With Giants G.M. Jerry Reese firmly on notice that the time has come to spend money or forever lose the ability to do so (unless he becomes a General Manager with a new team), Reese and the Giants have blasted open the Mara-Tisch coffers and spent like never before.
As Adam Schefter of ESPN noted the morning after the acquisitions of defensive end Olivier Vernon, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, and defensive tackle Damon Harrison, the team spent $105.5 million in guaranteed money on the trio. In five prior free-agency cycles combined, the Giants spent $85.1 million in guaranteed money.
But with real questions about whether Vernon (who had 7.5 sacks in a contract year), Jenkins (who has admitted to being lazy late in games — as if the Giants didn’t already have enough problems late in games), and Harrison (who was viewed as the expendable member of a defensive line that includes Mo Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Leonard Williams), it’s hard not to wonder how much more the Giants would have gotten if the team’s ability and willingness to spend had aligned just a little differently with the available talent.
Despite the big numbers that have been thrown around this week, NFL free agency in 2016 featured a relatively lackluster collection of guys who actually made it to the market. In 2016, the big names belonged to Vernon, Jenkins, Brock Osweiler, Malik Jackson, Doug Martin, Marvin Jones, Travis Benjamin, Bruce Irvin, Sean Smith, Lamar Miller, Alex Mack, Mitchell Schwartz, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Lamar Miller, Tashaun Gipson, and Danny Trevathan. Last year, the guys who got to the market included Ndamukong Suh, Darrelle Revis, Julius Thomas, DeMarco Murray, Greg Hardy, Jeremy Maclin, Pernell McPhee, Byron Maxwell, Brandon Flowers, Mike Iupati, Brian Orakpo, Torrey Smith, C.J. Spiller, Michael Crabtree, and Ryan Mathews.
Last year, the Giants could have landed Suh and Revis instead of Vernon and Jenkins. This year, the Giants were constrained by the possibility that the best available players may not be as good as they need to be in order to prevent January’s decision to move on from coach Tom Coughlin from becoming more widespread in 2017 or 2018.
However it plays out, the big dollars mean significant pressure for the new arrivals. Jenkins will be compared to Revis, who plays his home games in the same stadium. Vernon will be compared to guys like Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan, who were among the best pass rushers to ever play the game.