by Brendan Ripley-Barasch
NFL free agency opened on March 9th at 4 p.m. and there were a number of teams ready to give out money to the top players on the market. The three teams with most cap space at the start of free agency were the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Oakland Raiders, and the New York Giants. This post is looking at the New York Giants and their record-setting free agent spending spree and whether it was worth it.
On the first day of free agency the Giants signed three top defensive players. This past season New York was absolutely awful on the defensive side of the ball and with $56 million to spend in free agency, fans were hoping and expecting their team to address this issue. They certainly did that by signing Janoris Jenkins, Damon Harrison and Oliver Vernon. The Giants started by signing former Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins to a five-year deal worth $62.5M with $28.8M guaranteed. The team opted to let their current starting corner, Prince Amukamara walk away. This decision was made simply because they believed Jenkins was a better option moving forward, but is it worth making him the second highest paid corner in the league? It remains to be seen if this investment will pay off in the long run but they certainly seem committed to Jenkins for the future.
The New York Giants second signing of the day was for former Jets DT Damon “Snacks” Harrison. The deal was worth $46.25M with $24M guaranteed, in my opinion this was a great signing for the team because what organization in their right mind wouldn’t want a 350 pound brick wall in the middle of the D-line?
The biggest signing of the day for New York and the rest of the league came when the Giants locked up former Dolphins DE Olivier Vernon. This lucrative deal was for five years and worth $85M with $52.5M guaranteed. Many saw this deal and quickly stated that the team overspent for this player. With the salary cap at a record amount, overspending is necessary when trying to fix a team quickly. An article from The Washington Post titled The Giants’ wild free-agent spending spree. History suggests it won’t pay off discusses why the Giants were giving out these insane contracts. The article has a quote from former Browns General Manager Phil Savage, he says, “They were very porous on defense. There was not a single difference-maker who could close out a game with a sack or an interception or a pass breakup. When you get the green light, this is what you see done.” This quote supports New York’s strategy and shows that a knowledgeable NFL mind agrees with what they are doing.
Jerry Reese, General Manager of the New York Giants was on the hot seat this past offseason with fans calling for his head. He was ultimately kept on board, Giants management showed they trusted him moving on. Reese certainly operated free agency like a man set on keeping his job. With the salary cap ballooning to $155.27 million and having $56 million to spend, the time was certainly right to splurge. In an article titled Giants free agency 2016: What others are saying about massive spending spree, writer Ed Valentine talks about Reese and the way he operated free agency this offseason. In the article, Valentine writes, “Reese rushed at free agency the way Lawrence Taylor rushed the quarterback, and recorded the most important sack of his career at a time when he was put on notice by his bosses.” A comparison between Jerry Reese and Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor is certainly and odd one but in this case it works perfectly.
Another notable signing came when the team re-signed DE Jason Pierre-Paul. The deal was for one year and worth $10.5M with $8.5M guaranteed.
The Giants may have overspent a bit in this free agency period but desperate times call for desperate measures, and when the past four years have been filled with nothing but dread it was certainly warranted. Only time can tell if these deals will be worth it but the Giants certainly improved their roster, defense in particular. The 2016 NFL Draft is still on the horizon and with the 10th overall pick, New York can further improve their team. Giants fans can only hope that with these signings their team will succeed in years to come and not end up like teams in the past who also gave out loads of money like the Eagles in 2011 when they assembled the self-proclaimed “dream team.”