The Giants were one of the most aggressive teams in free agency, committing almost $200 million with more than $105 million in guarantees to defensive end Olivier Vernon, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and defensive tackle Damon Harrison in an attempt to overhaul a defense that ranked last in the NFL overall and against the pass during the 2015 season. The offensive line wasn’t given attention in the draft either. None of the team’s six draft picks were used on players in the trenches. Guard John Jerry and tackle Marshall Newhouse currently man the right side of the offensive line. Veteran free agent options that could be upgrades include Jahri Evans and Louis Vasquez at right guard and Jake Long at right tackle. The Giants kicked the tires on Long, the first-overall pick of the 2008 draft, before he signed with the Atlanta Falcons last year.
Atlanta Falcons: Edge Rusher
Increasing pressure on opposing quarterbacks is crucial after generating a league-worst 19 sacks in 2015. Atlanta native Bruce Irvin expressed a desire to reunite with head coach Dan Quinn, his former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator, last offseason shortly after his 2016 fifth-year option for $7.751 million wasn’t picked up. After Irvin took a four-year, $37 million contract (worth a maximum of $39 million with incentives) from the Oakland Raiders that contained $19 million in guarantees, Derrick Shelby, who had a career high 3.5 sacks in 2015 with the Miami Dolphins, received a four-year, $18 million contract (with a maximum value of $21 million through salary escalators). Defensive end Adrian Clayborn was also re-signed to a two-year, $8.5 million deal (worth up to $14 million with incentives and salary escalators).
The Falcons went with coverage linebacker Deion Jones in the second round (52nd overall) after there was a run on pass rushers before the Falcons picked. Quinn hasn’t ruled out a return of O’Brien Schofield, who started 10 games at outside linebacker last year. Hardy is the most talented pass rusher available, but his baggage may make him more trouble than he’s worth. Dwight Freeney, 36, could be worth a look after showing that he still has some gas left in the tank with the Arizona Cardinals last year. The seven-time Pro Bowler led the Cardinals with eight sacks in 11 games despite not signing until mid-October.
The NFL Draft can have a domino effect on around the league. If teams fill needs in the draft, veterans could lose their roster spots. For example, Khaled Holmes, who started the first seven games at center for the Indianapolis Colts last year, became expendable with Ryan Kelly being taken 18th overall.
Veteran players may be put on notice that the allusion of long-term security no longer exists because a potential replacement is now waiting in the wings. The season can essentially become a 16-game league-wide audition for another contract.
Here’s a look at a few veterans who should feel put on notice coming out of the draft.
“They surrounded him by tremendous talent. You can’t get your feelings hurt. This is business. Whoever his agent is has to understand this is the market. He’s Hoyer. That’s who you are. Accept it. You made a lot of money in this league and now you’re going to try to play hardball and not have a team in a tremendous situation to really change the trajectory of your career, so people can change what they think about Ryan Fitzpatrick the quarterback?”
The only reason to really disagree with Scott here is that he says it’s not about the money. It is about the money, and there aren’t many chances to get paid by NFL teams when you play. Fitzpatrick already got one huge contract from the Buffalo Bills (when he worked with Jets OC Chan Gailey the first time) and he shouldn’t worry about cashing in twice.