As NFL free agency is set to spring into full action in just under three weeks, teams have already begun the process of re-signing their own free agents. Contracts with high end players are slower to come together as agents try to squeeze every dime out of the franchise, and general managers hold the threat of the franchise tag over the head of the impending free agent, guaranteeing him big money, but only for one season. Lesser quality players weight the option of leaving a team where the coaches know them, fans often appreciate and follow them on social media, and they are familiar with the system. In late April, hundreds of young, eager, inexpensive players will flood the NFL, hungry to steal roster spots from higher priced veterans. As goes the life cycle of a player in the National Football League.
Jerry Reese has already re-signed two impending Giants free agents, one known to be a veteran minimum salary and other likely for the same. Wide Receiver Kevin Ogletree is a six year NFL veteran who has played for four team in his career. He was average on special teams for the Giants in 2014, and caught 5 of 9 passes for 50 yards and no touchdowns. His performance, as measured by profootballfocus.com, improved during his time with the team, and the coaches saw enough to want him back to compete for a roster spot. It was a smart move to bring back a veteran player who has shown he can still improve his game.
Dallas Reynolds is 6’4″, 314 lbs offensive lineman entering his fifth NFL season, and third with the Giants. a versatile interior lineman, Reynolds can play both guard and center. A better run blocker than pass protector, Reynolds was average in both areas, registered no starts in 2014, but improved as blocker across the board from 2013. He is also a solid special teams performer, Reynolds will be a long shot to make team if Canadian Football League superstar successfully assimilates to the American style of play. Bringing Reynolds back to compete was a good move by the team. The only restricted free agent on the Giants, the team will not need to worry about making tender offers prior to the March 10th deadline.
With Ogletree and Reynolds signed, that leaves the Giants with 20 unsigned players to address. We will take a look at each, their 2014 performance, and make a recommendation for the team to re-sign or allow them to test the free agent market.
The Defensive Starters:
Jason Pierre-Paul, 26, DE, 6’5″, 278 lbs, 6th season: Pierre-Paul is the diamond of the Giants free agency class. Twice registering double digit sack seasons, in 2011 and 2014, Pierre-Paul suffered through two injury plagued years in between and seemed destined to be allowed to walk until he sacked opposing quarterbacks 8 times in the last 6 games of the 2014 season. Critics will point out that many of those sacks came against the dregs of the NFL, however, one also needs to consider that Pierre-Paul suffered a neck injury in the season opener against Detroit and, despite playing through it, was the Giants only consistent run defender. A neck injury impact a man’s mind as well as his body, and it appears that it took half the season for the effects to wear off for Pierre-Paul. At his press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Tom Coughlin said the Giants want Pierre-Paul back “Without a Doubt” and that the goal it to have him retire as a Giants. There have been rumors that if a long term deal cannot be worked out, the Giants will not only slap a franchise tag on the defensive end, but it will be the exclusive rights version, preventing him from even talking to other teams. Both sides hope to work out a long term deal, and Giants360 wholly supports his re-signing. Decision: Re-Sign
The exclusive rights franchise tag pays the player the average of the top 5 current season contracts at his position, as opposed to the non-exclusive version that only bases the contract on the top 5 from the prior year. The difference in 2014 was approximately $2 million dollars and the exclusive tag would be in the neighborhood of $15 million per year, while the non-exclusive $13 million. A long term deal would better allow the Giants to field a complete roster.
Antrel Rolle, S, 32, 6′, 206 lbs, 10th season: As discussed in an article available on giants360.com, Rolle’s play slipped considerably in 2014. Despite his locker room leadership, there are other options available at safety and Rolle should be allowed to test the market. If he is brought back, it should be for no more than the veteran minimum. Rolle started all 16 games last season. Coughlin supported these assertions at today’s press conference when he said he’s like Rolle back, but there are “Financial restrictions.” Decision: Test the Market
Jacquian Williams, OLB, 26, 6’3″, 224 lbs, 5th season: Williams started 9 games last season before suffering a concussion that kept him out of the lineup for multiple weeks before ultimately putting him on injured reserve. He is an average to below average linebacker that always flashes ability in training camp. Williams is a poor special teams performer as well, and it’s time for the Giants to move on from him. Decision: Test the Market
Mike Patterson, DT, 31, 6’1″, 300 lbs, 10th season: Patterson was signed in 2013 to be a big body to clog the middle of the field and wound up starting 8 games for the Giants in 2014. He was poor against both the pass and the run as 9 seasons in the NFL trenches appears to have caught up with the big man. It it probably time for him to retire. Decision: Test the Market
Stevie Brown, S, 27, 5’11”, 221 lbs, 5th season: Another player discussed in more detail in the giants360.com article about free agent safeties, Brown is in his second season post ACL surgery and that is often the bounce back season. Decision: Re-Sign
Mark Herzlich, ILB, 27, 6’4″, 246 lbs, 5th season: Pressed into service by injuries to Jon Beason, Jacquian Williams, and rookie Devon Kennard, special team player Herzlich started 8 games for the Giants. He excelled as a run defender, but his deficiencies in pass coverage were exploited repeatedly by opponents. Some of the biggest gains given up to opposing running backs and tight ends were with Herzlich either trailing in coverage or having turned in the wrong direction after the snap. He did make some great stuffs on run defense. Herzlich’s performance on special teams also suffered as a result of his increased playing time on defense. Decision: Test the Market
Walter Thurmond, CB, 27, 5’11”, 190 lbs, 5th season: Signed to a one year contract to serve as the Giants slot cornerback last season, Thurmond suffered a town pectoral muscle after just 2 games and was lost for the season. He has demonstrated that he is one of the most accomplished slot cornerbacks in the NFL, and if/when fully recovered from his injury, which shouldn’t have lasting effects, another one year contract would be in order. Decision: Re-Sign
The Defensive Backups:
Quintin Demps, S, 28, 5 ’11”, 208 lbs, 7th season: Demps was signed to be a kick returner, but was pressed into starting duty when multiple safeties were lost for the season. He excelled at neither. There is more information on Demps in the breakout article on safeties on giants360.com Decision: Test the Market
Spencer Paysinger, OLB, 26, 6’2″, 236 lbs, 4th season: Paysinger started one game in 2014 and is an average NFL linebacker. His play has improved, and he played well on special teams. A veteran minimum deal would seem to be in order allowing him to compete for a backup position on the team. Decision: Re-Sign
Zack Bowman, CB, 30, 6’1″, 198 lbs, 7th season: Signed as cornerback depth and for special team play, Bowman was forced to start following the slew of injuries at cornerback and wound up starting 5 games. He was poor in pass coverage, but did rate out average against the run. His special teams play was solid, as expected when he was signed. At times, Bowman appeared to be taking plays off and out of position to make tackles. Decision: Test the Market
Mike Harris, CB, 26, 5’10”, 188 lbs, 3rd season: Harris was signed as emergency depth when the Giants secondary was devastated and started 5 games. He played well in pass coverage, but lacks the size to adequately support the run. He showed enough to earn a camp invitation for 2015. As we learned last season, you can never have enough cover cornerbacks. His special teams play was also solid, adding to his value as a lower end of the roster player. Decision: Re-Sign
Chykie Brown, CB, 28, 5’11”, 190 lbs, 4th season: Signed by the Giants after being waived by the Ravens mid-season, Brown played well for a mid season pick up. He did not earn any starts, nor did he show enough to earn a contract for 2015, especially because he was lacking on special teams. Decision: Test the Market
Chandler Fenner, CB, 24, 6’1″, 189 lbs, 2nd year player, Exclusive Rights Free Agent (ERFA): Although he didn’t start a game, Fenner was solid, but unspectacular when pressed into service. Still young, and relatively inexperienced, Fenner showed enough on both defense and special teams to come back to camp and compete for a roster spot. Especially since he can’t negotiate with other NFL teams as an ERFA. Decision: Re-Sign
The Offensive Starters:
John Jerry, 28, G, 6’5″, 335 lbs, 5th season: Jerry was signed as offensive line depth and was thrust into the starting lineup when Chris Snee retired before training camp and Geoff Schwartz was injured during the preseason. He wound up starting all 16 games. An average pass protector and horrific run blocker, Jerry slipped in both areas in 2014 and does not contribute on special teams. Decision: Test the Market
Larry Donnell, TE, 26, 6’6″, 269 lbs, 3rd year, 2 accrued NFL seasons, ERFA: This is a no brainer. Donnell started 12 games and emerged as a receiving threat as he presents a match up problem for linebackers and defensive backs. Donnell was targeted 92 times, and caught 63 passes for 623 yards and 6 touchdowns, but 3 came in the first game against the Redskins. There are holes in his game as he is well below average as a run blocker, lost 4 fumbles, and leaves his feet more than is advisable at the NFL level. Still with his potential, a multi-year deal is warranted. He should also be sent home with a copy of “The Greatest Blocking Tight Ends in NFL History” DVD collection from Sports Illustrated [Don’t even know if it exists] and have weekly appointments with Mark Bavaro to review what he’s learned. Decision: Re-Sign
Henry Hynoski, FB, 26, 6’1″, 226 lbs, 4th season: Hynoski bounced back from an injury plagued 2013 to do what he does best, run block. He carried the ball just 7 times for 13 yards, a career high in carries, and was not targeted with a pass attempt. An average pass blocker, Hynoski is an asset in the run game and should be brought back for the veteran minimum and allowed to compete against a young player for his roster spot. Hynoski is also a solid performer on special teams. Fullback is an undervalued position in the National Football League. The fact that the Giants use one, and many teams don’t, should allow them to pick and choose from the college talent and bring in heavy competition at this position. Decision: Re-Sign
The Offensive Backups:
Daniel Fells, TE, 31, 6’4″, 265 lbs, 8th season: Fells came in as a free agent and started 9 games as the second team tight end to Donnell. He caught 16 of 20 passes thrown his way for 188 yards and 4 touchdown, providing a red zone target for Eli Manning and providing above average run blocking for the Giants. An average special teams player, Fells also provided a veteran presence in the tight end meeting room. Decision: Re-Sign
Chris Ogbannaya, RB, 28, 6’0″, 225 lbs, 5th season: Ogbannaya was signed as running back depth when Rashad Jennings and Peyton Hillis were injured. He never saw the field for the Giants and is an average to below average NFL running back. Decision: Test the Market
James Brewer, ORT, 27, 6’6″, 330 lbs, 4th season: Brewer did not start a game in 2014, and wound up on injured reserve with a concussion. Despite improving as both a pass and run blocker from the previous season, Brewer has not done enough to warrant a roster spot. Especially since he does not play special teams. Decision: Test the Market
Adam Snyder, G, 33, 6’6″, 325, lbs, 10th season: Snyder was added as offensive line depth when Brewer was injured and Charles Brown released. He started one game and was an average run and pass blocker, as expected for a lineman available mind-season. Carrying a high dollar ten year veteran minimum, Snyder will not be back in 2015. Decision: Test the Market
Of the 20 players set to become free agents, 9 are recommended for re-signing and 11 for hitting the open market. Some of the player may find the demand for their services is less than anticipated and return to familiar surrounding for a smaller contract. Antrel Rolle is a prime candidate for this outcome. Keep your eyes peeled here and on the Giants360 Twitter account (@Giants360) for the latest developments.
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