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There are always creative ways to manage the salary cap, and if a team really wants a specific player, they can find ways to squeeze him in. So yes, there is a chance the Giants could be active in free agency.
They just probably won’t be too active. And any big splash they make could be a tight squeeze.
In fact, if the NFL salary cap is set around $180-85 million, as most expect, they’ll probably have about $20 million to use, assuming they part ways with both left tackle Nate Solder and receiver Golden Tate. There likely will have to be other cuts and some creative restructures, especially if they decide to bring back Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, or both – which would use up most of that space.
But if they do turn to the market, who could they afford and who might they pursue? Here’s a look at some of the free agents who could or should be on their radar when the market opens in March...
If he hits the market -- which might be a huge “if” -- there are a lot of people around the NFL who believe the Giants will be very interested. He’s a huge target (6-foot-4, 214 pounds) and a deep threat who averaged 18.3 yards per catch with 11 touchdowns back in 2019.
There were rumors the Giants were interested in him at the trading deadline in October, which might be what’s sparking talk of their interest now. Golladay is widely expected to get the “franchise tag” from the Detroit Lions. If he doesn’t, the hamstring and hip injuries that limited him to just five games last season won’t stop him from seeking a deal worth $20 million per year.
WR Corey Davis
They need a No. 1 receiver, but it’s hard to imagine they’ll be able to outbid anyone for the top-of-the-market guys like Golladay or Allen Robinson. The 6-foot-3, 209-pound Davis could be more in their price range.
He wasn’t the best receiver on the Tennessee Titans and has never lived up to his status as the fifth overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. But 65 catches for 984 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games is still good production and he’d be the big, vertical receiver the Giants so desperately need. Plus, he should be a little cheaper than the top guys.
WR Curtis Samuel
He had a heck of a breakout year in Carolina, with 77 catches for 851 yards and three touchdowns. He’s a versatile player who can line up as a slot receiver or a running back, and has the speed to be a deep threat, too. He’s 5-foot-11 and the Giants probably need to think bigger, but remember, he’s a former second-round pick of Giants GM Dave Gettleman in Carolina. Plus, he’s a Brooklyn native who surely could be lured back home.
TE Jonnu Smith
Yes, the Giants have a “Pro Bowl tight end," but they need to improve this position anyway, especially with Evan Engram heading into the last year of his contract. If they don’t think they will get Florida’s Kyle Pitts in the draft at No. 11, they may look at the free agent market.
It’s unclear how much of a market there’ll be for a player like Smith, who is a powerful 6-foot-3, 248 pounds, but set career highs last season with just 41 catches for 448 yards (and an impressive eight touchdowns). The Giants probably won’t spend big here, and the market could be expensive since tight ends with receiving skills suddenly seem hard to find.
LB Bud Dupree
This could be a really interesting signing, and the kind of good bargain hunting that smart teams do. He’s not generally considered one of the best edge rushers in the NFL, but his 19 ½ sacks in the last two seasons (and 27 games) can’t be ignored.
Most importantly, he’s coming off a torn ACL, which is going to scare teams away from giving him a big contract. His smart play should be a one-year, prove-it deal. Could it be worth $8-10 million plus incentives to have him rushing from behind Williams? It’s low risk if the Giants can find the cap space.
T Daryl Williams
Another former Gettleman draft pick from Carolina, the 6-foot-6, 330-pounder had a devastating knee injury in 2018, but has now played in all 16 games for two straight years. That alone should mean he’ll be worth more on the market than the one-year, $2.25 million deal he signed with Buffalo last year.
If teams are scared off by his medical history, though, the Giants could swoop in with a short-term deal and give him Cam Fleming’s veteran tackle job. He has experience at guard, too, which will help if Matt Peart is ready to claim the right tackle spot.
OL Matt Feiler
If the Giants are going to add a veteran lineman – and they should – they really need someone who can play guard and tackle. They could use a starter at right tackle now, who could swing inside in the future.
The 6-foot-6, 330-pound Feiler has done both in the last four years with Pittsburgh, starting 39 games in the last three years. Like Daryl Williams, he could be a bargain in the second wave of free agency.
DT Kawann Short
Two years in a row his season has ended due to shoulder surgery, and now he’s 32 years old and damaged goods. So why would the Giants want him?
Well, he’s another former Gettleman draft pick, and the Giants could have a need at his position if they’re not able to re-sign both Leonard Williams and Tomlinson. The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder was a Pro Bowler in 2018, his last healthy season. Still, he shouldn’t be very expensive and the Giants could sell him on a reduced role that will help ease him back – again, only if Williams and/or Tomlinson doesn’t re-sign.
CB Brian Poole
The Giants had a patchwork of corners opposite James Bradberry last season. Their hope is that Darnay Holmes is ready to step up into that No. 2 job. And while they could go with Isaac Yiadom or Ryan Lewis as their third corner, they could do better by signing the 28-year-old Poole, still one of the better slot corners in the league.
The Jets had him on back-to-back, one-year deals, the last one being for just $5 million. In a market that will probably be depressed by a shrunken cap, he’s not likely to do better. With him in the slot, Holmes could play in his more natural spot on the outside.
LB Jordan Jenkins
The Giants nosed around Jenkins when he was a free agent last year, before he went back to the Jets on a one-year, $3.75 million deal. He had only two sacks last year thanks mostly to a painful shoulder injury, but don’t forget he had 15 in the previous two seasons and he’s still only 26.
The Giants have had some luck going the inexpensive one-year, prove-it route with edge rushers (Markus Golden in 2019, Kyler Fackrell in 2020). If they don’t, or can’t, bring Fackrell back, this ex-Jet could take his place.