The 2023 season is now a month old, and, in that time, there have been plenty of comings, re-signings and goings. Now with the NFL draft quickly approaching us, it’s time to look at the five things that have stood out.
Danny Dollar Dollar
3:56 pm EST on the 4th of March.
With four minutes to go until the franchise tag deadline and after three and a half weeks of painstaking negotiations, the Giants finally ended up agreeing with Daniel Jones’s new agents on a new $160 million, four-year contract based on a picky swear and a hug.
The initial reaction to the contract itself was intriguing, as it was easy to argue that both sides (Athletes First and the Giants) had come away with big wins. Athletes First were able to secure a guaranteed $84 million in the first two years, getting Jones his $40 million plus AAV, but the contract shifts in year three as it dips to an AAV of $37.5 million with none of it guaranteed unless Jones is on the roster on the fifth day of the 2025 league year.
Looking forward, getting the deal over the line prior to the deadline allowed the Giants to not only bring back Saquon Barkley, as he was given the franchise tag at a more palatable number of $10.09 million than Jones’s franchise tag hit of $32 million, but overall, it gave the Giants front office much more flexibility in the free agency market without having to panic negotiate to free up cap space.
Speaking of free agency, it didn’t take long for Joe Schoen to start looking at upgrading some of the Giants’ Achilles heels from last year, and without the shackles of last year’s Gettleman-caused cap restrictions, he was able to cast his net wider.
His first big splash was to sign ex-Indianapolis Colt linebacker Bobby Okereke to a four-year, $40 million deal, with $22 million of that guaranteed. The 27-year-old Okereke had 16 starts in 2022, recording a career-high 151 total tackles, two forced fumbles, and a 79.3 PFF rating as a run defender.
The second big free agent signing came two days later as another ex-Colt made the switch to East Rutherford in wide receiver Parris Campbell, who has just come off his best season as a pro. Campbell, who had struggled with injuries in his first few years in the league, played 17 games last year, recording 623 yards on 63 receptions. His contract with the Giants is a 1-year, $3-million deal with up to $1.7 million in per-game roster bonuses.
Sandwiched between the two deals above was arguably the most shocking and potentially best value move the Giants have made so far this offseason.
With most of the insiders suggesting that a standout wide receiver should be the Giants’ number one priority, they ended up trading for Darren Waller from the Las Vegas Raiders, who arguably on his day can give you that number one target in the same way the Kansas City Chiefs use Travis Kelce. Ironically, the cost to acquire Waller was the third-round pick (number 100 overall) that the Giants received as part of the Kadarius Toney trade to the Chiefs.
The 6-foot, 6-inch, 255-pound veteran has 298 receptions for 3,572 yards and 19 touchdowns in his career so far, and despite only appearing in nine games last season, he still managed nine 20-plus yard catches, which was only bested by Darius Slayton on the Giants roster.
The contract the Giants inherited had no dead money hits after 2023; however, after restructuring his deal to free up cap room, there are now hits if he were to be released after either of the 2023 or 2024 seasons.
Focusing on Depth and Familiarity
After a season spent either signing the best players they could to vet-minimum deals or having to resort to either practise squad poaching or street signings, Schoen and his team were able to focus on finding better depth pieces as well as keeping the better performers from last year.
There was a spate of re-signings prior to the start of free agency, with exclusive rights free agents Lawrence Cager (TE), Wyatt Davis (G), Jack Anderson (G), and surprise 2022 standout Isaiah Hodgins (WR) all signing new deals. They were then rejoined by Casey Kreiter (LS), Jamie Gillan (PT), Sterling Shepard (WR), Matt Brieda (RB), Jihad Ward (DE), and Darius Slayton (WR).
On the new signing front, the Giants have added Jeff Smith (WR), Rakeem Nunes-Roches (DT), Leonard Johnson (CB), Bobby McCain (S), Jamison Crowder (WR), Amani Oruwariye (CB), Tommy Sweeney (TE), and J.C. Hassenauer (C).
As is the norm with free agency, there are inevitably going to be players who move on, either by signing with another team or being released/cut.
The one that will likely affect the Giants the most will be losing one of last season’s defensive captains and the man who led all Giants players in tackles, Julian Love. Love, who will be suiting up for the Seattle Seahawks next season was drafted by the Giants back in 2019, became a bit of a Swiss army knife during his time in blue and even took up calling the defensive plays when fellow safety Xavier McKinney was injured last year.
Other than Love, the G-Men have seen former center/guard Nick Gates, who recovered from his horrific leg injury to play last season, sign a contract with divisional rivals the Washington Commanders; Jon Feliciano, who is the Giants only other recognised centre left for the San Francisco 49ers after most expected his re-signing to be a matter of time; and wide receiver/special teamer Richie James Jr. move on to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs.