When an NFL team has money to spend, it spends that money.
That is what the Giants did Monday when the NFL free agency negotiating period opened up. General manager Dave Gettleman got busy helping the needy defense, committing $91 million to bring in cornerback James Bradberry, inside linebacker Blake Martinez and put the franchise tag on defensive tackle Leonard Williams. All three will be starters next season.
Here is a look at how the Giants kicked off free agency and where they might be headed on Day 2:
1. George Young, the Hall of Fame former Giants general manager, used to say, “Everyone hits free agency for a reason.” Yup. The players a team deem irreplaceable rarely hit the open market. This is something to consider when analyzing the impending signings of Bradberry (three years, $45 million) and Martinez (three years, $30 million). Both are 26 years old, in their primes and healthy, and the teams that drafted them allowed them to walk out the door. Think about that.
In the case of Martinez, there must be something about him the Packers did not love, considering the guy led the NFL last season with 114 solo tackles. The Packers were not willing to go above $8 million per year to keep Martinez, even though he is very smart, gets the entire defense lined up and can bring ball-carriers to the ground. The Packers did not think Martinez made enough big plays and considered him suspect in coverage. He does not fill up the stat sheet with things like tackles for loss, sacks or interceptions. The key for the Giants is to put someone next to Martinez who can drop back and cover from the inside linebacker spot. That person is not David Mayo, recently re-signed to a three-year deal, and it is not Ryan Connelly, who is returning from reconstructive knee surgery.
Martinez’s limitations should not be lost on new head coach Joe Judge. Not after Judge spent the past eight years working for Bill Belichick.
“What I learned from Coach Belichick was real simple: Be flexible within your personnel,” Judge said. “Don’t try to shove round pegs into square holes. Figure out what you have. Let them play to their strengths. Don’t sit in a meeting and tell me what you don’t have in a player. Don’t tell me they can’t do certain things, tell me what they can do, and then we’ll figure out as coaches, because that’s our job, how we can use that. That’s our responsibility. Everybody has something they can do.”
For $10 million a year, there better be a whole lot Martinez can do.
2. Bradberry is best used up near the line of scrimmage as a press corner, where he can use his size and strength to bump receivers to prevent them from getting free releases. Bradberry is not one of those coverage guys who is best when he can run and use speed to catch up with a receiver. He works best in close quarters, battling with the receiver for the ball. This is the sort of cornerback Bill Belichick covets in New England, and it looks as if this is the sort of cornerback Judge wants to have on his defense.
Bradberry, during his time with the Panthers, was able to hold his own against opponents such as DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans and Julio Jones. Is he a classic shutdown corner? No. Is he, on a terrific defense, the No. 2 corner? Likely. This is free agency, though, and good players get overpaid. The Giants had interest in Byron Jones, but does anyone believe Jones should now be the highest-paid cornerback in the league? The Dolphins, with money to burn, burned a bunch of it with the five-year, $82.5 million deal for Jones, with $57 million guaranteed.
3. On Day 2 of free agency, the Giants added Levine Toilolo, a towering (6-foot-8) blocking tight end. Toilolo will compete for a roster spot and will most likely get one based on his experience and ability to line up on the line of scrimmage and help in the running game. He is only an occasional contributor as a pass-catcher, with eight touchdowns in seven seasons.
Up next, it would be wise for Gettleman to look for someone with even a hint of pass-rush ability. The Giants inquired about Jordan Jenkins, an outside linebacker with a combined 15 sacks the past two seasons for the Jets. Markus Golden, with 10 sacks to lead the Giants in 2019, is still out there. The NFL Draft is not going to yield a significant edge rusher, and the returning duo of Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines needs help.