The early part of free agency produced more than a handful of moves for the New York Giants. These are going to be the headliners of their offseason, with likely only some minor tweaking remaining.
They believe they are better now than before as they attempt to rebound from a 3-13 season, especially with a competent left tackle. The signing of Nate Solder was undoubtedly the biggest of their moves.
It happens every year. Teams make moves in free agency and new almost always seems better. It just doesn't always work out that way. Free agency often proves to be fool's gold.
The Giants are hoping that is not the case for them this year. Taking a step back, have they really improved? If so, how much?
Let’s take a look, position by position:
Quarterback – Same
Running back – Worse
The Giants effectively traded Jonathan Stewart for Orleans Darkwa. Stewart is 31 years old and averaged 3.4 yards per carry last season. Darkwa is 26 years old and averaged 4.4 yards per carry. If the Giants offered the same deal they gave Stewart to Darkwa, he probably would be on the roster right now. Instead, the Giants’ offer to Darkwa wasn’t close.
Wide receiver – Same
Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis and Dwayne Harris are the primary pieces. It's similar to last year, before all the injuries. Marshall and Harris are still on the roster, although I’m still expecting them to be released or have their contracts altered before all is said and done.
Tight end – Same
Offensive line – Better
Solder makes them appreciably better on the outside. They didn’t have a starting-caliber tackle on the roster last year. Solder is a proven, quality NFL left tackle. Those are hard to find. His arrival makes them better on the right side as well, even if by default with Ereck Flowers or Chad Wheeler over Bobby Hart.
But the Giants did take some hits. The market showed that Weston Richburg (five years, $47.5 million from San Francisco) and Justin Pugh (five years, $45 million from Arizona) were considered well-above-average starters. The Giants are replacing them with newly signed guard Patrick Omameh and tendered center Brett Jones. Omameh can play but he’s on his third team in four years. Pugh is the better player. Jones is also a downgrade from Richburg, in my estimation. Still, the acquisition of Solder alone makes the Giants' line better. They went from among the worst left tackle situations in the NFL to somewhere in the top 10. It should help everyone.
Defensive line – Same
The Giants still have Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, depending on how you want to label the final two in James Bettcher’s new defense. They will need to add some depth, but that should come later.
Linebackers – Better
The big move here came via trade. Alec Ogletree may be an expensive option ($10 million this season), but he gives the Giants the kind of middle linebacker they haven’t had since Antonio Pierce. General manager Dave Gettleman said Ogletree will be the quarterback of the defense. The Giants also signed outside linebacker Kareem Martin, who is familiar with Bettcher’s defense and a young ascending player. Ogletree and Martin in place of Devon Kennard (signed with Lions) and Jonathan Casillas is a win for the Giants.
Cornerbacks – Worse
The Giants cut Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and his large $8.5 million cap number. Ross Cockrell, who played well as a fill-in starter last year, remains a free agent. The Giants added Curtis Riley and Teddy Williams, two depth/special-teams players. This is a clear downgrade, although it’s a position where they are likely not done yet.
Safety – Same
Kicker, punter, long snapper -- Worse
They're worse, if only because they don't have a starting punter after cutting Brad Wing. Austin Rehkow, signed after the season to a futures deal, is the only punter on the roster. Look for them to add another from this year's draft crop. The argument could also be made they don't have a kicker. Aldrick Rosas struggled badly last year. Don't be surprised to see the Giants add a veteran later in free agency or this summer.