The New York Football Giants have brought in quite a number of free agents to bolster their sagging roster the past two years and didn’t have to search very far to find some of them.
Last March, Jets’ defensive tackle Damon Harrison was one of their big ticket offseason signings. Harrison went on to have a stellar season in Blue garnering NFL First-team All-Pro honors and transformed the Giants’ defense into one the league’s top run-stopping units. Meanwhile, the Jets’ defense took a huge hit, surrendering 409 points after allowing just 314 points in 2015.
This year, the Giants imported two more ex-Jets into the fold, adding veteran WR Brandon Marshall to their already impressive receiving corps and then taking a flyer on the embattled Geno Smith to compete for their backup QB vacancy.
Now comes word that Big Blue is looking at center Nick Mangold, who was cut by the Jets on Feb 25 after missing eight games due to injury last season. Mangold would be brought in not to compete with Weston Richburg at center, but to be a swing interior lineman. The Giants really need tackles but thus far, they’ve only fortified their interior line with the signing of UFA D.J. Fluker and the re-signing of last year’s starter at RG, John Jerry.
Marshall turned 33 this month but is still a weapon that defenses have to account for. He will give the Giants some size at wide receiver, something they’ve lacked in recent years, and provide QB Eli Manning with a long target in the red zone. The Giants were 22nd in red zone offense in 2016, scoring on just 51% of their visits inside the 20. They also had difficulty scoring, averaging 19.6 points per game on the season and not eclipsing more than that average in any of their final six games.
Smith will only play if an injury befalls Manning, an event that has yet to occur since Eli’s arrival in East Rutherford in 2004. The Giants are hoping Manning continues his current iron man streak of 211 consecutive starts (including playoffs).
Whether or not the Giants are serious about going into business with the 33 year-old Mangold is still to be seen. He can add depth to the line, which was without LG Justin Pugh (knee) for five games last year, and also impart some wisdom. He is a seven time Pro Bowler, after all. But his health remains a big obstacle.
The most important aspect that fans are taking away from these moves is that the Jets are rebuilding and shedding salaries while the Giants are adding much-needed veterans as a team in “win now” mode.
It is clear that Harrison was the glue to their defensive line and the Jets should never have let him walk. Also clear is that other organization, the Giants of all teams, feel they can redeem Smith, who’s Jet career was a failure from the first day he arrived.
Now they will have to sit and watch as Marshall finally gets to the postseason and perhaps Mangold gets to his first-ever Super Bowl.