Josina reports that Baltimore is still in the mix to re-sign Jones, so this isn't like the Geoff Schwartz or Rashad Jennings deals that are agreed to and need only signatures to complete. But if the Giants and Jones can come to an agreement, he'd be a nice pickup.
Jones ranked sixth in the league with 892 kick return yards last year and fourth with an average of 28.8 yards per kick return. He split punt return duties in Baltimore with Tandon Doss, but his 12.5-yards-per-punt-return average also ranked among the league leaders. He also caught 37 passes for 455 yards and two touchdowns in just 12 games as a receiver. He has at least 30 catches in four straight years, with his career high of 51 coming in Houston in 2010.
Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan are the only two wide receivers on the Giants' roster right now for 2014. They're likely on the lookout for a top wide receiver in free agency or the draft, though it's possible that Randle could develop into Nicks' long-term replacement.
The plan for replacing Joseph is easy to figure out. The Giants drafted defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins in the second round last year and liked what he showed them as a rookie. They also still have Cullen Jenkins under contract and could easily bring back Mike Patterson, who performed well at the position in 2013. They need a pass-rushing end, a middle linebacker, a cornerback, a tight end, a center and a wide receiver -- even after the early signings they made Tuesday. So spending $6 million-plus per year on a defensive tackle likely didn't seem like a smart play. They looked into Arthur Jones, but he signed with the Colts for $6 million a year. It's possible they just don't want to be in the high-end defensive tackle market.
And who knows? Maybe they don't like Joseph as much as I do (or as much as the Vikings do). Maybe they have some reason to worry he'll break down, even though he won't turn 30 until the final year of this deal he just signed. We can't predict the future or how guys are going to play, and neither can the Giants' front office. All they can do is use the data they have in the present to make the best possible decisions and hope they work out. To me, though, it seemed as though the data on Joseph made him look like a player to bring back. I'm willing to bet they will miss him.
So you could kind of see this one coming. The Giants have reached agreement on a contract with Jennings, who became a free agent at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday and will be in New Jersey on Wednesday to sign his new deal. They will add him to a backfield that already includes 2012 first-round pick David Wilson (who's recovering from neck surgery), veteran Peyton Hillis (who re-signed Tuesday) and 2013 seventh-rounder Michael Cox.
Flying to the Big Apple tonight! Looking forward to signing the dotted lines with @Giants— Rashad Jennings (@RashadJennings) March 11, 2014
Now, what the Giants like about Jennings is that he's versatile. He's a strong runner who's had limited chances to show what he can do as a starter, as he played behind Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville and Darren McFadden in Oakland. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, which is a skill the Giants hope to use from their running backs more under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. He didn't grade out well as a blocker in 2013, but he'll be expected to be able to pick up the blitz if he wants to be the lead back in New York.
The Giants' running back situation is a weird one right now because they don't know what they can expect from Wilson. Even if Wilson fully recovers from neck surgery, as it's expected he will, he hasn't yet shown he can handle a starter's workload. He offers big-play ability out of the backfield, and the Giants like that a lot. But adding Jennings gives them a guy they can use as a starter in case Wilson can't answer the bell, or who can complement Wilson if both are healthy, the way they'd hoped Andre Brown would last year.
As I wrote earlier in the day when they signed Hillis for that reserve running back role, running back is an eye-of-the-beholder thing. You may have wanted someone such as Jones-Drew or Knowshon Moreno because they're bigger names, but the Giants looked at the entire free-agent running back landscape and picked Jennings as the guy they liked the best, considering his abilities, cost and everything else. I think he's a fine choice, because I think he's a 29-year-old who hasn't been overworked and could offer a lot if used correctly. But he will have to show he can contribute as a blocker in the passing game, and that's the lingering question mark for me.
Joseph's deal comes one day after the Vikings re-signed defensive end Everson Griffen to a five-year deal worth $42.5 million, according to a league source.
A second-round pick by the New York Giants in 2010, Joseph is still just 25 and has been productive the past couple years. His primary responsibility as a defensive tackle in the Giants' 4-3 front has been to stop the run, and he's excelled at it. But he also has an ability to generate pressure on the quarterback from the interior of the line, recording seven sacks and two forced fumbles over the past two seasons.
Joseph missed the Giants' Week 5 game against the Eagles last season with an ankle injury but has otherwise been durable. That is the only game he has missed in the past three seasons.
Joseph said late in the season that he'd like to stay with the Giants, but he also made a reference to the five-year, $54.75 million contract defensive tackle Geno Atkins signed with the Bengals this past year to illustrate the extent to which he was looking forward to free agency.
ESPN.com Giants reporter Dan Graziano contributed to this report.
Schwartz is in line to start at guard for the Giants. As for which side, it's hard to say. Assuming Chris Snee is fully healthy, you'd expect him to resume his role as the starting right guard, which would make Schwartz the left guard. It's also possible they could try to see whether Schwartz can play center if they don't sign someone else for that. Kevin Boothe, who started games at left guard and center for the Giants last year, remains a free agent and could be re-signed as a starter at one of those positions.
It looks to me as though the Giants have signed a good, young player with high-end talent who may just be reaching his potential as an NFL starter. We'll see what the numbers are when they come in, but given the way the guard market was going Tuesday evening, a good guess is four or five years at $5 million or $6 million per year. Good signing at a position of significant need.
Flying to the Big Apple tonight! Looking forward to signing the dotted lines with @Giants
- Rashad Jennings (@RashadJennings) March 11, 2014
McFadden has teased the Raiders with his unique blend of speed and power since they used the No. 4 overall draft pick on him in 2008 but has ultimately disappointed with his injury history.
With Hue Jackson as his offensive coordinator in 2010, McFadden had a breakout year with 1,157 yards rushing (5.2 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns with 47 catches for 507 yards and three more scores in 13 games.
The next year, under Jackson as coach, McFadden was again off to a great start, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, but his season ended with a Lisfranc injury in Game 7.
He has never played more than 13 games in a season and has missed 19 of the Raiders' past 41 games and 29 total in his six-year career while averaging 3.3 yards per carry the past two seasons.
So Schofield projects, for the Giants, as a guy who can contribute as an outside linebacker and possibly as a situational pass-rusher, which is something for which they're always looking. Especially if Justin Tuck doesn't re-sign, Jason Pierre-Paul continues to struggle with injuries and Damontre Moore doesn't develop, the Giants will be thin at pass-rusher, and it's possible Schofield could factor into the rotation. That would explain the price tag, which seems high for a weakside linebacker.
I do not think the Schofield signing precludes the Giants from re-signing middle linebacker Jon Beason, who is checking out the market to see what he's worth and remains in contact with the Giants as he talks to other teams.
Schofield, 26, appeared in 15 games with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks last season, recording eight tackles and one sack.
A fourth-round draft selection in 2010, Schofield has 11.5 sacks in 50 games with the Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals.
ESPN.com Giants reporter Dan Graziano contributed to this report.
Not a big surprise. After collecting eight interceptions in his dream 2012 season, Brown tore an ACL in the preseason and missed all of 2013. He had been slated to be one of the Giants' starting safeties last year along with Antrel Rolle, and the Giants like him a great deal. The ACL surely deprived him of the kind of market for which free agents hope, and so it was in the sides' mutual interest to get something done and offer Brown his big chance at a starter's job a year late.
Regardless, assuming Brown is healthy, safety is a real position of strength for the Giants if they have Rolle, Hill and Brown at the top of the depth chart. (I don't expect them to bring back Ryan Mundy.) If Brown makes it all the way back from his injury, as it's believed he will, he offers the Giants insurance in case Hill's off-field issues rear their head again or in case Rolle leaves following the 2014 season.
The Giants also have Cooper Taylor, the safety they drafted in the fifth round last year, who could develop into a more significant part of the secondary over the next couple of years.
- Stevie Brown (@StevieBrown27) March 11, 2014
After stepping in for injured Kenny Phillips and recording eight interceptions in 2012, Brown was slated to be a starting safety for the Giants in 2013.
But he suffered a torn ACL in the 2013 preseason and missed the entire season.
ESPN.com Giants reporter Dan Graziano contributed to this report.
Could they do better? Eye of the beholder. There's a ton of running-back flotsam on the market, and just because you may like James Starks or Ronnie Brown or even Ahmad Bradshaw better than Hillis for a backup role doesn't mean Jerry Reese does or should agree with you. The Giants like Hillis, Hillis likes them and he fills a role.
I still expect the Giants, who can't be sure whether they can count on David Wilson for any number of reasons, to pursue a better running back than Hillis for the starter's role. Could be Andre Brown. Could be Knowshon Moreno. Could be Rashad Jennings. Again, any number of guys. The running back market is likely to move slowly, since teams don't like to pay big money for that position anymore. The Giants have other needs they're addressing in the meantime on the offensive line and in the secondary. But once they do get around to running back, having Hillis on board means they'll need one less than they did 24 hours ago.
But signing McBride should not deter the Giants from those pursuits. They have expressed interest in several of the top cornerbacks on the market, and they would be much better off in the secondary if they could land someone like Alterraun Verner or Captain Munnerlyn or one of the many cornerbacks hitting the market Tuesday afternoon. That would enable them to use McBride as the nickel corner or as a reliable backup to their inside and outside starters. That's the ideal role for a guy like McBride. The Giants used him as a starter in 2013 and know they can do it again in a pinch, but their preference would be to get a premier guy who pushes McBride down the depth chart a bit, strengthening them overall at this important position.
It appears as though veteran Terrell Thomas, who served as the Giants' nickel corner in 2013, will hit the open market. 2012 third-round pick Jayron Hosley is still looked at as a guy who can play the nickel, but injuries have hampered his development.
It's a five-year deal worth $43.75 million, sources told ESPN's Josina Anderson.
The deal includes $24 million in guaranteed money, according to sources.
Johnson was given the Cincinnati Bengals' franchise tag in 2013, sending his single-season pay skyrocketing above $11 million. It marked the second straight season that a Bengals player had been tagged.
After a productive year getting to quarterbacks in 2012, Johnson struggled doing the same in 2013, recording just 3.5 sacks. He had 11.5 sacks two seasons ago.
A 2009 third-round selection out of Georgia Tech, Johnson was signed to a four-year deal. Over the past few seasons with the Bengals, he helped bolster one of the league's stronger defensive lines.
When defensive tackle Geno Atkins signed a five-year, $55 million deal and fellow defensive end Carlos Dunlap signed a five-year, $40 million deal before last season, it appeared the Bengals would have difficulty retaining Johnson this offseason.
The Buccaneers also reached agreement with former Giants tight end Brandon Myers
The New York Giants are still looking for help at running back, but they liked what Peyton Hillis did for them last season enough that they are on the verge of re-signing the veteran to a two-year deal before free agency opens at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.
Hillis is having a physical in New Jersey on Tuesday, and the deal is expected to be completed soon, a league source confirmed to ESPN.com.
The Giants also retained Trumaine McBride on Tuesday, agreeing with the cornerback on a two-year deal worth $3.1 million, according to a league source.
The Giants signed Hillis off the street in October after a rash of injuries made their running back situation as desperate as any in the league. He carried the ball 73 times for 247 yards and two touchdowns in seven games, impressing quarterback Eli Manning and the coaches with his physical style and his ability to help in the passing game.