In order to maximize Ben McAdoo's offensive scheme, the Giants needed to find a running back who was solid in pass protection and proven as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Vereen excels in both of those areas. However, the running back market was flush with talent, and Vereen's per-year salary of just over $4 million is more than any free agent running back who has signed so far. Vereen doesn't drop passes, that's for sure, but he's also not the most elusive player either. According to Pro Football Focus, he forced just 23 missed tackles on 149 total touches last year. For comparison, former free agent Roy Helu forced three more missed tackles on 67 less touches. Helu signed for cheaper with the Raiders, and you can't help but wonder if the Giants should have targeted him.
AFP/Getty ImagesTIMOTHY A. CLARY
Jonathan Casillas — Grade: C-
Jonathan Casillas has bounced around four different teams now since going undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft. Casillas has played some linebacker, and although he has at times looked solid in pass coverage, he lacks the size to shed blocks. He is quite frankly a liabililty in the running game. Casillas is best known for his special-teams play, and the Giants are looking to improve in this area after it has plagued them for several seasons in a row now. On the surface, the signing makes sense. However, the Giants are reported to have paid Casillas close to $3.5 million per year. You just can't afford to allocate that much salary cap to a special teams guy who will likely be a reserve linebacker. This is the kind of deal that needs to be made during the second or third wave of free agency when the market brings down the price tag.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsKim Klement
Dwayne Harris — Grade: D+
Dwayne Harris is another free agent signing applauded for his special teams work. Harris is a known for being an ace returner, but some would say that his production as a gunner is even more impressive. Once again, this signing wouldn't receive such a low grade if it were in the second or third wave of free agency and for much less money. He signed a five-year, $17.5 million contract with a whopping $7.1 million guarnateed. At that price, he will need to contribute as a wide receiver and on offense as well. The Giants must believe that he has some untapped potential in this area, but he struggled to find meaningful playing time on offense with the Cowboys. As you can tell by his measurables, he fails to stand out as an athletic presence from a size, speed, agility and explosion standpoint.
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY SportsAndrew Weber
J.T. Thomas — Grade: B-
Thomas, a former sixth-round pick of the Chicago Bears during the 2011 NFL Draft, was one of the more shocking surprises of the Giants' first day of free agency. Thomas was claimed off waivers by the Jaguars in 2013, and he served mostly as a reserve linebacker before starting 10 games in 2014. In just 10 games, he managed to rack up 84 tackles, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles. 10 of those 84 tackles came in his game against the Giants, and perhaps he caught the Giants' brass eye that day. Thomas fits the new-age linebacker build at a slim and rangy 6'1 and 236 pounds, but the Giants may have outbid themselves again with this one. The Giants handed him a three-year, $12 million deal with $4.5 million guaranteed. It's tough to imagine any other team offering a player with his lack of starting experience and lacking measurables.
APStephen B. Morton
Marshall Newhouse — Grade: B-
On a positive note, Marshall Newhouse has started many games at offensive tackle after spending his first four seasons with the Green Bay Packers, and he even started five games with the Bengals last season. On a negative note, Newhouse has struggled in every start according to Pro Football Focus and two teams have already moved on from him. Newhouse steps in as the Giants' swing tackle but there is also an outside shot that he can start. Giants fans are likely hoping that he is nothing like last year's swing tackle free agent signing, Charles Brown. Newhouse has familiarity with Ben McAdoo's offensive scheme from the time they spent together in Green Bay, and he comes cheap enough that this signing makes sense.
Henry Hynoski — Grade: B+
The Giants use the fullback more than most teams in Ben McAdoo's offensive scheme, and Hynoski has filled that role admirably when healthy. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the second-best run blocking full back in 2014. Of course, there were only 23 teams that even used a fullback in their formations during the season. The Giants re-signed their guy to a reasonable two-year, $2 million contract. Everything checks out with this move, but due to the lack of importance at full back within the offense and the likelihood that Shane Vereen eats into some of Hynoski's snaps, we settle in at a B-plus.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY SportsAdam Hunger
Mark Herzlich — Grade: B-
After several seasons in a row where Mark Herzlich struggled in run defense, pass coverage and in pass rush, he finally excelled in one of those three key areas. Herzlich made massive improvements as a run defender. He finished with very positive marks from Pro Football Focus despite playing only 319 snaps. Of course, due to his lack of foot speed, Herzlich was a liability in pass coverage again. He signed for cheap, however, and should serve as a solid reserve linebacker with experience on special teams.
Chykie Brown — Grade: B-
The Giants have a history of turning out good seasons from previously obscure cornerbacks. They plucked Trumaine McBride from seemingly nowhere and he was arguably their most effective coverage cornerback in 2013 before missing most of the 2014 season with an injury. The Giants can only hope that Chykie Brown becomes the next in line. Brown struggled in coverage at times in 2014, but he wasn't really given the best situation around him. The Giants struggled to generate a consistent pass rush, the safety play was subpar, and he was often targeted playing across from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. However, Brown did pass the eye test more times than not. He could develop into a solid nickel or fourth cornerback.
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com-USANJ Advance Media for NJ.com
John Jerry — Grade: C+
Jerry started all 16 games for the Giants in 2014, but he struggled mightily in the run game. Most would admit that he was the culprit for the Giants' running game woes in the middle of the season. According to Pro Football Focus, Jerry finished with just the 76th-best run blocking grade out of 78 qualifying guards. Jerry was likely signed as a reserve lineman, but there is a chance that he could see some starting snaps in 2015 if things go wrong. Most expect that the Giants will use Geoff Schwartz at left guard and kick Justin Pugh inside to right guard. In this scenario, the Giants would likely look for a starting right tackle in a very talent-rich draft at the offensive tackle position.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY SportsTim Fuller
Kenrick Ellis — Grade: A
Ellis was often overshadowed as a rotational defensive lineman with the Jets, but most players in his situation would be. He played behind a line that boasts three borderline all-pros on an annual basis. In limited snaps with the Jets in 2014, he graded out as a strong run defender according to Pro Football Focus. In 2013, despite playing just 210 snaps—less than 25 percent—Ellis graded out as Pro Football Focus' third-best run stopper at NT/DT. At 6'4 and 346 pounds, Ellis projects to play the 1-technique defensive tackle spot in Steve Spagnuolo's defense with Jonathan Hankins sliding over to the three-technique on early downs. On passing downs, Ellis may be removed from the field. At just 27, Ellis brings size, production, and untapped potential to the Giants. And he didn't cost them much on a one-year pact.
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY SportsThe Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports
George Selvie — Grade: B
Selvie has been a major part of the Cowboys' rotation along the defensive line for two straight seasons. Over the last two seasons, he has been a stout run defender on the edge at defensive end. The 6'4, 270-pound lineman has the ideal frame to man the left defensive end position formerly occupied by Mathias Kiwanuka. On early downs, I expect the Giants to use Selvie on their even man fronts to limit the run game. Although Selvie has been a plus run defender, he has yet to make an impact as a pass rusher to this point in his career. For this reason, it seems likely that the Giants view him as a rotational and situational player. The 28-year old signed a one-year deal. Selvie joins former college teammate Jason Pierre-Paul.