With the opening of free agency last Wednesday, we’ve seen players come and go around the NFL as rosters start to take shape for the upcoming season. And you don’t need to look any further than the Giants for major changes.
While there is still plenty of roster-building to come, here are five things we’ve learned about the team in one week of free agency:
1. GIANTS MADE BIG MOVES TO IMPROVE DEFENSE
Everyone knew the Giants had money to spend this year, and everyone knew they needed to improve their defense. Nonetheless, the team was still the buzz of the first wave in free agency when it signed three of the best players on the market at their respective positions: defensive end Olivier Vernon (formerly of the Dolphins), defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison (Jets), and cornerback Janoris Jenkins (Rams). All three broke into the NFL in 2012, and now they headline what the Giants hope is a productive 2016 class of free agents.
“I think the Giants, they’re trying to win,” Vernon said. “They’re trying to win and get the defense back right. And I remember last year it wasn’t all what [it] was expected to be, and that’s not the standards of the Giants defense, and that’s not the Giants way, so pretty much I can’t wait to take the field.”
2. JPP RETURNED, PLANS TO PLAY WITHOUT CLUB IN 2016
After a life-changing year, Jason Pierre-Paul will stay with the team that drafted him in 2010. The Giants’ first move in free agency was re-signing the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end to a one-year contract after he returned from serious hand injuries that he suffered in a Fourth of July fireworks accident.
“I know for a fact that I can play better than I did last year,” he said. “My main goal is to get on the field this year without the club and play some good football. We’ll see from there.”
Added Pierre-Paul: “I have unfinished business.”
3. GIANTS HAVE A NEW MIDDLE LINEBACKER
With the signing of linebacker Keenan Robinson on Monday, the Giants have now addressed all three levels of their defense while every move so far in free agency has been on that side of the ball. The former Redskin has made all 21 of his career starts at middle linebacker, a position that was manned by four players throughout last season for the Giants. The last time the Giants signed a middle linebacker from Washington in free agency was Antonio Pierce in 2005. Two years later, they won the Super Bowl.
“I think this is the best fit for me,” Robinson said. “They’re a team that needed a middle linebacker. I think I can fill that role for the team. I’m very excited for the opportunity.”
4. PRINCE & AYERS MOVED TO FLORIDA
As of Wednesday, cornerback Prince Amukamara and defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. were the only Giants from last year’s roster to sign with new teams as unrestricted free agents. Amukamara, the Giants’ first-round pick in 2011, signed with Jacksonville, and Ayers, who had 14.5 sacks in two seasons with Big Blue, will be nearby in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers.
5. NO COMPENSATORY DRAFT PICKS AWARDED TO GIANTS
The NFL announced this week that 33 compensatory draft choices were awarded to 13 teams, none of which included the Giants. The last time the team had one was in 2014 when it received the 34th pick in the fifth round (174th overall) and used it to select former USC linebacker Devon Kennard.
Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks. The compensatory picks are positioned between the third and sixth rounds, based on the value of the compensatory free agents lost. Compensatory picks may not be traded this year. A rule change approved by clubs in 2015 will permit compensatory draft picks to be traded beginning in 2017. Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time, and postseason honors.