The New York Giants had their target located. He was in clear sight. He chose to go elsewhere.
It happens in free agency. A team can offer a record-setting deal and still watch the player go to a different team. It happened Tuesday to the Giants with Andrew Norwell. The All-Pro guard chose the Jacksonville Jaguars despite receiving a comparable offer from the Giants, who now are left without much on their offensive line. They missed out on their No. 1 free-agent target.
It’s Norwell’s choice. No hard feelings. The lack of state income tax in Florida could have been among the factors. Or it could have been that Norwell likes the current state of the Jaguars better (which is scary for the Giants).
Does it really matter at this point? The Giants have to move on, and it would be foolish to judge them now, before free agency technically begins at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday.
There is plenty of time for them to make impact moves. General manager Dave Gettleman and the Giants are still shopping. They have money to spend. Players such as tackles Nate Solder, Josh Sitton, Ryan Jensen, LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming were still on the market as of late Tuesday night. So were Justin Pugh and D.J. Fluker, who were part of the Giants' offensive line last season.
But regardless of whom the Giants sign in the next day or so, you have to wonder what direction this franchise is headed. Are they built to win now? It doesn’t appear that they are rebuilding or retooling. Norwell made sense for the big bucks. He is a 26-year-old All-Pro and would’ve been a centerpiece on the offensive line for years to come.
Now the Giants have moved on to Plan B, which at the very least is to monitor Solder. He’s going to be 30 and has never made a Pro Bowl. He’s an above-average left tackle, undoubtedly an upgrade if the Giants were to land him, but he isn't a dominant player to build around.
The Giants agreed to sign aging running back Jonathan Stewart on Tuesday. They re-signed veteran special-teamer Mark Herzlich on Monday. The only other player they’ve secured this week is exclusive-rights free agent Jon Halapio. They recently traded for linebacker Alec Ogletree and cut cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
It’s clear that Gettleman is trying to improve the culture of this team. He has stated that on multiple occasions, but he’s trying to do it partly with veteran bit players in free agency who are nearing the end of their careers. That seems hard to accomplish. Plus, he seems to be trying to do it on the fly, which might be an even more unrealistic approach. This is a process that probably needs time and is more likely to be successful if it happens organically with homegrown players.
The Giants have some obstacles in front of them. They are installing a new offense. They’re installing a new defense. They’re coming off a 3-13 season that featured three players suspended for their conduct. The Giants are going to have a hard time overhauling the offensive line (which is in shambles) in one offseason. Their quarterback is 37 years old and coming off his worst season in years.
The odds are stacked against the Giants becoming serious contenders overnight, which makes the start to free agency and the beginning of the Gettleman era ... puzzling.
It’s important to keep an open mind. This is an incomplete puzzle. It is likely the second quarter of a knock 'em down, drag 'em out offseason. There are still many more moves to come. It’s just that the early returns for the Giants aren’t overly encouraging. Maybe in a week or so the entire picture will crystallize. For now, the direction this franchise is headed is fuzzy.