Creating the New York Giants' Free Agency Fallback Plan
One of the most frustrating things about the NFL free-agency period happens to be the one thing that makes it the most exciting time of the offseason.
Anything—and I mean anything—can and does happen, making information obsolete almost as quickly as it's reported.
So if you happen to be following me on Twitter and think I might be sounding sound a little grumpy at times, or if I don't respond to your tweet, please don't take it personally.
Speaking of free-agency rumors, there's been a lot of things to track concerning potential targets the New York Giants have their eye on.
What really hasn't been discussed, though, is what the Giants might do if their Plan A falls by the way side.
Fear not, as I have it covered. In free agency, when one door closes, another opens, and I suspect that there are going to be plenty of instances where the Giants have to switch to Plan B.
Here's a look at four such scenarios that could necessitate a change in plans if option A doesn't come to fruition.
Plan A: Center Evan Dietrich-Smith; Plan B: Brian De La Puente
With the Giants having cut the oft-injured David Baas as first reported by NJ.com, a new center is coming, possibly as soon as March 11.
That new center could very well be Green Bay Packers' center Evan Dietrich-Smith, of whom Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reports the Giants have "serious" interest:
The Giants, as expected, expressed interest in Packers C Evan Dietrich-Smith. A team source describes the interest as "serious". #NYG— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) March 10, 2014
The interest in Dietrich-Smith makes sense because as I’ve noted previously, he comes from the very same Packers system as new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
Dietrich-Smith, ranked as the eighth best center among those who took at least 75 percent of the snaps on offense in 2013 per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
He would be a natural fit to help the Giant’s offensive line adjust to whatever elements from the Packers offense McAdoo plans to install with the Giants.
If the Giants can’t land Dietrich-Smith, a solid backup plan would be Brian de la Puente of the New Orleans Saints.
Vacchiano reported that the Giants do have interest in the 29-year-old de la Puente, PFF’s 15th best center from last season. Presumably, that interest would disappear if they manage to work something out with Dietrich-Smith.
Plan A: Cornerback Alterraun Verner; Plan B: Justin Gilbert
It wasn’t a surprise to hear that the Giants were looking at cornerbacks in free agency, especially considering their lack of depth presently at the position.
What was a surprise was that they were shooting for a top-of-the-line cornerback, specifically Alterraun Verner of the Tennessee Titans.
I say “had” because Verner’s price tag is reportedly more than what the Giants want to pay, per NJ.com.
How much more? In an interview with Mad Dog Radio on SiriusXM (h/t Pro Football Talk), Verner, in offering hints as to his expected annual value, said:
Money is [priority] but it isn’t. I look at it differently. Some look at it tangibly. I look at it as more of a respect value. I would feel more obliged to go to a team that paid me $6 or $7 million and made me one of the highest-paid players on the team than go to a team that paid me $8 or $9 million and I wasn’t one of the highest-paid players on the team.
While there are other top cornerbacks still on the market—Aqib Talib, Tarell Brown, Walter Thurmond, Captain Munnerlyn, Corey Graham and Antonio Cromartie are all scheduled to be available March 11—the four-year, $39 million deal that Sam Shields signed with Green Bay has likely made it impossible for the Giants to get a starting cornerback at their price.
So what’s the fallback plan if they don't get a starting corner? Why, the draft, of course.
This year’s class is extremely deep with cornerbacks who could be ready to compete for a starting job.
Given the high priority the Giants seem to be placing on finding a starting cornerback, one draft prospect who could very well be there when New York is on the clock at No. 12 overall is Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State.
Gilbert is a prototypical cornerback who possesses good size and length (6'0", 200 pounds) and the speed to turn and run with receivers in man coverage. He’s also shown a willingness to attack the football, recording seven career interceptions during his college career.
As a bonus, he can serve as a kickoff returner, a role in which he posted one return for a touchdown in college.
In the meantime, the Giants could be looking at retaining cornerback Trumaine McBride, whom Art Stapleton of the Bergen Record reports is close to re-signing for two years, as a stopgap solution until a rookie is ready to step in.
Plan A: Linebacker Jon Beason; Plan B: Spencer Paysinger
All you need to know about linebacker Jon Beason is that he’s looking to collect as much money as he possibly can on what might very well be his final chance to earn a big payday.
Why else would Beason, per The Star-Ledger, chose to represent himself in free agency rather than hand over a three-percent commission to an agent?
You can't fault Beason for wanting to get a fair market deal, as he's certainly made a strong case for one since joining the Giants via a trade last year.
Once he became comfortable in the scheme, that average dropped to 18.3 points the remainder of the way, as New York finished with the league's eighth-best defense, giving up an average of 332.2 yards per game.
With the clock ticking down on the Giants’ chance to negotiate exclusively with Beason, Newsday’s Tom Rock reports the 29-year-old linebacker will hit the open market.
Told it's "doubtful" anything gets done with Beason before he hits the market tomorrow. Giants had a few extra days of exclusivity there.— Tom Rock (@TomRock_Newsday) March 10, 2014
As for a Plan B, I’m going to think outside of the box and propose an idea that just might be worth a look if there are no other options.
That idea is to move restricted free agent Spencer Paysinger, whom they tendered a right-of-first-refusal, to the middle linebacker spot.
Paysinger has actually played in the middle in the team’s nickel package, starting five games in the middle prior to Beason’s arrival last season, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
It also needs to be noted that given that Paysinger finished with a 96.1 NFL grade in coverage, the best of the Giants inside linebackers last season, of the entire Giants’ middle linebackers (including Beason).
That's not to say Paysinger is better than Beason, but rather to suggest that Paysinger might just be able to hold his own if he had to play in the middle.
In comparing Paysinger’s coverage success to that of Beason’s, Paysinger allowed 65.2 percent of passes thrown at him to be completed for 139 yards, per PFF. Beason, meanwhile allowed 77.3 percent of the targets to be completed for 386 yards.
That’s not to say that the Giants should give up on re-signing Beason. The leadership he brought to the defense was invaluable as was his ability to finally restore direction to the linebacker unit.
The ideal option is obviously to get a new deal done with Beason, something that might not happen until he sees what other teams are willing to offer him.
Plan A: Tight End Andrew Quarless; Plan B: Arthur Lynch
Another position high atop the Giants to-do list is tight end, where the only players under contract at this moment are third-year guys Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell.
Since neither of those two players has really shown enough to convince the coaches that they are ready for full-time roles, the Giants will almost certainly look at free agency to boost the depth at this spot.
Per ESPN, one name that has been linked to New York is Green Bay's Andrew Quarless.
The 25-year-old stepped in last year for teammate Jermichael Finley (also said to be on the Giants’ radar) after Finley suffered a season-ending neck injury on Oct. 20.
Quarless, who missed the 2012 season with a knee injury suffered late in 2011, finished with 32 catches for 312 yards and two touchdowns for the Packers last season. Overall, he has 56 receptions for 586 yards and three touchdowns.
Despite his production, Quarless drew some blunt criticism from Packers tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot last December, who told the Journal Sentinel that the team “needs to get more” from Quarless, especially in the run game.
He makes the right reads. He’s smart enough. I just think that we’ve continually emphasized his fundamentals to get our pad level and leverage on guys. He plays high. We need more out of him at the point of attack and finish. We’ve talked about that.
In a separate article, Fontenot praised Quarless as a receiver, telling ESPN’s Rob Demovsky:
I think that he's made strides in being a better receiver and understanding where he needs to be on the field at any given point. As with anything, you always work on consistency.
So what happens if the next Giants tight end isn't a veteran?
If you’ve been reading my stuff these last few weeks, you know I’ve been hopful that New York will take North Carolina's Eric Ebron with its first-round pick.
However, as I look at things further, I’m thinking that the Giants could go defense in the first round and wait to add a tight end later in the draft.
That tight end is a guy I mentioned way, way back at the start of the 2013 season: Georgia’s Arthur Lynch (6’5”, 254 pounds), who I think might be a Day 3 pick.
While Lynch doesn’t have the speed of Ebron—not many tight ends in this draft class do—he is a prototypical in-line blocking tight end, which is something that the Giants could certainly use, especially in the running game.
Lynch isn’t afraid to go over the middle to make the tough catch. While he doesn’t have breakaway speed, Lynch's 15.3 yards-per-catch average in his final collegiate season suggests that he can be a player to move the chains and help sustain drives in the NFL.
If the Giants do go to Plan B, it would not be surprising if they re-sign unrestricted free agent Bear Pascoe to a one-year deal to serve as a transition player while a rookie such as Lynch gets up to speed.
Pascoe’s presence would also provide some veteran experience while the Giants continue to figure out what they have in Donnell and Robinson.