First things first: Yes, the New York Giants seriously overspent to get defensive end Olivier Vernon. They gave him a five-year, $85 million contract with $52.5 million guaranteed, which is $17 million a year on average. Any defensive player who's making more than J.J. Watt is being overpaid. It's as simple as that.
This signing comes at the tail end of a day when the Giants signed cornerback Janoris Jenkins for $12.5 million a year and defensive tackle Damon Harrison for $9.25 million a year. All told, $105.5 million in guaranteed money to three defensive players in one day. It's a New York free-agent spending spree to do the memory of the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner proud.
Taken as a whole, this is crazy, and nearly all of football history says it's unlikely to work. But taken individually, from the standpoint of a team that's decided to spend like crazy to rebuild the worst defense in the league, the signings aren't the worst ones the Giants could have made. Jenkins and Harrison are 27 years old, and Vernon is only 25. He had 7.5 sacks last year and 11.5 in 2013, and he is clearly a very good pass-rusher on the upswing. It was a mistake for the Dolphins to let him leave while keeping 34-year-old Cameron Wake and signing 31-year-old Mario Williams, and his mere availability was a blessing for a team desperate for pass-rushers, which the Giants are.
As of Wednesday morning, with Malik Jackson in agreement with the Jaguars, the best cornerback, defensive tackle and defensive end available on the market were Jenkins, Harrison and Vernon. The Giants went out and got them all, outbidding the Raiders, Jets and Jaguars to do it. If their goal was to get the guys they wanted regardless of cost, the Giants had a fantastic day.
How will it all play out? No way to know. Teams that win big on the first day of free agency don't tend to make the playoffs. The Giants still need a free safety, a linebacker or two, a wide receiver and a couple of offensive linemen. They have been a very bad team for a while now and aren't likely to make themselves a Super Bowl contender this spring, no matter how much they spend.
But their roster is better than it was 24 hours ago. The guys they signed are all entering or in the early parts of their prime, and it's clear that the team understands it has major deficiencies it must address aggressively. Those are all positives for Giants fans.