Behind Giants’ ‘uncommon’ free-agency spending spree

The Giants assessed the situation and projected that these unusual times would create a different sort of NFL free-agent feeding frenzy. They knew the stark reduction in the 2021 salary cap — down

The Giants assessed the situation and projected that these unusual times would create a different sort of NFL free-agent feeding frenzy. They knew the stark reduction in the 2021 salary cap — down $16 million from 2020 — would affect every team, and they anticipated that with reduced money to spend, there would be fewer buyers on the open market.

This, in turn, led to the Giants believing they might be able to cash in on some atypical opportunities to land marquee players to fill holes on their roster. That would cost money, of course, big money, and that meant before agreeing to terms with anyone on a significant deal, approval would have to come from co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch.

“Our plan was to be aggressive from the beginning, and we knew that we had ownership support, which was probably uncommon, this year to be as aggressive as we were,’’ assistant general manager Kevin Abrams said. “And we had our targets and as the market played out it became apparent to us that of the targets that we wanted to go and pursue who was going to be available at the right price for us.’’

Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson
AP; Getty Images

The “right price’’ turned out to be high prices — $72 million for Kenny Golladay and $39 million for Adoree’ Jackson. Those expenditures will allow the Giants to brainstorm for next week’s NFL draft sans any desperation to take a wide receiver or cornerback in the first round. That does not discount them choosing a player from one of those positions with the No. 11 pick — a receiver (DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle) is definitely in play — but it allows the Giants far more freedom in identifying their best-player pecking order, regardless of where the players line up on the field.

The “ownership support’’ Abrams cited is telling, and brings to the forefront the determination to stop the recent losing and get back into playoff contention. Mara and Tisch are not averse to open market sprees, but the long-standing franchise philosophy hinges on building the roster through the draft and augmenting the talent base in free agency. The most recent detour from that approach came in 2016 and serves as a stark reminder as to what can go wrong. The Giants spent $200 million in free agency, and had just one playoff appearance to show for it.

It is not as if the Giants were brimming with salary cap space this offseason, and their financial maneuvering to sign Golladay and Jackson will hurt their signing opportunities in 2022. The message from ownership was clear, though: Let’s go for it now.

“You know, I think you have to seize the opportunities when they present themselves to you,’’ Mara said. “The big money that we spent recently were on two young players that we think can be here for a while.

“And in terms of whether I expect to make the playoffs — look, I go into every season expecting to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, I’ve been wrong the last [four] years, but I always expect us to make the playoffs and expect us to be in contention at some point. In terms of the money we spent this year, I mean, there were opportunities that presented themselves, particularly at positions of need with quality players and guys that we did a lot of research on, so we took advantage of the opportunities and hopefully they’ll pay off.’’

The office space the Giants set aside for their Football Operations Center before the start of the free agency signing period contains two large boards, one listing all the unrestricted free agents and one with all the players who declared for the NFL draft. These boards are color-coded, and the players are grouped according to the positions they play. That allows the Giants to cross-reference, matching their needs with possible solutions in free agency and the draft. Where free agency might be strong at one position, that same position might be weak in the upcoming draft, giving the Giants a blueprint where to best focus their roster-building strategy.

“So we marry up both, and then we just move forward and make decisions on which way we’re going to go,’’ general manager Dave Gettleman said, “because maybe free agency is thick with a position and the draft isn’t or vice-versa. So we do marry it up.’’

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Paul Schwartz

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