EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It has been a wild start to NFL free agency for the New York Giants, one that secured the long-term services of not one, not two, but three highly paid players. They retained their top defensive lineman in Leonard Williams, filled a gaping hole at No. 1 wide receiver with Kenny Golladay and landed their No. 2 cornerback when Adoree' Jackson signed a top-of-the-market deal.
These are moves that will make the Giants better in the short term. They also will have positive repercussions come next month's NFL draft, which begins April 29.
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has at the very least given himself flexibility with the No. 11 overall pick. The Giants can now go in just about any direction with their first-round selection.
The way the draft is shaping up seems positive for the Giants. ESPN's Adam Schefter confidently predicted on the Breaking Big Blue podcast that four quarterbacks will be drafted among the first seven picks. That's good for New York, which will be looking for non-QBs at No. 11.
It makes adding another wide receiver, such as Alabama's DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle, still possible for New York. Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, if he makes it to No. 11, would fit as well. An offensive lineman such as Northwestern's Rashawn Slater to possibly play guard or tackle makes sense, and so does another cornerback such as Alabama's Patrick Surtain II or Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley.
"You can never have too many good players at any positions," Gettleman said recently.
Edge rusher, the team's biggest need but not one the Giants believe must be filled immediately, makes the most sense if New York deems any of the prospects worthy of the No. 11 pick.
The Giants made it work last season with a hodgepodge group of outside linebackers. They finished 12th overall as a defense with 40 sacks, and have continued to throw bodies at the position this offseason with the signings of veterans Ifeadi Odenigbo and Ryan Anderson in the past week. Though Odenigbo started 15 games for the Minnesota Vikings last season, both players have contributed as reserves in previous NFL stops.
The draft remains a distinct possibility for the Giants to try to find their "blue goose pass-rusher" as Gettleman called it last year. Among those who could rise up draft boards are Miami's Gregory Rousseau, the No. 16-ranked prospect by Scouts Inc., and Georgia's Azeez Ojulari (No. 29). Or maybe there is somebody else who has caught the Giants' eye that nobody is even mentioning more than a month away from the draft.
What we do know is there are some league insiders who believe pass-rusher is the position the Giants will target.
"They'll draft one," one NFL executive said after New York signed Jackson to solidify its secondary.
The Giants entered this offseason with major holes at wide receiver and edge rusher, two premium and especially costly positions. Before adding Golladay, they made a strong run at edge rusher Leonard Floyd, who re-signed with the Los Angeles Rams.
We'll never truly know, but it likely would have been one or the other for the Giants in free agency. Roster construction almost demands it. Gettleman hinted at it this month.
"Well, there is a draft, right? So, you don't necessarily have to buy them both," he said. "We're just going to see how it plays out, see what guys are worth and what the ... costs are, and just keep moving forward."
Then again, the Giants haven't been shy about spending in a year when most teams have been more conservative than usual, in part because of a pandemic-induced decrease in the salary cap ($182.5 million). They handed out the most expensive deals for a defensive lineman ($45 million in guarantees for Williams) and wide receiver ($40 million in guarantees for Golladay), and swam in the deep end at cornerback (about $26.5 million in guarantees for Jackson).
The Giants committed to more than $110 million in guarantees to Williams, Golladay and Jackson. Though not all contract details are available throughout the league, as of March 25 the Dallas Cowboys are the only team known to have committed more guaranteed money to three players this year as they signed quarterback Dak Prescott to an extension that includes $126 million in guarantees.
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While the Giants are better, this spending spree hasn't been completely embraced around the league. A handful of executives and league insiders reached out to ESPN following the Jackson deal to express their surprise at the approach.
"Giants are in overpayment mode," one of the sources said.
Maybe. That is what a 15-33 record over the past three seasons combined will do to an organization. The Giants are trying to improve their roster, and there seems to be little doubt they did that over the past few days.
The draft, with newfound flexibility, is next in the rebuild.