John Fennelly, Lead WriterTwo days into free agency, the Giants are on their way to filling the many gaping holes left behind after their disappointing 7-9 2013 campaign. So where do they stand right now and what can we expect them to do next in free agency?
Thus far, GM Jerry Reese has followed John Mara’s directive to fix the “broken” offense. In the first two days of free agency, Reese has signed a massive offensive lineman in Geoff Schwartz and a dynamic RB in Rashad Jennings.
This is on top of several other recent moves and decisions made by Reese. He revamped the offensive coaching staff and set his priorities early on: moving on from C David Baas and TE Brandon Myers; Jon Conner over Henry Hynoski at FB; retaining RB Peyton Hillis and shedding the team of the unhappy Hakeem Nicks.
But there is more to do. The clamoring to upheave the offensive line has become a bit of a parlor game. Schwartz and Justin Pugh are the current constants. Will Beatty, Chris Snee and the vacant center spot are the variables.
The Giants signed a center yesterday: former Bronco JD Walton, who is more of a reclamation project than anything else. Rams OG Shelley Smith came in for a visit yesterday and could be a possible add down the road.
Any upgrade on the offensive line, especially at center and backup tackle. All the top centers are still available. Evan Dietrich-Smith, Brian De La Puente and Ryan Wendell remain unsigned. Alex Mack has a transition tag on him, but a clever team can still make a play to pry him away from Cleveland.
The tackle market is thin this season. Best bet is to grab one in the draft. The Giants, at 12, may be able to land Michigan’s Taylor Lewan. Securing a top center and then Lewan would put most of their o-line fears to bed.
TE is still wide open. The Giants expressed interest in Green Bay’s Andrew Quarless, but had not made a public offer as of yesterday. Brandon Pettigrew and Jermichael Finley are also still out there.
They are in need of a fourth wide receiver. Jacoby Jones decided to stay with the Ravens, so he’s out. James Jones is still looking for a home, but the pickings are slim. The Giants could look backwards and bring back Domenik Hixon or Mario Manningham, but the draft is loaded with WRs this year, so they may be best served to look there.
They could also use a fourth RB. If there’s one thing we learned, it’s you can’t have enough depth after running out of bodies last year. It’s very possible David Wilson is healthy enough to play this year. If not, Andre Brown could be brought back should he go unsigned.
Reese is off and running after re-signing MLB Jon Beason, CB Trumaine McBride and S Stevie Brown. LBs Spencer Paysinger (RFA tender) and Mark Herzlich also have been retained.
DT Linval Joseph signed with Minnesota, S Ryan Mundy left for Chicago and LB Keith Rivers was signed by Buffalo.
DE Justin Tuck and CB Terrell Thomas visited the Raiders yesterday. Tuck, who was expected to be favoring a return to New York, stayed to hear all of the Raiders’ overtures over dinner (per Ralph Vacchiano). T2’s future is less certain.
You can never have enough corners in this business and currently the Giants are below the required minimum. Prince Amukamara, McBride, Jayron Hosley and Charles James are your depth chart. No good.
The Giants would like to get bigger, younger, faster, you get the picture. The market for CBs this season is outrageously high. The top names were snatched up quickly nonetheless. The Giants met with Tracy Porter, but their best bet is the draft and UDFA market.
If Tuck returns, DE is not as big an issue, but make no mistake, the Giants want to improve their pass rush. They wished for Arthur Jones, then whiffed on O’Brien Schofield. I don’t see Julius Peppers as a possibility since the Giants are looking for younger players this offseason. That being said, Robert Ayers might be a fit.
Joseph’s departure leaves a vacancy. They have Cullen Jenkins, Jon Hankins and Markus Kuhn all ready to go and can bring back Mike Patterson, if needed. The market right now is not an attractive one, so the Giants might be wise to see if the draft yields some candidates.
They always can use LBs. They have five, the three we mentioned above, Jacquian Williams and Allen Bradford but could always use an upgrade. If they had intended Schofield to be a LB, they may take a second look at him at what will now be a fraction of what they were originally willing to pay. Jameel McClain, who visited the Giants last week, is still available.
Stevie Brown gives the Giants a fourth safety. Antrel Rolle, Will Hill and Cooper Taylor are the others. I don’t see them bringing in another via free agency.
K Josh Brown is back on a two-year deal. P Steve Weatherford took a pay cut to stay in the team’s good graces. LS Zak DeOssie appears to be a Giant lifer.
The openings are in the returner positions. Jacoby Jones would have filled the bill, but it wasn’t meant to be. If David Wilson is healthy, he can resume his kickoff duties since he won’t be the featured back any longer no matter what the circumstances are.
If Wilson cannot start the season, the Giants may look at Ted Ginn, Jr. or even Devin Hester or Josh Cribbs. An inexpensive option could be Oakland’s Jacoby Ford, a former star at Clemson who is only 26.