The new league year is here. So far, the Giants have reportedly agreed to terms with the following free agents: QB Colt McCoy, S/ST Nate Ebner, OT Cam Fleming, LB Kyler Fackrell, CB James Bradberry, LB Blake Martinez, TE Levine Toilolo, and WR Cody Core (contract extension). In addition, the team placed the franchise tag on DT Leonard Williams and used a second-round tender on K Aldrick Rosas.
With that in mind, the crew debates a variety of free agency topics in this week's "Fact or Fiction" on Giants.com.
With Tom Brady on the move, home vs. Tampa Bay is now the game to circle on the Giants' 2020 schedule.
John Schmeelk: Fact -- The Giants' schedule is looking more difficult by the day. The game against Tampa was one of the two matchups (along with the Bears) that were determined by the Giants finishing in third place in the NFC East. Now both those teams have new quarterbacks, with the Bucs signing Tom Brady. There is no way to know how many games and seasons Brady has left in his arm so Giants fans need to enjoy what could be his last game at MetLife Stadium. While there are other exciting matchups against the top two teams in both conferences last year (49ers and Ravens), Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, seeing Tom Brady in person has to sit atop of the list.
Dan Salomone: Fiction -- If it's in the first few weeks of the season, then yes, I would say fact. But I think the novelty of Brady in another uniform will wear off quicker than you think, like it does with any other player. At some point it just becomes football. Plus, Eli Manning is retired. This Giants team is new and needs to form its own identity. I truly don't look at the list of opponents and say, wow, I can't wait to see that grudge match. They all need to be circled.
Lance Medow: Fact -- Tom Brady's decision to join the Bucs certainly makes this game that much more attractive. When you take into consideration his two Super Bowl battles with the Giants and the weapons (Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Ronald Jones to name a few) surrounding him in Tampa Bay, outside of the NFC East matchups, the home game against the Bucs tops the list in attractiveness. With that being said, Brady moving to the NFC isn't necessarily good news for the rest of the conference. His arrival completely changes the outlook for the Bucs in the 2020 season and makes them a very dangerous team for all opponents.
The first week of free agency changes what you think the Giants might do in the draft.
Schmeelk: Fiction -- There's no reason the Giants wouldn't still consider trading down. The only change might be at cornerback, where a need for an outside cornerback might not be as high with the addition of James Bradberry and so many young players from prior drafts. Dave Gettleman's philosophy is to fill holes in free agency so he can take the best available player and so far he has done just that.
Salomone: Fiction – When you pick fourth overall, your team has more than one hole to fill. No matter what happened in free agency, the Giants would be in position to take the best player available in the draft. On top of that, Dave Gettleman has said repeatedly that he is not afraid to draft over anybody, meaning no position is ever too deep to add competition.
Medow: Fiction -- Absolutely not and my answer will be the same even by the end of the first few waves of free agency. If the philosophy is to take the best player available, then what you do in free agency shouldn't drastically change that plan. Don't get me wrong, it will have some impact. For example, if you already signed multiple players at one position and when you get ready to pick you're choosing between two players, even in value, one of which that plays the same position you just addressed in free agency and another player at a completely different position, then you'll likely take the latter instead of the former. However, last year the Giants signed Golden Tate and Markus Golden in free agency yet still drafted Darius Slayton and Oshane Ximines, respectively. That's more of a reason not to jump to conclusions about the draft following free agency.
LB Blake Martinez will be the Giants' leading tackler in 2020. (Note: The agreement reported by NFL Network's Mike Garafolo is contingent on Martinez passing his physical, which will take place on a date yet to be determined.)
Schmeelk: Fact -- At this point, it is hard to pick anyone else. The other options would be safeties Jabrill Peppers and Julian Love. The chance a defensive tackle like Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson or Leonard Williams does it are slim. Martinez has been tackling machine over the course of his NFL career, leading the Packers for three straight seasons. In 2019, he had the most tackles in the NFL. I would expect him to be just as productive for the Giants. How can you pick anyone else?
Salomone: Fact – He is a tackling Machinez. He earned that nickname at Stanford and lived up to it in the NFL with Green Bay. Martinez leads the league with 441 tackles since 2017 and is second only to five-time All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner since he entered in 2016. He recorded double-digit tackles in 24 of his 61 games played.
Medow: Fact -- In each of the last five seasons, a safety has led the Giants in tackles. However, to take it a step further, when Patrick Graham was the Dolphins defensive coordinator in 2019, linebacker Jerome Baker led the team in tackles and by a wide margin (45) and in each of the last two seasons, a linebacker (Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy) has led the Patriots in tackles. Martinez has not only been the Packers' leading tackler in each of the last three campaigns but he's also been amongst the NFL leaders in that category.
The biggest thing OT Cam Fleming brings to the offensive line is experience. (Note: The agreement reported by NFL Network's Mike Garafolo is contingent on Fleming passing his physical, which will take place on a date yet to be determined.)
Schmeelk: Fiction -- His experience, especially in the postseason is important, but to me his best quality is his versatility. Fleming has taken nearly the same number of snaps at right tackle and left tackle. He is capable of playing either spot at a moment's notice, which is the exact quality you want from a swing tackle. He was able to step in for perennial Pro Bowler Tyron Smith for Dallas and start six games in the past two seasons. The Cowboys offense was able to function with him in the game. That's what you want out of a backup tackle and Fleming does just that.
Salomone: Fact -- Not only does he have experience in terms of total games played (75 regular season and 11 postseason), but look at where and with whom he got that experience. Fleming started his career in New England, playing under Dante Scarnecchia, one of the best offensive line coaches of his time, and Bill Belichick, one of the best head coaches of his or any other time. Then Fleming went to Dallas, where he played alongside perennial All-Pros and Pro Bowlers. He played the last two seasons for Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett (then head coach of the Cowboys) and line coach Marc Colombo, who was on Garrett's staff. Right up there with experience is intelligence. This guy majored in aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford.
Medow: Fact -- I'm going with a fact only because I don't disagree with the statement but I would lean more toward versatility as his biggest asset. Fleming has played both tackle positions as well as guard through his six-year career. I look at him similar to former Giants offensive lineman Sean Locklear, who signed with the team in 2012 and proved to be a valuable player as a swing tackle. The experience is also attractive and can't be overlooked because he's been in Dallas each of the last two seasons with both offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and offensive line coach Marc Colombo. Considering the unknown of the offseason schedule, having a player on the roster, who already has familiarity with the scheme can be extremely beneficial.