The Giants.com staff debates the Giants moves in free agency and the trade market:
The Giants' biggest needs were addressed in the first wave of free agency.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -
This does not mean the Giants are done working, nor should they be. The Giants' biggest needs heading into free agency were offensive line, linebacker, pass rushing depth, and cornerback. In the first wave of free agency, the Giants have signed Nate Solder, the best player on the market at left tackle, which is the toughest non-quarterback position to fill on the football field. They needed linebackers and signed Kareem Martin, who is familiar with Jim Bettcher's defense, and traded for Alec Ogletree, who is a much needed athletic inside linebacker. Martin, at 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, also provides pass rush depth off the edge to help Jason Pierre Paul and Oliver Vernon. At cornerback, the Giants added Teddy Williams, who will provide some depth. More work has to be done at that position but a player was added to the mix. Don't forget Jonathan Stewart, who is the short-yardage back the Giants haven't had in a long time. Dave Gettleman's goal in free agency was to fill holes so they could draft the best available players and they are on their way to doing it.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -The Giants won't be shopping hungry at the draft, which was Dave Gettleman's plan from the beginning. It was no secret the team wanted offensive line help. The signing of left tackle Nate Solder shores up two positions, with Ereck Flowers moving to the right side and competing for that role. On defense, the Giants now have their defensive quarterback in Alec Ogletree and another playmaker outside in Kareem Martin, who comes from Arizona and played in James Bettcher's scheme.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact -At his introductory press conference in January, GM Dave Gettleman said addressing the offensive line would be one of his top priorities, and he did just that by signing left tackle Nate Solder from the Patriots. That acquisition means Ereck Flowers, who has played left tackle since he was drafted in 2015, will now compete at the right tackle spot. With Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen being free agents, the Giants signed veteran running back Jonathan Stewart from the Panthers to add to a position groups that included youngsters Wayne Gallman and Paul Perkins. The play of the offensive line and the run game go hand-in-hand, and the Giants added two players with experience to help improve those facets of the team. On defense, nearly the entire linebacking corps was set to hit free agency, so by acquiring Alec Ogletree from the Rams and signing Kareem Martin from the Cardinals, new coordinator James Bettcher has two young players (both are 26 years old) entering their prime. Martin is also versatile, as he began his career as a defensive lineman. It's impossible to address every need on your roster in the first wave of free agency, but the Giants certainly brought in several players who fill voids from 2017.
Alec Ogletree plays the most important position in James Bettcher's defense.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - A fast inside linebacker that can play three downs and be the quarterback of the defense is very important to James Bettcher, but I don't think it is the most important spot. There are two spots that are more important in nearly every defense: a good edge rusher and a lock-down, cover cornerback. The Giants have players to fill those roles in Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul and Janoris Jenkins. Those are still considered more premium positions than middle linebacker.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -The outside linebackers might be more important in terms of production and what they're asked to do, but Ogletree will be an extension of defensive coordinator James Bettcher on the field. That will be especially important in the transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 scheme with multiple looks. The value of a quality MIKE linebacker can't be overstated.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -The middle linebacker position is important in just about every single defense because that's the player who, most likely, wears helmet that allows him to receive communication from the sideline and serves as the quarterback of the defense. In James Bettcher's defense, however, I think the safety and outside linebacker/hybrid positions are a bit more important because of how he moves personnel around and aggressively pursues the quarterback. For example, if you look at the 2017 Cardinals defense, you can argue that outside linebacker Chandler Jones and safety Buddha Baker were two of the most important players in that scheme, and it certainly showed up in the box score. Jones led the way with 17 sacks, and Baker finished fourth on the team in tackles and passes defensed and second in forced fumbles.
Nate Solder is the most impactful signing on offense by the Giants since Kerry Collins.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - Most of the Giants big free-agent signings over the years have come on the defensive side of the ball. Solder's two biggest competitors are right tackle Kareem McKenzie and center Shaun O'Hara, two other offensive linemen. I will go with Solder because he plays left tackle, the most premium position that is hardest to fill on the offensive line. There are no walk-in starters at that position in the draft, and Solder was the only full-time high-quality starter on the free agent market. He is a game-changer and should make Eli Manning very happy.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -The Giants don't win a Super Bowl if they don't sign center Shaun O'Hara and wide receiver Plaxico Burress, and they don't win two without right tackle Kareem McKenzie. But don't take my word for it. Go vote for the best signing in franchise history at Giants.com/bracket.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -In our last Cover 3 feature, I made the case that Kerry Collins was the best free-agent signing in franchise history, so it would be premature to put Nate Solder in that conversation. Since Collins, the Giants have signed a handful of offensive players who have significantly impacted the roster. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress and offensive linemen Shaun O'Hara and Kareem McKenzie come to mind as their arrivals contributed to the Giants eventually winning a pair of Super Bowls in the span of five seasons. The hope is that Solder joins their ranks.
Jonathan Stewart's biggest strength will be at the goal line.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -The Giants haven't had a true big bodied goal line back in a long time and Stewart should fill that role perfectly. He gets downhill and is decisive. He has scored six or more touchdowns for three straight seasons. His value also will be in the locker room and meeting rooms as a veteran, leader and culture changer. Bigger picture, I would expect his numbers to improve in an offense that is different from the Panthers' read-option scheme.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -Stewart's six touchdowns last season were from distances of one, two, two, 60, one and one yard. The 60-yarder really sticks out -- it was part of a three-touchdown game against a stingy Vikings defense – but the Giants will likely rely on his power. Head coach Pat Shurmur believes in using multiple backs, and Stewart will look to carve out his own role.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact -In his 10 seasons with the Panthers, Jonathan Stewart collected 51 touchdowns, including 15 in 2016 and 2017 combined. He has a knack for finding the end zone, and at this point in his career, I think Stewart is most effective picking up the hard fought yards in short-yardage situations like the goal line. You can also argue his biggest strength may show up in the locker room as a veteran leader for a relatively young group.