Giants Free Agency: Hit the Ground Running


The Quest Diagnostics training center was quiet over the weekend, but Jerry Reese and Kevin Abrams were obviously busy as the Giants announced rapid fire signings once Free agency opened at 4 PM Eastern Time on Monday afternoon. Five players were signed, none that will assume starting roles, but special teams will be vastly improved in 2015. The highest profile signing was Shane Vereen, and we now have some preliminary contract numbers to review, courtesy of Aaron Wilson (@ravensinsider) on Twitter.

Receiving a three year contract valued at $12.5 Million dollars, Vereen will receive $4.75 million guaranteed, most in the form of a $3.5 million dollars signing bonus. That will be amortized over the life of the contract, creating a cap charge of $1.17 million in each of the three seasons. His base salaries are as follows: 2015 – $1.25 million, 2016 – $3.15 million, 2017 – $3.15 million. He also has roster bonuses of $500,000 due on the fifth day of the league year in 2016 and 2017, bringing his cap charges in those seasons to near $4.8 million. If he proves injury prone, Vereen can be cut next March with dead money of only $2.33 million, a sizable amount, but not as daunting as the total contract amount would make it seem. Giants360 is still skeptical about this signing, but will be cautiously optimistic about Vereen’s play making capabilities and the added dimension he will bring on third downs.

Darkwa is most effected by Vereen signing
Darkwa is most effected by Vereen signing

Most effected by Vereen’s signing is Orleans Darkwa, who was expected to compete for the third down back role in 2015. Darkwa showed some promise in 2014, but is far less accomplished than Vereen. He is still on the roster and will come to camp and compete for a roster spot. Rashad Jennings could be vulnerable if one of the younger backs out plays him in preseason, but given his performances when healthy, the team will want to keep him around as part of a three pronged attack with Vereen and Andre Williams.

Marshall Newhouse is a 26 year old, 6’3″, 326 pound offensive tackle in his 5th season. He spent four seasons in Green Bay and started 36 of his career 62 games. Last season, Newhouse started 5 games for the Bengals. Receiving a 2 year, $3 million contract, Newhouse will carry cap charges of $1.25 million in 2015 and $1.75 million in 2016, if he receives his escalators. A backup swing tackle, Newhouse has struggled in pass protection and is only a marginally better as a run blocker. If he is forced to start a significant number of games, the Giants offense will struggle. Most effected by Newhouse’s signing it offensive tackle Roger Gaines who was released today.

Dwayne Harris is an effective punt and kickoff returner who will be given an opportunity to make some plays out of the slot on offense. At 5’10”, 200 pounds, the 27 year old Harris spend his first four NFL seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. With contract details not available at this time, the cap implications of Harris’ 5 year, $17.5 million is not known beyond the $7.1 million guarantee, $4 million of which is in the form of a signing bonus. In addition to returning punts and kickoffs, Harris excels on coverage, will serve as a gunner on the punt team, and has consistently been a top special teams player.

Most effected by his signing is Preston Parker, who has a similar role on the offense in 2014, and while he made some plays, Parker was inconsistent. His $660,000 salary, with no dead money, will make Parker expendable if Harris is as good as advertised on special teams and continues to shows play making ability as a backup wide receiver.

Casillas will backup at linebacker and improve special teams
Casillas will backup at linebacker and improve special teams

Linebacker Jonathan Casillas will be entering his 6th NFL season, having spent time with New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and New England. He’s started half of his 36 career games, and has graded out as average against both the pass and the run in limited action on regular defense. Casillas excels on punt and kickoff teams and will provide a boost to the Giants in both of these areas. Playing strong and weak side linebacker, Casillas is a capable backup who will compete with the underwhelming Jameel McClain for a starting job. No breakdown is available of his 3 year, $10.5 million dollar contract at this time.

The second linebacker signed, J.T. (James Thomas) Thomas II, is another player who excels in punt coverage. Starting 10 games for the Jaguars in 2014, and 12 of his 47 career games, Thomas struggles mightily to defend the run and is below average in pass coverage. Playing both weak side and middle linebacker, Thomas was signed for depth and special teams. Other than a $4.5 million dollar guarantee, there are no details available on Thomas’ 3 year, $12 million dollar contract.

As Spencer Paysinger and Mark Herzlich left the Giants as free agents, there is no current Giants effected by these linebacker signings.

All of these players are in their mid 20’s, have no more than 5 years of NFL experience, and therefore still on the upside of their career. Special teams have been improved, and some cap room remains to address the still glaring issues on the team. The exact amount won’t be known outside of East Rutherford until the details all the contracts are available and 2015 cap charges can be determined. Safety remains the top need to the Giants, and Rahim Moore and Ron Parker are both currently unsigned and the Giants are reportedly still in the mix for both.

Keep following the Giants360 Twitter account (@giants360) for breaking news and check back here frequently for more detailed analysis and opinion.

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