The Giants.com staff plays Fact or Fiction to break down the latest offseason signings:
The Brandon Marshall signing was the biggest move of the NFL offseason.
John Schmeelk: FACT -There are a few things that go into this equation. First, the player must have changed teams. For a move to be "big", it should signal a change from the prior season. My second stipulation is that the switch must be to a good team. For a move to affect the NFL on the scale we are talking about, it should impact the quest for a Lombardi Trophy. Third, the player involved needs to be an impact player. Brandon Marshall to the Giants checks all those boxes better than any other player move this offseason. The Giants offense struggled at times last year, and Marshall should help change that, potentially drastically. If the line improves, his big play presence might be a deciding factor in making the team Super Bowl contenders.
Dan Salomone: FACT -Nothing for a while will come close to what the Giants did last year in free agency in terms of volume, but the single addition of Brandon Marshall was one of the bigger moves in recent franchise history. It's not every year you add a player who is 59 catches away from 1,000 and trails only Larry Fitzgerald in yards and touchdowns among active receivers.
Lance Medow: FICTION -The Brandon Marshall signing is one of the top five moves of the NFL offseason, but I think the Patriots acquiring wide receiver Brandin Cooks from the Saints heads the list. Cooks is just 23 years old, much younger than Marshall, and gives Tom Brady his most dangerous vertical threat since Randy Moss. He has collected over 1,100 receiving yards and at least eight touchdowns in each of the last two seasons and joins a receiving corps that already showcases Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell, plus tight end Rob Gronkowski and new addition Dwayne Allen. New England had to sacrifice first and third round picks for Cooks, but given his age and the fact that it's unlikely any current draft pick would match Cooks' production from Day One, it's well worth the price. The defending Super Bowl champs found a way to reload their roster after orchestrating one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.
*The NFC East made the most improvements in free agency this year. *
John Schmeelk: FICTION - This a really good and tough question, but I'm going to have to go "fiction." Many of the Giants moves were retaining their own guys, as was the case with Jason Pierre-Paul and Keenan Robinson. The Cowboys lost a lot of talent on defense. The Redskins lost their two starting outside wide receivers. The Eagles made some new additions and should be better thanks to some new players, but I'm going to go with the AFC South. I know this might sound crazy, but the Jaguars' moves alone might put that division over the top with the additions of Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye and Barry Church, among others. The Colts added Jabaal Sheard. Logan Ryan and John Cyprien went to the Titans. That's a lot of new talent in the division.
Dan Salomone: FICTION - Like the Giants, the Eagles bolstered their wide receiver corps with Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to give Carson Wentz some more targets. Those were some of the most notable additions this year, while the Redskins said goodbye to DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. The Cowboys also saw some key departures in the secondary. All in all, the division evened out. In terms of the entire league, both of the South divisions are interesting. The Jaguars alone brought Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye and Barry Church to the AFC South. Meanwhile, in the NFC South, Dontari Poe went to the Falcons, the reigning conference champions. Tampa Bay added Jackson, Carolina brought Julius Peppers back for another stint, and New Orleans added Larry Warford.
Lance Medow: FICTION -On paper, the Giants and the Eagles certainly improved their rosters through free agency. New York added Brandon Marshall and depth on the offensive line and at running back, and Philadelphia bolstered its receiving corps by signing Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, but Dallas and Washington suffered significant losses. The Cowboys watched a majority of their secondary leave in free agency (CB Brandon Carr, CB Morris Claiborne, S Barry Church, S J.J. Wilcox), and while the Redskins signed wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, they lost wideouts DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon plus defensive lineman Chris Baker.
I think the NFC South made the most improvements across the board. The Falcons added Dontari Poe (Chiefs) and Jack Crawford (Cowboys) to bolster their defensive line; the Panthers brought back two veterans who will help their defense in pass rusher Julius Peppers (Packers) and corner Captain Munnerlyn (Vikings); and, as mentioned above, the Bucs grabbed DeSean Jackson and Chris Baker from the Redskins; and, like Tampa Bay, the Saints addressed both sides of the ball by snagging linebacker A.J. Klein (Panthers) and offensive lineman Larry Warford (Lions). That list may not include a number of big splashes, but names do not always translate to immediate success.
The strongest position in the NFC East right now is quarterback.
John Schmeelk: FACT -Even though Carson Wentz isn't playing at a Pro Bowl level yet, he has the raw ability to get there. No other position has top players on each of the four teams. Wide receiver is close with Odell Beckham Jr., Alshon Jeffery, Dez Bryant and Terrelle Pryor, but the Cowboys and Eagles secondary wide receivers don't get me too excited. The Cowboys secondary and defensive line takes those out of the equation. Tight end could be in the mix if the Giants pick one in the first round of the draft. But in the end, I'll go quarterback.
Dan Salomone: FICTION - You have to go with the offensive line. The NFC East had seven Pro Bowlers along the line: Tyron Smith, Jason Peters, Zack Martin, Brandon Scherff, Travis Frederick, Jason Kelce and Trent Williams. Specifically, the tackles dominate from that group with Smith, Peters and Williams.
Lance Medow: FACT -I think there are two positions you can make strong cases for: quarterback and wide receiver. Although Eli Manning has much more experience than the other three quarterbacks combined, each NFC East team still has a reliable playmaker at that position. The Cowboys' Dak Prescott and Philadelphia's Carson Wentz are both coming off strong rookie campaigns, and Kirk Cousins has put together consecutive solid seasons since he took over the Redskins starting job in 2015. When you look at the top three receivers on each team, that position is also a strength. The Giants will showcase Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard; the Cowboys: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley; the Redskins: Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson; the Eagles: Alshon Jeffery, Jordan Matthews and Torrey Smith. Given a number of those receivers are new to their respective teams and we have yet to see how things will work out, I'll give the edge to the quarterbacks.
Sterling Shepard will be second on the team in catches this season.
John Schmeelk: FICTION - As much as I like Sterling Shepard, I would be surprised if he had more catches than Brandon Marshall. Both are great third down targets, but I think Marshall's size and length will give him an advantage over Shepard's quickness to catch more passes.
Dan Salomone: FACT -He might not finish second in yards or touchdowns, but reception total isn't out of the question. Brandon Marshall wasn't signed to take pressure off just Odell Beckham Jr. He is going to open things up for the entire offense, from the running game to the tight ends and the slot receivers. What impressed me the most about Sterling Shepard as a rookie was his production on third and fourth downs. He has only scratched the surface, and Eli Manning will keep going to him over and over again.
Lance Medow: FICTION -Sterling Shepard finished second on the team in catches in 2016 with 65, but he also had the second-most targets on the team (105). With Brandon Marshall's arrival, I don't think Shepard will see as many targets, meaning Marshall will eat into his production as Eli Manning looks to spread the wealth. Since 2007, Marshall's second year in the league, he has finished first or second on the team in receptions in nine of the last ten seasons. I think that trend will continue with the Giants.