Free Agency 2017: Rumors, Reports and Commentary

The latest reports and analysis on New York Giants free agency.

Be sure to visit this page often during the first several days of free agency. We’ll be reporting any rumors/reports and offering commentary on the feasibility/impact of said rumors. (Newest reports will be on top.)

March 17: Giants, JPP Agree to Terms on a 4-year Deal

Analysis: Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is finally getting his multi-year deal.

The team’s franchise player agreed to terms on what both ESPN and the NFL Network are reporting to be a four-year deal.

No financial terms have been announced yet, but it is believed the first year of JPP’s new contract will lower his nearly $17 million cap hit resulting from the Giants placing the non-exclusive franchise tag designation on him and could free up enough money for the Giants to get defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins back into the fold.

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Report: Giants, Geno Smith Reportedly Agree to Terms

March 17: Report: Giants, QB Geno Smith Agree to Terms

Analysis: This transaction comes as a mild surprise but at the same time, probably offers a big clue into the Giants thinking regarding the 2017 quarterback draft class.

Smith, who failed to take the reigns as the Jets starting quarterback, will get a chance to reset his career with the Giants, who earlier in the free agency period signed Smith’s former receiver Brandon Marshall.

Smith, who will sign with the Giants pending him passing a physical, will compete with Josh Johnson to be Eli Manning’s backup.  The Giants also have Keith Wenning, a first-year quarterback in the pros, on the roster.

Smith’s pending addition also likely means the Giants have officially moved on from Ryan Nassib, who is still unsigned, and from potentially grabbing Manning’s successor in what’s been largely considered by many drft experts to be a weak quarterback class.

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Giants Re-sign QB Josh Johnson

March 17: Giants Re-sign QB Josh Johnson

Analysis: Johnson was elevated to Eli Manning’s primary backup last year after Ryan Nassib went on injured reserve with an elbow injury.

The Giants likely chose Johnson ahead of Nassib for his experience–he’s completed 96 NFL passes for 1,042 yards and five touchdowns over his eight-year career, though his last regular-season pass was thrown in 2011.

The Giants, who traded up in the 2013 draft to get Ryan Nassib, appear to be moving on from the former Syracuse signal caller, who badly regressed last year in the preseason.

The Giants are believed to be looking or a developmental project at quarterback in this year’s draft, with an eye on that prospect potentially being able to one day take over the reigns for the 36-year-old Manning. They hosted a visit with Jets free agent quarterback Geno Smith, but Smith left without a deal.

As a side note, Johnson’s agent, who confirmed the pending transaction, is also the agent for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

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Keenan Robinson to Visit Cincinnati

March 13: Keenan Robinson to Visit Cincinnati

Analysis: After a rocky start to his NFL career with Washington, a start that saw him fail to complete a full 16-game season in the league—he missed the entire 2013 season—linebacker Keenan Robinson not only recorded his first full 16-game season, he also appeared to have found his niche with the Giants defense as a coverage linebacker in their sub package.

Robinson ended up playing the second most regular-season snaps in the defense  (780) behind Jonathan Casillas’ 796. Robinson finished fourth on the team in total tackles with 79, tying for fifth (with cornerback Eli Apple) for most passes defensed (seven).

Robinson did deal with a late-season shoulder ailment but didn’t miss any games. He was thought to be a key component of that defense.

With the Giants strapped for salary cap space and their having put a focus on adding pieces to the offense during the opening of free agency, they now stand to potentially lose any of their own players that they might want back but whom they had to put on the back burner last week.

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Report: Jets QB Geno Smith to Visit with Giants

March 11: Report: Jets QB Geno Smith to Visit with Giants


Analysis: Color us curious regarding this reported move for several reasons. ACL injury aside, the biggest ref flag we have regarding this reported flirtation is that Smith, who ran a modified West Coast offense in his first two seasons under former Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, didn’t exactly light things up in that system.

Obviously whoever signs on as the Giants backup quarterback is a guy whom the Giants probably hope never has to play.

If it does end up being Smith,  a cheap young backup option, what the Giants would potentially be getting is a guy who has played three games over the last two years due to injury who never completed more than 60 percent of his pass attempts (he came close in 2014 when he completed 59.7 percent of his pass attempts), and who has thrown 25 touchdowns to 34 interceptions in 30 games played.

The Giants seem intent to move on from Ryan Nassib and from Josh Johnson, which is not surprising. What is surprising is that they haven’t yet reached out to Josh McCown, who at 37 years old has more experience running a West Coast offensive system and who would be a better fit behind Eli Manning.

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Raiders Sign Marshall Newhouse

March 10: Raiders Sign Marshall Newhouse

Analysis: Marshall Newhouse was initially signed by the Giants in March 2015 to provide depth on the offensive line as a sing tackle. Due to injuries, he was thrust into the starting lineup at right tackle, where he had his share of struggles.

Last year, Newhouse missed several games due to a calf injury suffered early in the season. Even once healthy, the team seemed willing to stick with Newhouse’s replacement at right tackle, Bobby Hart, until an arm injury put Hart on the sideline late in the season. Newhouse started and played in the Giants lone playoff game.

Newhouse’s loss via free agency combined with the strong likelihood of the Giants not bringing back Will Beatty leaves the team with no experienced depth under contract at the tackle position. The Giants are reportedly going to meet with D.J. Fluker Saturday about a spot on their roster. They’re also likely to add offensive tackle depth in the draft.

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Giants, OT D.J. Fluker Set to Meet Saturday

March 10: Giants, OT D.J. Fluker Set to Meet Saturday

Analysis: If the Giants can strike a one-year “prove it” deal with the Chargers’ 2013 first-round draft pick (No. 11 overall), they absolutely should, even though Fluker’s NFL career hasn’t quite unfolded like everyone hoped it would (though how much of that is a result of his doing vs. the struggles of the Chargers’ offensive line is debatable).

Fluker, 6’5”, 339 pounds, has played in 59 games with 59 starts over his career. At just 25 years old, a change of scenery might just be what the doctor ordered.

If the Giants can get him on a one-year “prove it” deal—Over the Cap estimates that $3 million might get it done—the Giants should absolutely roll the dice on this player, who can play guard and tackle and who would upgrade the depth at offensive tackle from a year ago.

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Report: Several Teams Expressing Interest in Johnathan Hankins

March 10: Report: Several Teams Expressing Interest in Johnathan Hankins

Analysis: We finally get our first hints as to what’s going on with defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, whose name was absent from all the pre-free agency chatter during the legal negotiating window and the first day of free agency Thursday.

Given the Giants’ lack of cap space combined with the deep defensive line draft class, the Giants seem resigned to losing Hankins, who could command upwards of $9 million per year, to another team.

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Giants reportedly interested in former Raiders OT Menelik Watson

March 10: Giants reportedly interested in former Raiders OT Menelik Watson

Analysis: It might look as though the Giants are standing pat on the offensive line, but they have tried over the last two years to add depth at offensive tackle.

Last year, they ended up settling on Will Beatty, who happened to be available after the Giants cut him earlier n the year. Despite knowing the offense, Beatty never did get on the field for them, even as Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart had their struggles.

Beatty is not expected back. Meanwhile the Giants appear to be interested in upgrading the depth at offensive tackle which, if they do, would mean they move on from Marshall Newhouse.

The plan appears to be to add an OT via the second wave/back end of free agency and to add a developmental prospect from what’s widely considered a weak draft class for offensive tackles.

Thus far, the tackles they have been linked to have presumably been out of their price range. In this situation, having patience might the way to go. If they wait out the market, it’s possible that a guy they feel can help them might come down in his asking price.

The reported interest in Watson is interesting only because this is a player who in four years has yet to make it through an entire 16-game season, and who missed the 2015 season due to an Achilles injury suffered in training camp.

The Giants have, of late, tried to stay away from guys with injury histories, but then again, with limited cap space, they are probably looking to invest a minimum salary benefit deal on a veteran.

Update: Adam Schefter reports that Watson has signed with Denver.

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Giants to Release FB/TE Will Johnson

 

March 9: Giants to Release FB/TE Will Johnson


Analysis: NJ Advanced Media’s Dan Duggan went right to the source to confirm this forthcoming transaction, a transaction that was pretty much sealed when the Giants inked Rhett Ellison, who like Johnson is a fullback/tight end, to a four-year deal worth $18 million with $8 million guaranteed.

Johnson, who last offseason signed a two-year, $2.3 million contract with the Giants, suffered a burner during training camp that ended up costing him the 2016 season.

Johnson expressed optimism  about his chances of being ready for 2017, but the Giants, perhaps rightfully concerned about players who have dealt with a neck injury, decided to go in a different direction with Ellison.

Duggan also noted in his report that there is a chance of Johnson’s return on a one-year veteran minimum. Such a move probably won’t happen until after the draft, as the Giants are believed to be searching around for cap space to continue adding pieces to their 2017 roster.he Giants will save $1.075 million on this transaction once it becomes official.

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Robbie Gould Signs with the 49ers

March 9: Robbie Gould Signs with 49ers

Analysis: Gould stepped in cold off the couch for the Giants after the Josh Brown fiasco came to a head. While Gould’s place-kicking was mostly solid–he made all of his field goal attempts while missing just three PATS–his kickoffs were the problem.

Gould’s kickoffs averaged 65.8 yards,, with 51.2 percent of his kickoffs returned, and just  19 touchbacks.

The reliability in scoring is nice, but moving forward, the Giants no doubt hope to convert some of those stalled drives that resulted in field goals into touchdowns.

They also are hoping that the big-legged but untested Aldrick Rosas might be able to provide some firepower on kickoffs, though Rosas, signed to a reserve/futures contract n January, will have competition in camp this summer.

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Negotiations reportedly stall between JPP, Giants

March 9: Negotiations reportedly stall between JPP, Giants

Analysis: This news, while certainly unsettling, is not unexpected. The Giants, who applied the franchise tag on Pierre-Paul for the second time in the last three years, are believed to have a set rate in mind for the 27-year-old defensive end, a rate they are not looking to really budge off from.

Pierre-Paul, meanwhile told reporters during the team’s Exit day in January that he proved he is still capable of being a top-shelf defensive end in the league, and that he wasn’t interested in playing on another one-year deal.

The dynamics here are interesting, depending on whose perspective you take. From JPPs side, the refusal to further negotiations means they are holding captive nearly $17 million of the Giants already limited cap space to use in free agency.

From the Giants’ perspective, that might not matter. Based on reports thus far, the Giants have shown themselves unwilling to get involved in the high-end of the free agency market for offensive linemen and tight ends and are instead looking to get more modest deals made with complementary pieces rather than headliners.

The Giants can also always restructure existing contracts to make more room—return specialist Dwayne Harris has already been mentioned as a potential restructure candidate, but as of last check of the NFLPA records, nothing has been done regarding his 2017 cap figure.

Getting back to Pierre-Paul, he and the Giants have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal; after that, he can choose to sign and play on the franchise tag or sit out until the 11th week of the season.

Pierre-Paul’s ability to have a bounce back season last year was largely due to him getting into the offseason program right from the start, something he even admitted to. Would Pierre-Paul risk a lengthy holdout until July only to sign the one-year tag again?

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Giants Reportedly Interested in TE/FB Rhett Ellison

March 9: Giants Reportedly Interested in TE/FB Rhett Ellison


Analysis:  This is of interest as last yer, the Giants added fullback/tight end Will Johnson to the mix only to lose him for the season due to a burner. The Giants, who last year went without a pure fullback in their lineup–Nikita Whitlock was also on injured reserve–are apparently very interested in a hybrid who can come out of the backfield as a receiver.

The blocking by the tight ends has been abysmal. Although rookie Jerell Adams showed some promise, the Giants appear to be locking and loading to win now with Eli Manning’s window starting to close.

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Giants Reportedly Re-sign RB Orleans Darkwa

March 9: Giants Reportedly Re-sign RB Orleans Darkwa

Analysis: Darkwa was not tendered as a restricted free agent given the $1.7 million ROFR price tag that would have come along with such a designation. Regardless, there was always a chance of him returning on a lesser deal, which apparently is the case here.

Darkwa spent most of last year on injured reserve with a leg injury. When given opportunities to run the ball, Darkwa has intrigued at times. He’s rushed 75 times for 287 yards (3.8 average) and has four touchdowns. His greater value, though, is on special teams.

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Giants Reportedly Interested in Defensive Tackles

March 9: Giants Reportedly Interested in Defensive Tackles

Analysis: The Giants reported interest in defensive tackles comes as little surprise. Although the team is said to be working to retain Johnathan Hankins, a starter last year, it seems very likely that some other team with salary cap to burn and a need at defensive tackle is going to sweep Hankins away with a hefty offer the Giants won’t be able to match.

Hankins is still a young defensive lineman who has yet to reach his ceiling, and with free agent being about paying guys for their upside, he seems primed to earn a big-time pay-day.

Any veteran defensive tackles the Giants do end up signing will likely be on a short-term deal. This year’s draft lass is said to be loaded in defensive linemen, so it’s possible the Giants might dip into that talent pool to get their long-term starter if Hankins does indeed leave and if they can’t find the answer in either Jay Bromley or Robert Thomas.

UPDATE: McClain is reportedly signing with Washington.

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Giants, Receiver Brandon Marshall Agree to Terms

March 8: Giants, Receiver Brandon Marshall Reportedly Agree to Terms

Analysis: The Giants reportedly have their big receiving target on board, according to by Newsday’s Kimberly Martin.

That would be receiver Brandon Marshall, released last week by the Jets.

Marshall, who in the days following his release from the Jets had changed his  Twitter avatar to a picture of a Giants player hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, has said he’d like to play for a Super Bowl contender.

Signing Marshall gives the Giants a tall target in the red zone, an area in which the Giants are looking to improve after finishing 22nd last year (51.1%).

The Giants parted with veteran Victor Cruz last month. Marshall brings veteran leadership to a still young and inexperienced group of receivers that includes Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis, Tavarres King.

The signing of Marshall, now made official by the club likely puts an end to any interest the Giants might have had in Browns UFA receiver Terrelle Pryor.

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Report: Giants Approach Dwayne Harris for a Restructure

March 8: Giants Reportedly Approach Dwayne Harris to Restructure

Analysis: Despite making his first Pro Bowl, receiver/special teams player Dwayne Harris’ hold on a roster spot for 2017 is shaky at best.

Harris, was the very definition of toughness, playing through numerous injuries that affected his speed and burst. After averaging 10.0 yards per return in 2015 on punt returns, Harris’ average dropped to 5.0. As a result, he lost some of the opportunities to return punts to the more explosive Odell Beckham Jr.

Harris, who in 2015 had touchdowns on both a kickoff and a punt return, never seemed to come close in 2016 to replicating what he accomplished in 2016.

In addition, his role in the offense–he caught 36 passes for 396 yards, with four touchdowns and 19 first-down conversions when injuries to the receiver corps opened an opportunity for him to contribute–diminished in 2016 when he caught one pass for 13 yards.

Harris signed a five-year deal with the Giants in 2015 worth $17.5 million, with $7.1 million guaranteed, the last of the guaranteed money paid out in 2016. He is due to count for $3.8 million against the Giants’ 2017 cap, a figure that includes a $2.975 million base salary.

If he and the Giants are unable to agree on a lower base salary leading to the termination of Harris’ contract, the Giants would save just $1.4 million and would take a $2.4 million dead money cap hit, the dead money topping the $1.9 million the Giants were charged when they released Victor Cruz last month.

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Report: Giants Interested in TE Anthony Fasano

March 7: Giants Reportedly Interested in Titans TE Anthony Fasano

Analysis: With the Giants moving on from Larry Donnell, they’re currently left with a crop of extremely young veterans in Will Tye (29 games played, 17 starts), Jerell Adams (13 games played, 2 starts) and Matt LaCosse (zero games played).

Although the draft class is rich in tight end talent this year, it makes sense to add a veteran who’s a bit more battle tested to this otherwise still very young group.

Fasano, a Verona, NJ native, just completed his 11th season and his second with the Titans. His prior teams include the Cowboys, Dolphins and Chiefs.

The 32-year-old Fasano, 6’4″, 255 pounds, has 287 career receptions for 3,171 yards and 35 touchdowns. His appeal to the Giants, who are also believed to be exploring the possibility of tapping into the tight end-rich draft class, is as a run blocker and as a mentor for the young tight ends currently on the roster.

Fasano would presumably be an affordable option for the Giants, who might look to get him on a one-year minimum deal while Tye, Adams, LaCosse and a potential draft pick are all developed further.

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Giants Tender RFA Defensive End Kerry Wynn

March 7: Giants Tender RFA Kerry Wynn

Analysis: This comes as no surprise as this was the buzz making its way around the combine last week. Wynn is a serviceable run-stopping defensive end.

However, he’s also a player who could receive some interest around the league, especially considering that if a team signs him to an offer sheet that the Giants can’t or don’t want to match, the new team wouldn’t owe the Giants any compensation int he form of draft picks.

Wynn had his best season to date in 2015, recording 53 tackles in 15 games played (seven starts), with two passes defensed. Last year, his numbers tailed off; he played in 14 games, recording 12 tackles and just a half sack.

Rookie Romeo Okwara got the starting job ahead of Wynn when defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul had to miss the rest of the regular season due to core muscle surgery.

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Report: Giants Interested in WR Terrelle Pryor

March 6: Giants Reportedly Interested in Browns WR Terrelle Pryor

Analysis: It’s widely believed the Giants need a big receiving target; however, if they’re looking to add a veteran to the mix, I can’t see it being Pryor due to the projected finances that would be involved.

Spotrac is projecting a new multiyear contract for Pryor in the four-year, $36.64 million range, or about $8.4 million per year.

Even if the Giants clear out more salary cap space, they’re probably not going to be serious contenders for Pryor barring something unexpected happening.