New York Giants free agency spree a defining moment for Daniel Jones, Dave Gettleman
The New York Giants splashed the cash in free agency, with wide receiver Kenny Golladay and cornerback Adoree' Jackson the marquee additions as Dave Gettleman bet on Daniel Jones ahead of a decisive year for the quarterback
By Cameron Hogwood
Last Updated: 26/03/21 9:22am
'Per source', 'according to sources', 'sources tell me'.
New York insiders sent fans into a pre-rehearsed frenzy as they relayed 'source-fed' information that Kenny Golladay was coming to town to meet with the Giants on the first Thursday of free agency. And then it all fell a little quiet.
This was the man they wanted and needed, the true No 1 wide receiver and contested-catch guru with the ability to haul in the good and the 'meh' passes from a young quarterback facing a decisive year. This was the 'all in' signing for an offense that had just ranked 31st overall.
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The old school in-person meet and momentary radio silence were nice additions to the theatrics. Had Dave Gettleman tied Golladay to a chair and locked the doors? Was Joe Judge making him run laps to determine if he was a 'culture fit'?
In truth, the latter isn't entirely inaccurate. Golladay may not have been breaking a sweat, but the Giants wanted to make sure he was ready to buy into the nose-busting, united brotherhood Judge has installed in the locker room. The answer was yes, and after meetings between the two parties had continued into Friday night it was announced the next day that the former Detroit Lions wideout had agreed a four-year, $72m deal. Ka-ching.
Giants free agency new additions
|Kenny Golladay, WR||Four-year, $72m deal|
|Adoree' Jackson, CB||Three-year, $39m deal|
|Kyle Rudolph, TE||Two-year, $12m deal|
|John Ross, WR||One-year, $2.25m deal|
|Devontae Booker, RB||Two-year, $5.5m deal|
|Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE||One-year, $2.5m deal|
|Reggie Ragland, LB||One-year, $1.12m deal|
|Mike Glennon, QB||One-year, $1.35m deal|
|Ryan Anderson, OLB||One-year, $1.12m deal|
|Cullen Gillaspia, FB||Terms TBA|
|Zach Fulton, G||One-year deal - Full terms TBA|
Rarely in the past four or five years has there been such optimism about a Giants team. Despite a fourth successive losing season, Judge has managed to make playing for Big Blue an attractive proposition again with an identity and sense of direction that had previously been difficult to sense following Tom Coughlin's departure.
The culture and leaders Judge had sought to unearth came to the forefront. Jabrill Peppers slipped in a good word while spending time with Golladay at dinner in Hoboken, New Jersey, before Logan Ryan also flew in to wine and dine Adoree' Jackson, who cornerback Darnay Holmes was meanwhile actively recruiting through text messages.
The Bears are said to have put in a strong pitch as they teased a receiver core of Golladay, Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney, while the Cincinnati Bengals reportedly offered a one-year 'prove it' type deal. But Golladay chose the Giants. Well, the Giants and a pretty handsome pay day.
Above all, it was a necessary statement of intent from a general manager in Gettleman who splashed the cash this free agency knowing in the back of his mind he likely won't be around to deal with the mess next year should it all go wrong.
What's more, his spending spree has taken place while both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley are still playing on their rookie deals. You would think at least one of the two will need to be paid when the time comes, by which point the Giants want and need to be ready.
Gettleman gave his quarterback a lead receiver whose coverage demands promise to open up Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard, he challenged tight end Evan Engram to cut out the mistakes by adding the experience of Kyle Rudolph, and he dared offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to expand the playbook by taking a chance on a John Ross striving to reignite his career. While the deal for Devontae Booker was a head-scratcher, he arguably represents an upgrade on Dion Lewis as a third-down running back.
Bearing in mind Barkley will also be back from injury, the excuses will be running thin should Jones struggle to get this offense going. It's over to you, No 8.
Best case scenario? Golladay's introduction triggers the kind of transformation for Jones that Stefon Diggs' arrival in Buffalo did with Josh Allen.
Both Golladay and Rudolph also arrived on the back of injury-disrupted campaigns, which perhaps serves as another indication of a defining 2021 as the Giants pit the element of risk up against the prospect of reward.
It was a similar case on defense as Gettleman struck a three-year, $39m deal with former Tennessee Titans cornerback Jackson, seemingly unconcerned with the knee problem that limited him to just three games last season.
The opportunity to snap up one of the top defensive backs on the market presented itself, and the Giants took it. In doing so spoiling standout defensive coordinator Patrick Graham by filling a No 2 cornerback role that primarily belonged to Isaac Yiadom in 2020 with a No 1 cornerback in Jackson.
Between the arrival of James Bradberry, Ryan, Peppers, Xavier McKinney and Julian Love over the past two years, the Giants secondary has become a plus point. Why not turn a strength into one of the roster's elite position groups? It's exactly what they did. Suddenly a cornerback tandem of Bradberry and Jackson looks among the best in the NFL.
What might have come across as an impulse buy was instead a shrewd schematic fit, with Jackson's ability to play both outside and in the slot offering the versatility that Graham's system thrives on. He's yet another moving part alongside Ryan, who can switch between safety and corner, and the likes of McKinney and Peppers, both of whom can line up in the box.
Though they tried and failed to snatch Leonard Floyd from the Los Angeles Rams, the Giants came away without adding a recognised edge threat and yet still happy enough to bet on production from both their secondary along with the likes of outside linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines as they return from injury.
Former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo meanwhile has the makings of a situational steal under the tutelage of Graham, while Reggie Ragland and Ryan Anderson are cheap additions to their linebacker depth.
Alongside the fresh faces, the Giants did what needed to be done and committed to a lead pass rusher in Leonard Williams, who earned a new three-year, $63m contract after a career year that marked satisfying justification for a mid-season trade to acquire him that Gettleman was bashed for in 2019.
Some credit must also go to assistant general manager and salary cap manager Kevin Abrams, whose financial acrobats allowed for such moves to be made. The Giants restructured the contracts of cornerback Bradberry, linebacker Blake Martinez and left tackle Nate Solder, who opted out in 2020, to clear a total of $11.5m in cap space, as well as cutting wide receiver Golden Tate and offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler.
It defied Gettleman's apparent reluctance to 'kick the can down the road' by restructuring, but it had to be done. The Giants need to know where they are at, particularly at quarterback, and in order to do that they needed to splash the cash.
If there are to be any excuses for Jones and the Giants offense this coming season, they're likely to centre around a young offensive line, which they are relying on making a jump over the coming months.
But their business in free agency has given them a touch of freedom heading into April's NFL Draft; should they want to use the 11th overall pick on a multi-position offensive lineman such as Northwestern's Rashawn Slater - providing he's still on the board - they could.
Golladay's presence means a Jaylen Waddle no longer looks a necessity in the first round, especially given the staggering depth of this year's class. Alternatively, the potential availability of coveted Florida tight end Kyle Pitts could even spell trouble for the future of Engram.
Given the possibility of four quarterbacks going in the top 10, the Giants will also likely have their pick of the top edge rushers, be it Miami's Gregory Rousseau or Jaelen Phillips, Michigan's Kwity Paye, Georgia's Azeez Ojulari and so on.
And while the defensive tackle class may not be as talented as those in the past, the Giants will have their chance to pursue a successor for Dalvin Tomlinson in the middle rounds. Perhaps Washington's Levi Onwuzurike, Ohio State's Tommy Togiai or Alabama's Christian Barmore.
The Giants famously went big in free agency back in 2016, spending $106.3m on cornerback Janoris Jenkins, pass rusher Olivier Vernon and interior defensive lineman Damon 'Snacks' Harrison. The result was a first playoff berth since 2011 that ended in a Wild Card defeat to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. And that was about it, as the trio eventually moved on at various points across the four losing seasons that have followed.
After a similarly busy recruitment period five years later, righting where they went wrong and becoming a sustainable and consistent playoff contender is a must for the Giants.
Are they among this year's free agency 'winners'? We'll have a much better idea this time next year.