NFL free agency is off and running, and we’re keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2020 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from Bill Barnwell. The new league year begins at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, which means free-agent signings can be made official after that. The first round of the 2020 NFL draft begins April 23.
The Giants agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the former Cowboy.
What it means: The Giants added an option to potentially start at right tackle with Mike Remmers a free agent. Fleming, whose deal can be worth up to $4 million, also can serve as a backup to Nate Solder at left tackle after having started games there with the Cowboys and Patriots, where he has worked with Giants head coach Joe Judge, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and line coach Marc Colombo. They have watched Fleming start 26 career games. This move also won’t prevent the Giants from drafting a tackle in the first round. Fleming will likely compete with Nick Gates and a draftee for a starting spot.
What’s the risk: Fleming has never really been viewed as a full-time starter. He’s spent most of his six-year career as a swing tackle. That is likely his best role. If the Giants don’t select a tackle with their first-round pick they might need to rely on Fleming to do something he’s never done before — start more than seven games. That is a risky proposition with second-year quarterback Daniel Jones behind center. They need to protect their prime investment.
What it means: The Giants have the veteran cornerback they so desperately needed. They didn’t have a cornerback under contract over the age of 24 who played significant snaps for them last season. Bradberry, 26, has a track record of success after holding his own in man coverage against some of the league’s top receivers this past season. He immediately becomes the Giants’ No. 1 cornerback and adds a veteran voice to the room. A lot is going to be asked of him as one of the league’s highest-paid cornerbacks.
What’s the risk: Not much. Bradberry has started 60 games and missed just one over the past three seasons. He’s known as a bit of a gambler, and maybe there is a transition switching to a team that will predominately be in man coverage after he played more in zone than man in Carolina. The Giants had to pay up for Bradberry, and part of what they paid for is minimal risk. This is a strong move for a team that needed cornerback help in the worst way.
The Giants reached an agreement with the veteran quarterback on a one-year deal worth $1.5 million guaranteed, a source confirmed to ESPN.
What it means: The $1.5 million guaranteed in McCoy’s one-year deal with the Giants likely pegs him as the backup to Daniel Jones. Veteran Alex Tanney is also on the roster but doesn’t have any guaranteed money in his deal. McCoy, 33, is an ideal backup given his work ethic and cerebral approach. He’s known to work well with young quarterbacks after mentoring Dwayne Haskins last year and Robert Griffin III earlier in his career. McCoy is likely to fill a similar role with the Giants.
What’s the risk: McCoy has an injury history. He broke his right leg in 2018 and it gave him problems through the beginning of last season, before he finished the year healthy after making one start. At age 33, we’ll see how his body holds up — possibly without an offseason workout program. The Giants also probably don’t want McCoy playing for an extended period. He hasn’t started more than four games since the 2011 season.
The Giants on Monday placed the franchise tag on Williams.
Projected franchise tag salary: $16.1 million
Career highlights: Williams was the sixth overall pick in 2015 out of USC and made the Pro Bowl in 2016, when he had a career-best 7.0 sacks. He has 266 tackles and 17.5 sacks in five seasons. He finished with 0.5 sacks and two tackles for a loss in 2019 with the Giants and New York Jets.
Why he was tagged: The Giants liked what they saw in the eight games Williams played for them after the trade last season. He didn’t produce splash plays but still flashed the potential and talent that warranted making this move. Williams was possibly their best defensive player over the final eight weeks, which was as much a statement about them as him. He had 20 quarterback pressures and 14 hurries, tops among Giants defensive linemen, after joining the team.
The Giants had already invested third- and fifth-round picks in Williams from the trade, so they were already committed to him heading into this offseason. Allowing him to walk as a free agent would have been disastrous. A tag was the only option to justify and salvage the trade.
What he brings: A quality NFL player. Youth and potential. Williams turns 26 in June. He’s still young and there is still hope he develops into a consistent difference-making player. The pressures and hurries suggest he’s causing disruption. He just hasn’t proven to be a great finisher.
Blake Martinez, linebacker
The Giants and former Packers linebacker agreed to a three-year deal worth $30 million late Monday night.
What it means: The Giants have a middle linebacker to run their defense, and that really is the key here. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham needed someone he can trust who could call and make plays. Martinez can do that, as evidenced by his time in Green Bay when he recorded 140-plus tackles each of the past three seasons as their middle linebacker. He also has familiarity with Graham, who was his linebackers coach and the run game coordinator in Green Bay during the 2018 season. Finally, with the signing of Bradberry and Martinez and the franchise tagging of Leonard Williams, the Giants at least have some veterans with pedigree again on their defense.
What’s the risk: Martinez was a tackling machine in Green Bay, but how much of that was the system which funneled everything in his direction? The Packers saw firsthand what he could do and weren’t willing to pay him at this level. They saw some things that likely made them hesitant, and it probably has to do with his coverage skills. “Average cover skills,” one longtime linebackers coach said. Martinez allowed a poor 9.1 yards per target as the nearest defender in coverage, per NFL Next Gen Stats. He still should be a significant upgrade over Alec Ogletree, who struggled the past two years.
The former 49ers tight end is expected to agree to a deal with the Giants, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
What it means: The Giants found their replacement for Rhett Ellison, who recently retired. Toilolo is 6-8, 268 pounds and fills the Giants’ need for a tight end who can block and serve as a complement to the more dynamic Evan Engram. The 49ers used Toilolo to aid their running game and his role will likely be similar with the Giants.
What’s the risk: Toilolo doesn’t bring much of a receiving threat when he’s on the field. He caught two passes for 10 yards on over 200 snaps last season with the 49ers. He has 97 catches for 996 yards and eight touchdowns in seven seasons. This move isn’t going to be costly, though, so the risk is minimal.
The Giants agreed to a one-year deal with the former Packers linebacker.
What it means: The Giants are unlikely to land a big-name pass-rusher in free agency this year. No Jadeveon Clowney. No Dante Fowler Jr. Not even Robert Quinn or Everson Griffen. They’re aiming to piece it together now with Fackrell, Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines and likely another mid-range edge rusher later in free agency. New coach Joe Judge has said he would love to have a dominant star pass-rusher, but if that wasn’t possible, he said there were seasons where the Patriots pieced it together with a committee. That appears to be what the Giants are doing this year given their options in free agency and the draft. Ohio State defensive end Chase Young isn’t going to be an option with the No. 4 draft pick, and most of the top pass-rushers in free agency were tagged.
What’s the risk: It’s possible that 2018 season was a mirage and Fackrell is more the backup he’s been every other year. He’s not particularly stout against the run and has never topped three sacks in a season other than 2018. At least it’s not a huge gamble for the Giants given the investment. Fackrell is a low-risk investment at one year and $4.6 million. If he can produce at anywhere near his ’18 rate it will be worth that price.
The Giants agreed to a two-year deal with the special teams ace.
What it means: The Giants have begun addressing their special teams, where there are a bunch of key contributors on the free agent market. Not a surprise given coach Joe Judge’s special teams background. Core, who will be re-signed, led the Giants’ special teams in tackles last season with six. He was especially impressive as a gunner, posting five of the team’s Top 10 speeds, per Next Gen Stats. His 21.93 mph on a Week 13 punt was the fastest time for any Giant last season. Core’s speed and ability to provide depth at wide receiver were valued. He received a two-year deal that could be worth up to $4.7 million, according to a source. Not bad for a primary special-teamer.
What’s the risk: Core played in 16 games last year for the first time in his four professional seasons. He still finished with just three catches for 28 yards, and has just 33 career receptions in minimal playing time at wide receiver. The jury is still out on whether he can produce for an extended stretch if the Giants have a spate of injuries and the opportunity presents itself. Regardless, he still provides value on special teams, mitigating the risk.
The former Patriots special teams ace and Rugby Olympian agreed to a one-year deal with the Giants.
What it means: Coach Joe Judge has someone he trusts implicitly on his special teams units. That is what Ebner brings to the table. He’s a special teams ace. Ebner had more than 10 special teams tackles in six of his eight years with the Patriots. Judge was the special teams coordinator for most of those eight years. He now has Ebner in New York to contribute on special teams and help teach things his way, on the field and in the classroom. It’s important for new coaches to bring some of their guys over to their new stop. Ebner is a notable one for Judge.
What’s the risk: Ebner, 31, is on the downside of his career. What if there isn’t a lot left in the tank? He’s listed as a defensive back/safety but has never started a game in his NFL career. If Ebner has lost a step, it’s going to be hard to contribute on special teams at the level that Judge expects, and we know his value is limited on defense. Judge was adamant that you don’t bring in guys to simply teach younger players. Can a player like Ebner serve as a mentor? Sure. But that will not be his primary purpose. It will be imperative he can play.