Spending big money on a bunch of free agents to improve one of the league's worst rosters is not the New York Giants' preferred course of action. Like every NFL team, the Giants would prefer to build through the draft.
They've been unable to do that, however, and the result is three straight losing seasons, a coaching change and a roster that needs to find at least eight or nine new starters before the 2016 season begins. That can't all be fixed in one draft, so free agency it is. And the news with which the Giants began the day indicates they plan to go big.
As Adam Schefter reported first thing Wednesday, the Giants are expected to reach an agreement with free-agent cornerback Janoris Jenkins, formerly of the Rams, when the market opens and deals can be finalized at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday. This will be a monster deal, in excess of $12 million per year, dwarfing the $7 million per year the Giants had to spend to land cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in free agency just two years ago.
Moreover, the conversations I've had in recent days tell me the Giants also plan a major push for free-agent defensive end Olivier Vernon, who could cost $15 million a year, and are interested in defensive tackle Damon Harrison ($7 million per year?) and safety Rodney McLeod ($6 million to $7 million?). They also need offensive line help and, as ever, some linebackers.
Again, this is not the preferred method of piecing together a roster. But the Giants' roster must be pieced together one way or another, and with nearly $60 million in cap space available (before the signings of Jenkins and Jason Pierre-Paul), this is the way that's available to them at the moment.
As to Jenkins specifically: Hey, he's the best available option and the Giants have the cap space, so why not? He's 27 years old, gifted athletically and has a history of making big plays. He returned three interceptions for touchdowns as a rookie in 2012 and two more in 2014. He has a reputation as a bit of a gambler in coverage, but he improved in that area this past season. There are some off-field concerns dating back to his time in college, but there are plenty of players who outgrow those things.
Talented, with some warts. That's the best you can hope for when you're mining the free-agent market. Jenkins offers a ton of upside and could be a truly great player for the Giants if he irons out the aspects of his game that still need work. Obviously, the Giants are convinced his chances of doing that are high. We will all find out together whether they were right.
One person I spoke with at the NFL combine in Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago posed this question to me: "Are they going to act like the Giants? Or are they going to act like people whose jobs are on the line?" If the Giants really are prepared to spend like this in free agency, as it seems they are, it looks as if the answer may be the latter. Which would make it a wild ride, but obviously one that comes with no guarantees of success.