By Michael Stewart/@golferbad

The New York Giants will have 19 free agents on their roster and will need to make decisions on them before the start of the 2021 season. Football is a business and it’s projected that more than half of the 19 free agents could be replaced. This will be a two part series focusing on both sides of the ball. Part 1 will be on the defense, so let’s give a quick verdict on each one and see what the results are:

  • Leonard Williams (DE): Williams will be the Giants top priority this off-season among their free agents and have every intention of re-signing him at the right price. The Giants will have a limit on what they are willing to pay Williams and if there’s a large-cap between the two sides, we could see a stalemate and perhaps the Giants walking away or slapping the franchise tag on Williams again. Verdict: Re-sign for $14-15M per year/3 years or Move on if he wants more.
  • Dalvin Tomlinson (DT): Tomlinson had a solid season as arguably the Giants best run-stuffer in 2021. However; his projected $9.8M tag could be too much for the Giants to absorb with others needs to fill on the roster. Also, don’t expect the Giants to place the franchise tag on Tomlinson; which is projected to be around $13.8. Frankly; it’s a lot easier to replace a one-dimensional defensive tackle than a pass rusher. The Giants have a history of letting their defensive tackles walk after their rookie contracts. Verdict: Need to move on and draft a defensive tackle.
  • Kyler Fackrell (OLB): Fackrell signed a one-year show-me contract and played well in his limited action. With Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines expected back and the emergent of Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown in prominent backup roles. It’s hard to imagine the Giants re-signing Fackrell to a contract unless it was similar to the one the Giants signed Markus Golden just before the start of the 2020 season. Verdict: Tender him or release him
  • Austin Jackson (DT): Jackson performed well as a backup defensive lineman for the Giants and his contract was cap friendly. A reunion for 2021 is a strong possibility unless Jackson is able to get a better offer for more money and playing time. Verdict: Bring back for a similar contract as before.
  • Nate Ebner (S): Ebner was brought by Joe Judge due to his special teams’ abilities during their time in New England. Unfortunately; Ebner under-performed in 2020 and there a strong possibility the Giants will move on from him. Verdict: Move on.
  • Jabaal Sheard (DE/OLB): Sheard is another former Patriot that Judge is very familiar with and was brought in mid-season to add to the pass rush. Sheard under-performed in my opinion and could be on the way out. Verdict: Move on.
  • Adrian Colbert (CB): Colbert was purely a depth chart cornerback and doesn’t add any value to the Giants cornerback group. Giants could look for a more suitable replacement via free agency and in the draft. Verdict: Move on.
  • Devante Downs (ILB): Downs somehow secured a starting position on opening day and quickly lost it due to his poor performance. Downs has been with the Giants for a couple of years now if he hasn’t been to provide the needed production by now; it’s time to look elsewhere. Verdict: Move on.  
  • Madre Harper (CB): Harper is in the same boat as Colbert as he really hasn’t been a contributor for the Giants and he could be easily replaced. Verdict: Move on.  

Obviously; the biggest name on the Giants defensive side in free agency is Leonard Williams who had his best season as a pro in 2020 (11.5 sacks/57 tackles/14 tackles for a loss & 30 quarterback hits). The Giants will have other needs to fill; especially at Wide Receiver and it’s unclear if they will look at free agency or the draft a acquire a #1 WR.

The projections on Williams is that could be looking at an annual take of roughly $17-$20M; which could be a problem as I believe the Giants already have a number in mind that is lower and perhaps somewhere around $14-15M per year. If so, this could create friction at the negotiation table and possibly force the Giants to either move on or place the franchise tag ($17.3M) on Williams again to give them another year before making a decision.

However, this could backfire as Williams can refuse to sign it; which could result in the Giants finding a trading partner for Williams or let him walk and get a compensation pick if he signs elsewhere.