By Brad Carroll
While the rest of the NFL was seemingly adding players at will, either through free agency or the three blockbuster trades that went down Tuesday, the Giants were sitting back quietly, adding depth to their roster. That plan might not sit well with Giants fans, however, as adding six players on the first day of the open spending season who might not even become starters is rather puzzling.
The Giants have a lot of holes to fill and need to improve greatly this offseason to be in playoff contention next year. With all the hoopla surrounding the incredible season Odell Beckham Jr. had last year, the fact may have been lost on some that the Giants couldn't beat any team with an ounce of talent. Beckham Jr.'s ascent covered a lot of blemishes on the roster.
Instead of attacking those blemishes head on, general manager Jerry Reese decided to dip his toe in the free agency market, focusing on depth rather than a total overhaul at several positions that many believe is a necessity. Of the five players signed on the opening day of the open market, none will be automatically penciled in as a starter. That's troubling.
There is still plenty of time and players left to be signed, but the early returns won't get any Big Blue fan excited. The one big name they did add is third-down running back Shane Vereen. Here is a closer look at that signing, and the rest of the players the Giants have added as we hit the 24-hour mark of NFL free agency.
Shane Vereen, RB: He's not a every-down running back, but the Giants will be getting a playmaker, mainly in the passing game. Vereen proved he can be an important piece of an offense in the Super Bowl against Seattle, catching 11 passes for 64 yards. Although the yardage was low, Vereen was an option on seemingly every drop back by Tom Brady. That will be well utilized by Giants quarterback Eli Manning and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. Vereen wasn't cheap, signing a three-year, $12.35 million deal, but the Giants likely had to overpay to pry him away from New England. He'll be paired with main running back Rashad Jennings, while Andre Williams will also see carries. The Giants running backs last year combined for 62 receptions. Vereen had 52 alone with the Patriots. It's a different offense, but the Giants offense did get better with this move, even if Vereen won't be an every-down back.
Jonathan Casillas, LB: Another former Patriot, Casillas gets a three-year, $10.5 million contract. He could work his way into a starting role at linebacker, but right now it appears he's here for defensive depth and to excel on special teams. If the Giants don't re-sign Jacquian Williams, Casillas could become a weakside starter at linebacker, though. He had three total tackles in three playoff games with the Patriots last year. Casillas did have nine tackles in the regular season finale against Buffalo, when given a bigger chance to play with New England resting a lot of players. Next season will be his eighth in the NFL.
Dwayne Harris, KR/WR: He's another special teams standout, giving the Giants someone who has the potential to break one on kick or punt returns. Harris got five years and $17.5 million, a hefty price to pay for a kick returner and possibly a fourth wide receiver option. If Victor Cruz isn't able to make it back to full strength next season coming off injury, Harris could see his role increased on offense. But Harris should make his mark as a return man. He averaged 24.7 yard per kick return, a very healthy mark, and 9.1 yards on punt returns, also solid.
Marshall Newhouse, RT: Newhouse, 26, is most likely here to provide depth to an offensive line in desperate need of an upgrade. The fact Newhouse isn't already penciled in as a starter should send up red flags for fans wanting that position to be improved. Newhouse isn't that guy, at least not right now. He'll be able to step in and play when needed, but the Giants will be looking to improve this offseason. Newhouse started four games with Cincinnati last year. Before that, he played four years with the Packers, serving as the starting right tackle in 2011 and 2012.
J.T. Thomas, LB: Thomas is a better linebacker than Casillas, but still could be penciled in as a backup right away. He was solid with the Jaguars last year, with 84 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions in 16 games. He started 10 for Jacksonville. The soon-to-be 27-year old gets three years and $12 million from the Giants. Thomas is in the same likely boat as Casillas, as either could start at weakside linebacker with a solid training camp and with how the rest of the linebacking core shakes out between now and the regular season. Thomas could have the potential to become a very good player with the Giants.
Chris Ogbonnaya, Mark Herzlich and Henry Hynoski: The Giants brought back three of their own players, with Ogbonnaya re-signing Tuesday and Herzlich and Hynoski doing the same Wednesday. Ogbonnaya will be the fourth running back, if he can prove his worth to remain on the team into the regular season. The Giants already have Jennings, Williams and Vereen ahead of him. Herzlich is back to provide depth at linebacker. Hynoski returns as the team's fullback.
The Giants have been busy on the first two days of free agency, but fans are holding out hope the big moves are yet to come.