INDIANAPOLIS -- Be prepared for an offseason that lacks sizzle, especially after the electric free-agent frenzy of last year. The New York Giants appear destined for a much more sedated month of March.
Signing a prized left tackle (Cincinnati's Andrew Whitworth) seems highly unlikely. So does a top guard to solidify the offensive line for a Giants offense that couldn't run the ball this past season.
Future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson? The Giants aren't in the running, according to multiple sources. A difference-making free-agent middle linebacker? Not happening, either. Rule out the top-tier free-agent wide receivers as well.
This year it appears to be about the Giants keeping some of their own after an 11-5 campaign in Ben McAdoo's first season as head coach. They're working hard to keep both defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (franchise tag) and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, even though it would be costly. There have been talks about linebacker Keenan Robinson, guard John Jerry, backup quarterback Josh Johnson and cornerback Coty Sensabaugh returning.
The primary concern appears to be having the defense that allowed the second-fewest points in the NFL back in mostly the same shape.
"The defense made a lot of progress last year. We added a lot of guys to the mix that were talented men of integrity. Tremendous character. It was important to them to see each other have success. That was a big part of things," McAdoo said at the NFL combine earlier this week.
"At the same point in time, we're not looking to play defense the way we played defense last season. ... We can't show up thinking we have everything figured out on the defensive side of the ball. We need to make gains, marginal gains, maybe 1 percent gains. We can't be too big to do the little things. And that needs to show up first day we get together in April."
But it's not going to be easy for the Giants to bring Pierre-Paul and Hankins back. The market for Hankins is expected to be strong. One NFL defensive line coach told ESPN after watching tape that he would take Hankins over Dontari Poe, a well-regarded free-agent defensive tackle from the Kansas City Chiefs.
The key to the equation may be to get Pierre-Paul signed long-term some time near the start of free agency. The Giants are working to make that happen as well; they have met with Pierre-Paul's representatives at the combine.
Pierre-Paul currently counts $16,934,000 against the salary cap under the franchise tag. The Giants have approximately $13 million to work with under the cap. It's not a ton, but it's enough.
With the intention of keeping Pierre-Paul and Hankins, all other big moves appear on the back burner as contingencies if the Giants can't re-sign Hankins. They aren't expected to be in the running for Whitworth, considered the top offensive tackle on the market. Same for Lions tackle Riley Reiff, who is expected to have a strong market and be paid handsomely, especially with the ability to be looked at as a left and/or right tackle.
Whitworth and Reiff are likely to be paid more than the Giants feel is commensurate with their current ability.
The top free-agent guards are also out of the Giants' price range if Hankins returns. Cincinnati's Kevin Zeitler, considered by many the top guard on the market, is expected to land a deal over $10 million per year, according to a source. Green Bay's T.J. Lang will be compensated handsomely as well.
Peterson mentioned the Giants as a team that would intrigue him last month. But the match isn't there. There remains a strong chance he returns to Minnesota, and the Giants aren't among the teams pursuing the soon-to-be 32-year-old running back.
So that leaves the Giants with a likely ho-hum free-agent haul. No big splashes appear likely this year. This on the heels of 2016 when the Giants signed defensive end Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins to lucrative free-agent contracts.
But now the Giants seem to feel they have the foundation for a winning team. It's about keeping it together and building off their success, not adding expensive pieces to a house that no longer needs to be rebuilt.