets’ leverage, so it’s seemingly a matter of time before Fitzpatrick’s camp and the Jets come to an agreement.
In the meantime, Gang Green can focus on adding bits and pieces to a fluid defensive roster. They’ve already added veteran help on the defensive line (6-foot-7, 348-pound Steve McLendon and 6-foot-4, 315-pound Jarvis Jenkins), but will need to address help at linebacker following the defection of Demario Davis to Cleveland, and the secondary as well, after releasing cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
The Jets entered free agency with 23 free agents and 13 remain available, which means Maccagnan’s crew will need to be very savvy in filling in the gaps if they want to remain competitive in an improving AFC East.