COMMENTARY | If you're looking for the New York Giants to make a big-time, big-name free agency signing this offseason, chances are very high that you're going to be disappointed. That's partially due to a combination of the Giants having little cap room with which to work, and the organization's tendency to look for guys who add some sort of value to the locker room in the short term while the youth develops.
That's precisely what the Giants accomplished with their first notable free agency signing this offseason in veteran defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who signed a three-year, $8 million contract with the team on March 11, just one day prior to the start of the official NFL free agency signing period.
Jenkins, who will likely move into Chris Canty's old spot in the starting lineup, has 260 career tackles (184 solo), 38.5 sacks, 17 pass breakups, and 1 interception.
Jenkins' play against the run alone should be a big boost not only for a run defenses that last year ranked 25th in the NFL after surrendering an average of 129.1 yards per game, Jenkins' presence should also help the Giants' pass rush if he can eat up blockers, which should free up the defensive ends to face one-on-one blocking.
There's another bonus that comes with Jenkins that was an issue for the Giants last year: durability. Thus far in his career, Jenkins has played in all 16 games in all but three seasons in his career. Over the last two seasons with the Eagles, he was active for every regular season game.
In addition to what he can potentially bring to the field, Jenkins provides some proven experience at a position that, prior to the signing, had two guys coming back from season-ending injuries last year (Markus Kuhn, knee, and Shaun Rogers, blood clot), and one guy, Marvin Austin, whose development has been stunted thus far due to injuries.
The real value, though, that Jenkins brings to the Giants defense is his versatility. According to Matt Williamson, a former NFL scout for the Cleveland Browns who is now an analyst with ESPN, Jenkins' versatility should allow Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to deploy him in a variety of different looks.
"You can align him at several different techniques on the defensive line, but the beauty of him and what he does best, I kind of look at him also like a John Abraham player or a [Dwight] Freeney where, let's make him a little bit of a specialist and keep him fresh for the whole year, hopefully through the playoffs by not playing a high number of snaps but really specializing him as an interior pass rusher," said Williamson.
"And frankly, if I had to come up with the top 10 or 12 interior pass rushers in the league right now, Jenkins is still on that list, and those guys are hard to find," he added.
Although Jenkins, who turned 32 in January, is probably not the long term answer at defensive tackle, he comes to the Giants at a very cap-friendly deal. According to the NFLPA records, Jenkins will count for just a hair under $1.8 million against the salary cap this year, which is certainly reasonable given that the Giants continue to be strapped for cap space.
SOURCES: The Elias Stats Bureau, ESPN.com, NFL.com, Giants.com
Patricia Traina is a New Jersey-based sportswriter who has covered the New York Giants fulltime for 16 seasons for Inside Football. She is also a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow her on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.
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