The Mara and Tisch ownership conglomerate of the Giants have always been big proponents of doing whatever it takes to win. Despite the backing, Big Blue has built its teams from a foundation based on good drafting and the development of young players. Over the course of the last decade, the Giants have been rather judicious with their use of free agent money, as the only really big free agent acquisitions were Kareem McKenzie (2005), Antonio Pierce (2005), Plaxico Burress (2005) from Pittsburgh, Antrel Rolle (2010) from Arizona. Not world-beater type of names to say the least. However, the last time the Giants made these big free agent signings, it propelled them to Super Bowl titles in 2007 and 2011. It leads credence to the fact that when the Giants do break the bank, they often make good on a volume of moves, and that is the case here in 2014.
After two straight non-playoff seasons, Jerry Reese has used some shrewd maneuvering in order to create the necessary cap space in order to become a major player in free agency. In the process, the Giants let go of key components of their team in guard Chris Snee, receiver Hakeem Nicks and defensive linemen Linval Joseph. Mattias Kiwanuka restructured his contract allowing the Giants to finally “pony-up the dough”. Although it took some time for their acquisitions to matriculate, the last three or four days have been as exciting a period for Giants fans in the off-season, as they made an 11th hour push to acquire some key defensive pieces
The moves the Giants made, the signing of Walter Thurmond, Quinton Demps and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, clearly show the fans and the rest of the league that New York will not take another season of mediocrity. So what if the Giants already had a solid defense. Detractors of the moves will say that the reason for the Giants struggles were primarily on Eli Manning. Regardless, Jerry Reese has positioned the team to make a serious run now and for the foreseeable future by completely bolstering what was originally an average secondary into one that could rank top-five in the league.
We’ve all heard the adage: “This is a passing league.” The blueprint to winning the Super Bowl has been set by the Seahawks and everyone is at an arms race for quality defensive backs. What a better way for the Giants to start drawing such a blueprint than by adding a player from the defending championship Seahawks. Walter Thurmond, who many considered the best slot-corner in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, Thurmond allowed a paltry .85 yards per snap in the slot and the overall quarterback rating on passes intended his way was 74. When he was covering slot receivers, that rating dropped further to 69. With the way the league is geared towards freeing up slot receivers, Thurmond, on a one-year $3.5 million deal is an absolute bargain.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has had an up and down career. He was highly touted in his first two seasons at Arizona, went to Philadelphia and laid an egg, but got a second wind in Denver. Last season for the Broncos, he was rated as the fourth best cornerback in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. ‘DRC’ has the length and speed that elite corners need in order to cover the bigger receivers. The term and dollars are fair value for a player who’s arguably among the top ten corners in the league. Rodgers-Cromartie was signed for 5 years at $39 million and will be getting $14 million guaranteed and $16 million in the first two years, making this deal relatively front-loaded. This acquisition relegates the struggling Corey Webster to a 4th or 5th corner and pairs Rodgers-Cromartie with Prince Amukamara, the Giants 2011 first-round pick. Amukamara had a tumultuous first couple of seasons, but is slowly rounding into form as a solid cornerback.
When considering that the Giants can now line up Thurmond, Rodgers-Cromartie along with Amukamara, Stevie Brown (who intercepted eight passes in 2012) and Antrel Rolle who had a fine Pro Bowl season, New York surely has the makings of a ball-hawking pass defense. Demps is a depth signing who can help fill in if there are any injuries. His special teams acumen increases his value. Speaking of special teams, the Giants also signed Trindon Holliday who is one of the fastest return men in the league. He should figure into a special teams unit that was 26th and 27th in punt and kickoff returns respectively.
Of course, teams do not win divisions in free agency and we all know teams have added many pieces in the past only to have success not come to fruition. Jerry Reese has added the pieces on the defensive end for Perry Fewell to re-establish his attacking defense. I’ve mentioned many times that the front and back-end complement each other and the bolstering of the Giants secondary can only do wonders to a stalling Jason Pierre-Paul.
It’s clear that Jerry Reese wants the Giants to make a big run. New York Daily News Giants beat writer Ralph Vacchiano had tweeted that the Giants, in the six days of free agency, had signed or re-signed 16 players for a total of over $105 million including the aforementioned Rodgers-Cromartie, Thurmond, Demps, Rashad Jennings and just today, Mario Manningham, the Super Bowl 46 hero who made one of the most improbable sideline catches in history.
If 2007 and 2010 are any indication, the Giants’ moves this off-season could be a dangerous coup against the teams in the upper-echelon of the NFC.