It will be another busy offseason for the New York Giants in free agency. Not only do they have money to spend but they also have some of their own players to address.
The internal list of impending free agents is defense dominated, especially at the top. The most notable name is defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who returned this past season and proved he can still play at a high level despite a July 4th fireworks accident that cost him his right index finger and parts of several others.
With this being Pierre-Paul's chance to cash in on the long-term deal he's been craving for years, the Giants will have some tough decisions to make this offseason. Half of their starting defensive line -- which dominated this season -- is set to hit the market with defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins' contract set to expire. One or two of their starting offensive linemen (depending on how you look at it) will be free agents.
Here's my ranking of the Giants' 18 unrestricted free agents in order of importance to the team:
(Note: Exclusive rights and restricted free agents aren't on this list. I'll address them in a separate post soon.)
1. DE Jason Pierre-Paul -- He's a key piece to the Giants' defensive line with his ability to play against the run and pass. His pass-rush ability (7.0 sacks in 12 games) would be extremely difficult to replace.
2. G John Jerry -- He's coming off his best season as a pro. Re-signing Jerry would give the Giants continuity on the interior of their line and allow them to use a bigger chunk of resources for the tackle position. Re-signing him at a reasonable price makes sense.
3. DT Johnathan Hankins -- It was difficult to run against the Giants with Hankins and Damon Harrison in the middle of that defensive line. Hankins also contributed 3.0 sacks. There will be a talent dropoff if he's allowed to walk, but he's likely to be pricey on the open market given that he's 24 years old and a good player.
4. LB Keenan Robinson -- He played 76 percent of the defensive snaps this season even though he wasn't a “starter.” His pass-cover ability from the linebacker position made him an asset to the defense and wouldn't be easy to fill.
5. CB Coty Sensabaugh -- The in-season signing proved to be a versatile, capable bump-and-run corner. His return would provide depth at a position where it's needed.
6. OT Marshall Newhouse -- He played some tackle, some guard. He started a playoff game and held his own. Newhouse is a quality sixth lineman, which is what the Giants originally signed him to be.
7. K Robbie Gould -- He was perfect on field goals (12-of-12) and would give the Giants a veteran kicker to compete this spring and summer with a younger, stronger leg.
8. LS Zak DeOssie -- He's a reliable veteran who serves as an asset in the locker room and on punt coverage. At 32 years old he tied for the team lead with seven special teams tackles this season. DeOssie still wants to play and appears to have a few more years left in his body.
9. QB Josh Johnson -- He impressed the Giants and his teammates after being signed prior to Week 1. Johnson would be an ideal veteran backup behind Eli Manning if they selected a project QB in the draft. Or not. He knows the system and can play.
10. LB Kelvin Sheppard -- He was an especially valuable leader and voice as the Giants' starting middle linebacker. But they have his replacement in the building with last year's fourth-round pick B.J. Goodson ready to handle a larger role.
11. DB Leon Hall -- The veteran defensive back played more at safety than at any point of his career. The 32 year old was a serviceable and versatile defensive back. The Giants could do worse than bringing him back for another year. But he's a luxury with Darian Thompson set to return from a foot injury and Andrew Adams and Nat Berhe already under contract.
12. CB Trevin Wade -- The Giants' reserve cornerback had an up-and-down campaign. He's decent CB depth.
13. QB Ryan Nassib -- He struggled badly this summer and preseason, and had elbow surgery in December. Lots of questions about Nassib's future.
14. TE Larry Donnell -- His time with the Giants appears over. It's time to move on with his inability to protect the ball and sub-par blocking. Will Tye and Jerell Adams already passed him on the depth chart.
15. OT Will Beatty -- The Giants re-signed him this summer as an emergency option. They wouldn't put him in games. Beatty's future is elsewhere.
16. RB Bobby Rainey -- He wasn't able to fill the role of passing-down back left open by Shane Vereen's injuries. He also proved to be an unreliable returner. The Giants need to upgrade at those positions.
17. LB Mark Herzlich -- He's strictly been a special teams player the past few years. He may return but his four special teams tackles is replaceable.
18. WR Ben Edwards -- He spent this past season on injured reserve with a torn ACL and has appeared in two career games. It's still to be determined if he's an NFL receiver.