I’m usually not a fan of overspending in free agency. But when you’re coming off the worst defensive season ever, and you’re overspending on young guys just entering their prime like Vernon, Jenkins, and Snacks, it’s worth the money.
DE Olivier Vernon — 5 Years, $85 million ($52.5 mil guaranteed)
DT Damon Harrison — 5 Years, $46.25 million ($24 mil guaranteed)
CB Janoris Jenkins — 5 Years, $62.5 million ($28.8 guaranteed)
DE Jason Pierre-Paul — 1 Year, $10.5 million
WR Victor Cruz — Dropped Base Salary from $7.9 million to $1.3 million
So… wow… that was… that was something, huh? $204 million on four guys in one day? That’s a lot to digest.
Did we spend a little too much on those 3? Eh, probably. Free agency splurges rarely ever end up bringing a solid return on the investment. The last however many Super Bowls, from the Broncos to the Pats to the Seahawks to the Ravens to the 2012 Giants, have shows that you win with homegrown defensive talent. All of those teams built their defenses through the draft, with maybe a few additions like Talib and Ware this year and Revis and Browner last year to round out what was already a talented young group. Otherwise, you build a great defense through the draft. Big money free agency deals always scare the shit out me in the NFL, let alone three of them in one day.
But you know what… fuck it. This is a win-now team. Eli is 35, Odell is a top 3 receiver on a rookie contract, and we haven’t made the playoffs since we won that Super Bowl… over the Patriots… in Indy… remember that?… Eli to Mario… and that defensive line… how great was that?
Anyways, the point is: the Giants don’t have time to build a defense through the draft. We have no young defensive talent. Okay, we have a decent d-tackle in Hankins and a promising safety in Collins. But that’s it. We need a good defense now. So if that means we had to splurge, then so be it.
And you know what – these were smart splurges. If you’re going to overpay, these are the guys you overpay for. Vernon is 25 and a freakishly talented d-end who can both rush the passer and play the run at an elite level. Jenkins is 27, a top 15 talent at the position, and has improved every season. And Snacks (A+++ nickname) is 27 and–from all accounts, including his PFF ranking as the top defensive tackle in football last season–one of the most undervalued defensive players in the league.
These guys are young, super talented, do not have a ton of mileage for their ages, and are all just now entering their primes. And despite all the shit JPP caught last year, and the fact that he doesn’t have fingers on his right hand, the guy did come back and wildly exceed expectations (mine, at least) after something that could’ve derailed his career. We’ve had him so long that you forget he is still just 26. I’m fine giving out a one-year contract to a highly-motivated, still freakishly athletic talent like him.
Are we a great defense yet? No. That’s an awesome young defensive line in Vernon (25), JPP (26), Snacks (27), and Hankins (24), and a very solid cornerback duo in Jenkins and DRC. But we’re still a middle linebacker, a safety, and another corner away from any form of contention with this team.
So as much as I want to credit Reese for these singings, and Mara for opening his wallet, this whole defensive rebuilding process isn’t done until Reese can find real talent in the draft–not just the first round–for the first time since 2007.
For now, welcome to the squad
P.S. Somewhere in a secluded room Tom Coughlin is stabbing cardboard cutouts of Reese and Mara.
P.P.S. The Cruz contract restucturing is for another post.