New York Giants' Most Under and Overrated Offseason Additions
The New York Giants’ offseason free-agent spending spree has been well-documented.
On paper, among the 15 new players, as listed by Inside Football, is a nice mix of potential starters and depth.
After going through the offseason program, some players have emerged as even more valuable, while others have for one reason or another thus far been disappointing.
My personal three favorite signings are running back Rashad Jennings—who I think is going to help kickstart the Giants running game (more on him later this week)—and corners Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond, both of whom will hopefully create more coverage-sack opportunities for the front seven.
Who else made my underrated and overrated lists? Read on to find out.
Underrated: Linebacker Jameel McClain
The move wasn't totally unexpected considering McClain spent the first six weeks of the 2013 on the PUP list after suffering a bruised spinal cord in 2012. Still, per Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun, the Ravens had hoped to re-sign McClain at a lower rate.
They never got the chance as McClain went on a free-agent tour that, per Wilson, included the Buffalo Bills before popping in to meet with the Giants and, per ESPN's Ben Goessling, the Minnesota Vikings.
He ended up signing a two-year deal with the Giants worth $4.5 million.
Originally slated to play the strong-side linebacker spot, McClain, who played inside linebacker for the Ravens, will now slide over to the middle for the Giants while starter Jon Beason recovers from a broken foot.
With McClain calling the defensive signals, the Giants are not expected to miss a beat.
“Obviously, Jon was a big part of us being able to turn around defensively last year because of his leadership, his communication skills,” defensive coordinator Perry Fewell told reporters at the end of the three-day minicamp.
“And then we found the same thing in Jameel McClain in that he has good leadership skills, very good communication.”
Want another reason why McClain is an underrated signing?
As a member of the Super Bowl XLVII champion Ravens, he knows a thing or two about what it takes to get to the big game and can provide that experience to a locker room where only 17 members of the Giants’ Super Bowl XLVI championship team remain on the current 90-man training-camp roster.
Overrated: Center J.D. Walton
Even before they cut David Baas, there was little doubt that the Giants were in need of a new starting center.
However, if their plan all along was to add a center via the draft, which they did with second-rounder Weston Richburg, then why bother spending what Spotrac reports is a two-year, $6 million contract with $2.5 million guaranteed on J.D. Walton?
That’s a hefty figure for a man who didn’t play last season due to an ankle problem. Moreover, it’s nearly three times as much as what they might have been able to re-sign veteran Kevin Boothe for, considering Boothe signed a two-year deal with the Oakland Raiders for $2.625 million with only $300,000 guaranteed.
Certainly Boothe, with whom the organization was familiar, could have held down the fort until a young center was ready for full-time duty.
Instead, they’re obligated to pay Walton, whose first-year salary of $1.25 million is fully guaranteed, while the young center they ultimately drafted, Richburg, is looking at potentially playing a different position or riding the pine in his rookie season.
Underrated: Cornerback Zack Bowman
A football team can never have enough quality special teams players. Considering the Giants lost a good number of their special teams regulars from last season—safety Will Hill, linebacker Keith Rivers and tight end Bear Pascoe, just to name a few—depth replenishment was necessary.
In addition to his special teams prowess, Bowman is a pretty solid cornerback. Last season, he recorded three interceptions for 67 yards and a touchdown, with his three picks tying him with Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman for second place on the Bears.
Bowman also finished seventh on the Bears defense with 48 total tackles in 2013.
So far, Bowman has seen work on special teams for the Giants and has looked good on defense as well. He came up with one interception and just barely missed another during the recently completed three-day mandatory minicamp.
Overrated: Offensive Tackle Charles Brown
Thanks in part to the retirement of guard/tackle David Diehl, one of the areas the Giants needed to address in the offseason was adding a veteran tackle.
They did so by signing former New Orleans Saints left tackle Charles Brown to a one-year contract worth $795,000. While that's not a lot of money for veteran depth, there seems to be some question as to whether the Giants got a quality player for the money paid.
Brown, of course, was benched last year by New Orleans head coach Sean Payton after Brown was badly beaten by St. Louis’ Robert Quinn in a 27-16 Week 15 loss to the Rams.
Per WWLV-TV's Bradley Handwerger, Payton said of Brown, “I saw enough, period. It was enough penalties, pressures, sacks. It was enough. At some point you can’t just keep watching it.”
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Brown graded out as a minus-5.4 in that game, his worst grade of the 2013 season.
That wasn’t his only poor outing, as he earned seven negative grades as a pass-blocker en route to an overall season grade of minus-13.6 in that category.
To put it more plainly, if you think Will Beatty had a poor year, based on PFF’s grading system, Brown was much worse.
Underrated: Left Guard Geoff Schwartz
If at any point you consider offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz’s four-year, $16.8 million contract to be too much, just look at any one of the numerous videos showing quarterback Eli Manning being sacked—such as this one from the second Dallas Cowboys game last year—and I guarantee you’ll reconsider your position.
Schwartz, who last year played nine games at right guard and three at left guard, finished with a 15.2 rating from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), which puts him as the ninth-best guard in the league last year.
Moreover, Schwartz was credited with giving up just two sacks, two hits and six hurries in 498 snaps played.
Those numbers are better than any of the Giants guards last year; Kevin Boothe, James Brewer and David Diehl, all of whom allowed double-digit quarterback hurries and twice as many hits, combined to give up six sacks.
If Manning and the new offense are to have any chance of success, it’s important to keep the quarterback standing upright.
Schwartz proved last year that he’s capable of serving as a human brick wall when it comes to guarding the signal-caller, thus making him one of the more invaluable free-agent signings.
Overrated: Offensive Lineman John Jerry
The Giants’ signing of former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman John Jerry was supposed to provide the team with depth at both guard and at tackle.
However, Jerry ended up missing the entire spring while recovering from a knee scope—not exactly the most ideal way to start a new chapter with a new team.
If that’s not enough to create a concern, the NFL-commissioned Wells Report that investigated the Dolphins’ workplace harassment scandal of former offensive lineman Jonathan Martin alleges that Jerry was one of the players who “engaged in a pattern of harassment” of multiple members of the Dolphins' personnel.
Head coach Tom Coughlin told the New York Times' Ken Belson in March that “there is no suspension in the air or anything of that nature” for Jerry.
However, Jerry isn’t necessarily out of the woods. Will Brinson of CBS Sports reports that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will have the players named in the Wells Report undergo evaluation.
"I think the first thing for us to get the evaluations and determine treatments," Goodell said, via Brinson. "Depending on what the doctors prescribe for that, that could prevent them from being around football for some period of time. But that's a medical decision."
Medical issues aside, Jerry seems to have lost ground on the depth chart to Charles Brown, who has been filling in for Will Beatty as he recovers from a broken leg.
Underrated: Safety Quintin Demps
Less than a month before the Associated Press (via The Journal News) reported that then-Giants safety Will Hill was facing a third league-imposed suspension—his second for having violated the league's substance abuse policy—the Giants had already inked safety Quintin Demps, presumably to compete as their kick-return specialist and serve as a backup safety.
When Hill’s appeal was denied, he was subsequently waived. All of a sudden, the Demps signing became even more significant.
Demps’ presence on the roster means that defensive coordinator Perry Fewell will still be able to run his three-safety package—a personnel alignment that has been very successful for him during his tenure with the Giants.
Moreover, Demps, who signed a one-year, $1 million contract in March, provides insurance for the starting lineup in the event that Stevie Brown, who is trying to return after missing last year with a torn ACL, suffers a setback.
If Brown makes it back without any issues, the Giants not only have their third safety, but also an established return specialist for what amounts to a bargain-basement price.