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Giants bring back replaceable 2014 pieces

3/16/2015

Look, I don't get it, either. Let's get that out of the way up front. Either New York Giants GM Jerry Reese is very stubborn, or he liked his 2014 team better than anyone else did, or both. We can't do much besides speculate, because Reese does not make himself available to answer questions when he signs free agents. The next time we hear Reese's voice will be April 23, when he gives a news conference that's ostensibly about the upcoming draft and not free agency. By that point, maybe Reese will have signed some free agents who aren't backups and special-teamers, and the mid-March questions about his relative inactivity on the market will be outdated.

But even if that's the case, it's still not going to have answered the question of why Reese has signed the specific players he's signed for the amount of money he's paying them. And the two signings the Giants announced Monday only add to the confusion.

The Giants announced Monday that they have re-signed guard John Jerry and cornerback Chykie Brown, two people who played for the team in 2014 and did nothing that demanded an encore. Each got a two-year deal, and Jerry got $3.3 million with $1 million guaranteed, and I just continue to not understand why the Giants are paying above-market prices for replaceable players.

Jerry started 16 games at right guard for the 2014 Giants, who went into the offseason convinced they had to get better on the offensive line. They will tell you that Jerry held up OK in pass protection, and that may well be true. But if you can't hold up in pass protection in front of quick-slinging Eli Manning and an offense designed to get him to unload the ball even more quickly than his heritage dictates, then you don't belong in the league. Where the Giants really had issues in 2014 was in run blocking, and Jerry's Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade was minus-16.4, which ranked him No. 76 on the list of 78 guards who played at least 25 percent of their team's snaps. That's No. 76 in a league that features 64 starting guards on a full-schedule week. That is not good. There are literally at least a dozen lower-cost options on the market who played better last year.

Brown graded out as PFF's No. 85 cornerback in 2014 -- No. 86 in terms of coverage. He began last year with the Baltimore Ravens, where new Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was the defensive backs coach, but he was cut midseason for poor performance. The Giants signed him prior to Week 10, after they'd lost three cornerbacks to season-ending injured reserve, and he played quite poorly for them. His three worst single-game PFF grades of the year were all with the Giants -- Week 13 in Jacksonville, Week 6 in St. Louis and Week 17 against the Eagles. Brown signed for two years and $2 million.

Now, you'll say these guys were signed to be backups, but I don't think it's that simple. As of now (and yes, they still have time), they haven't upgraded Jerry's spot on the offensive line. Geoff Schwartz's anticipated return from injury will fill one guard spot, but Weston Richburg is vacating the other one to move inside to center. At this point, either Jerry or newly signed backup Marshall Newhouse looks like a good bet to start. And Brown is one of a couple of candidates (along with Mike Harris and Trumaine McBride) to play that nickel corner spot, which is pretty close to a starting job.

And the larger problem continues to be that you're not supposed to be spending money on backups in free agency. The Giants are in this sub-.500 lull because they haven't found enough NFL-quality players in the draft to fill the backup and special-teams roles on their roster. So they're having to pay premium prices for backups on the market, and that's not a recipe for quality roster building.

Some of you out there continue to trust Reese in spite of his fundamentally weak record as a drafter and roster builder. Super Bowl titles buy a GM that clout, and Reese continues to get the benefit of the doubt for that reason. But as much as this is a Giants team that's won two Super Bowls in the past eight years, it's also one that has missed the playoffs in five of those years. And when you look at them through that prism, these offseason moves get a lot tougher to believe in.