The Oregon State product has dealt with injuries his entire career, and this is likely to keep his price tag down when free agency opens up. For the most part, however, he has battled through these injuries and missed only four total games over the last three seasons. On the field, Paea is a force. At 6 feet 1 inch and 300 pounds, has the ideal build for a 3-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme. 2014 was arguably his best season, too. He played in all 16 games and racked up five sacks, 11 quarterback hits, and 31 quarterback hurries. According to Pro Football Focus, only three interior defensive linemen generated more pressure. He struggles against the run, but the Giants have Jonathan Hankins, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Robert Ayers to handle that. At just 26 years old, Paea makes a lot of sense as the Giants' top target.
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Barry Cofield, defensive tackle
Cofield has played the nose tackle position for the last several years in the Redskins' 3-4 scheme, and this makes it easy to forget how impressive he was as the Giants' 1-technique defensive tackle in their 4-3 scheme. In his final season with the Giants in 2010, he racked up four sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and 15 quarterback hurries while playing a position that is tailored to stopping the run. He was also a solid run defender at the point of attack in 2010 and throughout his early career with the team. Cofield could look to come back to the team that drafted him and slot in next to (or behind) one of the team's emerging stars, Jonathan Hankins. There is no doubt that the 30-year-old can still play and become a key cog in the defensive tackle rotation.
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Henry Melton, defensive tackle
Melton's one-year trial run in Dallas didn't work out as planned for the Cowboys. There has been no confirmation on why he didn't get along with the Cowboys' coaching staff, but it might have had a lot to do with his snap total. He saw just 433 snaps in 2014, and Melton likely envisions himself as someone who should see in the 650-700 range. He has a strong argument for more snaps, too. As a rotational player, he finished with six sacks, five quarterback hits, and 19 hurries. Only five players generated more total pressure according to Pro Football Focus, and all five were on the field for at least 250 more snaps than Melton. He could easily find starter snaps with the Giants as the 3-technique defensive tackle bumping Cullen Jenkins.
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C.J. Mosley, defensive tackle
With Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley already on the Lions' roster, it's easy to forget about Mosley. But he put together a very solid season for the Lions in 2014 as a rotational defensive end. He earned positive grades from Pro Football Focus as both a run defender and a pass rusher. He also didn't accrue one penalty all season long. At 31, Mosley's market will be quiet, but if the Giants miss on any of the three defensive tackles listed before him, he could be a solid value for the 2015 roster.
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Roy Helu, running back
Helu didn't quite top his rookie season from a total-yards standpoint, but in 2014 he enjoyed career bests in yards-per-carry, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He was also once again efficient in pass protection. Pro Football Focus charted him with allowing just 10 total pressures on 75 pass block snaps. He is the complete back that can run between the tackles, catch the ball out of the backfield and block. He forced 26 missed tackles on just 82 total touches last season — a rate that would rank him among the league's most elusive. He can bring an element to Ben McAdoo's offense that was missing in the 2014: a back who can catch the ball and makes plays in the passing game. At just 26, there is upside for him to evolve into the focal point of a rushing attack.
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Antone Smith, running back
There were whispers in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine that the Giants were interested in signing Smith. Can you blame them? Smith is a hidden gem. After failing to surface in the NFL for the first few years of his career, likely due to size concerns, Smith was one of the most productive running backs in the NFL on a per-snap basis in 2014. On just 36 total touches, Smith racked up 366 total yards and added five touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus, he forced 13 missed tackles as well. He brings the same element to Ben McAdoo's offense that Helu could, but he will come at a much cheaper price tag. This potential pairing seems like it could have some legs.
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Reggie Bush, running back
Due to his name and past production, Bush is the least likely of the three backs mentioned to sign with the Giants. But we have seen stranger things, and if his market does prove to be more barren than expected, he could end up a Giant. Bush struggled with injuries in 2014, but he was a highly productive player in his career-best 2013 season. That year he tallied 1,512 yards and added seven touchdowns on 277 total carries and receptions. The running back market tends to price itself down, and the Giants could look to buy low on an explosive back with a versatile skill set.
Osi Umenyiora, defensive end
Umenyiora has already stated that he would like to retire as a member of the New York Giants, but that doesn't mean it has to be a ceremonial signing. Umenyiora was surprisingly effective as a situational and rotational pass rusher in 2014. Despite playing just 371 snaps, Umenyiora racked up 26 quarterback pressures, six quarterback hits and three sacks. He was Pro Football Focus' No. 17 pass rusher among all 4-3 defensive ends despite seeing the field for a limited number of snaps. If the Giants sign him, they can and will look to use him in the exact same way. He can spell the defensive ends already above him on the depth chart and he can make a few key plays on third-and-long situations.
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Dwight Freeney, defensive end
Despite being miscast as a stand-up outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense during his tenure with the Chargers, Freeney remained a highly productive edge rusher. In 2014, he totaled 40 quarterback hurries, nine quarterback hits, and four sacks while playing just 590 snaps. His 49 combined hurries and hits are a great example of why you shouldn't judge a pass rusher by his sack total. Freeney will be 35 when the season starts, and the Giants can hope to sign him relatively cheap to step in a situational edge rusher.
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Stevie Johnson, wide receiver
With talent already on the roster and another draft ahead loaded with talent at the wide receiver positon, it's unlikely that the Giants focus their attention here in free agency. However, it's important to find insurance for Victor Cruz at the slot receiver position. Cruz's injury is serious and unpredictable, and Jerry Reese went on the record at the Combine saying that he is not fully counting on his return. Johnson was underutilized with the 49ers last season, but he was productive on a per-target basis. He still displays his trademark quickness in and out of his breaks and he has excelled in the slot his entire career. He is a schematic fit for Ben McAdoo's offense, which often relies on quick-breaking in and out routes. This match seems to make a lot of sense.
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Virgil Green, tight end
With a 'move' tight end already on the roster in Larry Donnell, the Giants are likely to avoid players like Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron in free agency. Instead, they might focus their attention on in-line blocking types who have some untapped potential as receivers in the passing game. This strategy has worked for them in the past when they targeted Martellus Bennett — at the time he wasn't considered much more than a plus blocker. Green finished as Pro Football Focus' fourth-best run-blocking tight end in 2014 despite playing just 403 total snaps. He is, no doubt, one of the better young blocking tight ends in the NFL. There is also hope for him in the passing game. He was targted just six times in 2014, but he converted all six targets into 74 yards and racked up 48 of those after the catch.
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Jermaine Gresham, tight end
Gresham has yet to develop into the two-way tight end that the Bengals had hoped he would become when they selected him in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, but he has still been a productive player overall. Gresham showed major signs of improvement in pass protection in 2014, and he has always been a solid option inside the red zone. Throughout his five year career, Gresham amassed 24 receiving touchdowns. At just 26 years old, he still has some upside, and the Giants can do well to buy low here. If his market does unexpectedly heat up, then the Giants will certainly drop out of the running for his services.
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Da'Norris Searcy, safety
Searcy was quietly one of the most effective safeties in the NFL in 2014. According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks completed just 9-of-19 passes when targeting him in coverage, and they had a quarterback rating of 21.5 when testing him. Searcy didn't allow a single touchdown all season while in coverage, and he had three interceptions. He was also stout against the run, where he missed just six tackles all season long and earned strong marks as a run defender, according to Pro Football Focus. Searcy's market could heat up based on the leaguewide desperation to find viable and productive starting safeties, but the Giants could also choose to allocate to him the cap space previously tied to Antrel Rolle.
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Antrel Rolle, safety
In 2014, Rolle, 32, had his worst season as a Giant and arguably the worst season of his career. Some have started to wonder if he has lost a step. With a weak safety market in free agency and the draft, in addition to a current depth chart that lacks any starting-caliber talent, the Giants have their hands tied with Rolle. He is the leader of the defense, by all accounts a hard worker and great teammate, and he is one year removed from arguably the best season in his career in 2013. Don't be surprised to see him back in blue.
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Walter Thurmond, cornerback
The Giants had high hopes for Thurmond when they signed him to a one-year contract last offseason. He was coming off of a season in which he didn't allow a single touchdown in coverage, and opposing quarterbacks tallied a 67.5 passer rating when targeting him. Some had even talked him up as one of the best young slot defenders in the NFL. Unfortunately, he only made it through two total games before suffering a season-ending torn pectoral muscle. At just 27 years old, there is still room for growth, and he carries a lot of upside heading into free agency. The Giants are hoping to re-sign him at a resonable rate.
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Jeremy Parnell, offensive tackle
Parnell is flying under the radar largely because he wasn't a starting offensive lineman in 2014. He filled in at right tackle when Cowboys starter Doug Free went down with an injury, and he played exceptionally well in just 388 total snaps. According to Pro Football Focus, Parnell graded out as their No. 20 offensive tackle, overall earning positive marks in both pass and run blocking. He was one of only two tackles in their top 20 to play fewer than 900 snaps. He is one of the best values on the free-agent market, and if the Giants do decide to sign him, they can follow through with their preferred plan to kick Justin Pugh inside to right guard. Parnell is a bit undersized for an offensive tackle in some schemes, but not in Ben McAdoo's scheme that emphasizes quickness and utilizies many zone-blocking concepts.
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Derek Newton, offensive tackle
Newton had an outstanding breakout season in 2014 after struggling as one of the NFL's worst offensive tackles in 2013 and 2012. He's just 27, so there is reason to believe that the light finally turned on for him in his fourth year as a pro. Newton is lengthy and quick for his size, and this makes him a strong fit for Ben McAdoo's offensive scheme. He will likely cost signicantly more than both Parnell and Free, but the Giants are bound to make one 'splash' signing during free agency.
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Doug Free, offensive tackle
After falling off hard in 2013, Free rebounded with a strong season in 2014 while battling through numerous nagging injuries. According to Pro Football Focus, Free finished as the No. 21 offensive tackle overall out of 84 qualifying tackles. He also brings verstatility to the squad that hires him, as Free has appeared in games as a guard and left tackle in addition to right tackle. Free will enter the 2015 season at 31 years old, and he still has several productive years ahead of him.
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Orlando Franklin, offensive guard/tackle
There is one more splash signing that the Giants could consider on the offensive line, and that move would be to add Franklin to the roster. Franklin excelled as both a pass and run blocker in 2014 upon moving inside to left guard. However, Franklin also has the experience, size, and skill set to play offensive tackle. If the Giants bring him aboard, he will offer them more versatility along the offensive line. They could use Franklin as the right tackle and kick Justin Pugh inside to right guard, or they could leave them both at the positions they played in 2014.
Bruce Carter, linebacker
Before suffering a nagging mid-season injury, Carter was having a breakout season for the Cowboys. After struggling throughout his first few years in the NFL, Carter finally found his role in Rod Marinelli's defensive scheme. Due to his late-season struggles while trying to come back from the injury, Carter will be signed on the low this offseason. At just 27 years old, he has plenty of room for growth, and signing him now could prove to be the perfect timing.
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Malcolm Smith, linebacker
Smith is best known for his playoff heroics during the 2013 season, but he is also a solid linebacker and special-teams ace. The 25-year-old is rangy and a bit undersized, but the Giants will likely have a major need for this kind of linebacker if and when they let Jacquian Williams walk in free agency. Smith is likely to sign on the cheap, like Carter, and at worst the Giants will have found themselves a player who can make a difference on special teams.