The 2014 season was an embarrassing one for the New York Giants. With a 6-10 record, the team missed the playoffs for a third straight year. That kind of result is simply just not acceptable for a prideful franchise such as the Giants. Eli Manning is in the prime of his career and does not have many more years left to waste. It doesn’t get any better in the business of coaching football than Tom Coughlin. The pieces are in place and the Giants know the 2015 season is a make or break one. Last offseason ownership handed out $116.3 million to free agents who included the likes of CB Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie, G Geoff Schwartz, and RB Rashad Jennings. After a third straight season on the outside looking in come January and with holes to fill on the Defensive Line, Offensive Line, Safety and Linebacker, and plenty of talent in the free agency pool, many expected the Giants to be very active for a second year in a row in the free agency market. Well, the Giants have been active to a degree, but their additions have many fans scratching their heads. One thing to remember is that Championship teams are not built over the course of six days in March.
Notable Free Agency additions:
LB Jonathan Casillas
The Giants reached a three year, $10.5-million contract with former Patriots linebacker Jonathan Casillas. Casillas has been regarded as a capable outside LB and special team’s ace. Special teams ace or not, that’s a lot of money to throw at a guy whose never topped 43 tackles in a season. Yes, he’s won superbowls with the Saints and the Patriots, but again he hasn’t had enough production to warrant this kind of contract. With Steve Spagnuolo back running the defense, the Giants figure that Casillas can replace Jacquian Williams and fit into their defensive scheme in 2015. Remember in 2007, the Giants plugged in Kawika Mitchell and Mathias Kiwanuka as the outlide linebackers, both of whom were not household names, but proved to be more than capable.
WR/KR Dwayne Harris
Dwayne Harris received a five-year deal for $17.5 million that includes $7.1 million guaranteed after leaving the division rival Cowboys after three years. Per NFL.com, over the past three seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, Harris ranked fifth in the NFL in punt return yards (885), second in punt return average (12.3) and has two punt returns for a touchdown. The Giants haven’t had a dangerous kick returner since Ron Dixon yes I know, but the problem is that the Giants are overpaying (by a lot ) for a guy who will strictly contribute to special teams! You can’t tell me in your right mind you expect any production from the WR position from a 27 year old guy with a total of 33 career receptions. Again, I’m not quite sure what Jerry Reese is thinking here. You also can’t tell me the Giants had a lot of competition offering $7.1 million guaranteed for Harris’s services. Head scratching.
RB Shane Vereen
Shane Vereen signed a three-year, $12.35 million deal with the Giants. The 26-year-old played the first four seasons of his NFL career with the Patriots. Shane Vereen gives the Giants arguably one of the most versatile third down backs in the game. Vereen will instantly improve the Giant’s pass protection on third down and will give Eli a reliable option to check down to on third down. Tom Brady entrusted Vereen as a pass catching back in the biggest of games as evidenced by his 11 receptions for 64 yards in the Superbowl victory against the Seahawks and their stingy defense. He thrives in big games and his reception number posted in the Superbowl is perfect evidence. Pass protection and the ability pick up the blitz in the backfield are areas the Giants have struggled with since the departure of Ahmad Bradshaw who helped keep Eli’s shirt clean on third down and was a pass catching threat in his own right. Having Vereen gives Ben McAdoo’s offense another kind of threat it did not have in 2014.
LB J.T. Thomas
The Giants signed Thomas to a 3-year $12 million contract with $4.5 million guaranteed. Thomas is a versatile linebacker who can play all three spots in Steve Spagnuolo’s 4-3 defense. Thomas is a fourth year veteran, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Thomas served primarily as a back up his first two year in the league, but injuries thrusted Thomas into a full time starting role in 2014 for 10 games. Thomas finished the year with 84 tackles, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles. The Giants have lacked defensive players who force the issue and create turnovers for a number of years and by adding Thomas they are making it clear they are trying to change the culture of the defense. When introduced to the press after signing with the Giants and being asked what he could bring to the team Thomas answered, “Bang, bang plays, turnovers – that is my thing. I am good at getting the ball back [by] creating turnovers. I think that is what will help us win ball games and that is my goal.”He sounds like a guy I will have no problem getting behind and the kind of leader the Giants will need to help replace Antrel Rolle’s leadership in the defensive huddle.