Last year the New York Giants had one of the best defenses in the NFL. Their success was due in large part to several key free agent signings last offseason. It also came at a very large price tag, a $200 million price tag to be exact. Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, Keenan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard were the key additions that helped surge this team to the playoffs. All the players on the defense clicked immediately and right from the start of the season they were a group you didn’t want to mess with. They became a powerhouse throughout the NFL and were the main reason for the Giants 11-win season. After a devastating loss to the Packers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, the main focus came on keeping this group together.
Once the season is finished for teams, they all shift gears and turn their minds toward the offseason and the preparation for the next season. One of the main parts that comes along with the offseason is the loss, gain, and maintaining of players. The decision the team has to make is whether or not they want to keep those players whose contracts expire or move on from them. This offseason was no different for the Giants.
After a hefty offseason last year, the Giants were expected to have a much quieter offseason this time around. With a lot less cap space and many decisions to be made, the Giants took action. They immediately started signing players, such as Brandon Marshall, Rhett Ellison, and D.J. Fluker. The Giants also franchised tagged defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, later agreeing on a long-term deal, which was another win for Big Blue.
The concern didn’t end there, although Big Blue is off to a very good start. The Giants now can take a deep breath and not have to worry about replacing a superstar like JPP. Another key piece to the Giants success last year was linebacker Keenan Robinson. Robinson had 52 tackles, along with 27 assisted tackles. He and the other linebackers took control of the defense and helped create the connection they have. Although Robinson visited the Bengals and Bills over the last couple weeks, he re-signed with the Giants after JPP’s long term deal agreement. That was a huge factor in him staying, as Robinson also said he wanted to stay in New York all along.
The last starter for the Giants to remain in free agency is big man Johnathan Hankins. Hankins lines up next to Harrison and they dominated all year long. Running backs got absolutely nowhere between the two of those guys, who created a giant brick wall in the middle of the field. Hankins, 24, is seeking his first big deal after playing out his rookie contract. So far he has had no success in finding more money than what the Giants are offering. Reports also say the Giants are getting impatient and want an answer this week. Hankins, if he wants to keep waiting, will eventually get the money he wants but at a different expense. A team that could give him the money he wants, like the Browns, would provide him with a fat paycheck but not a lot of opportunity to win. He needs to weigh his options, and quickly.
Bringing back Hankins to this defense would be the final piece to the puzzle of this defense. Just about the whole gang would be back together, which is sort of a rarity in the NFL these days. Bringing back all the influential guys creates a chemistry and continues to build over time. The success this defense brought last year is no where near where they want to be for this year.
Hank is a huge whole to fill on this defense and would be a nuisance for the Giants and their fans if he left. Before free agency began, there was a lot of speculation that both JPP and Hankins wouldn’t return, but now the opposite seems more likely than ever. JPP’s negotiated his contract in a way that provides the Giants with about $10 million extra to spend, preferably on Hankins. Everyone wants him to return, and when he does the Giants will be set.
At 24 years old, Hankins is a phenomenal asset and provides longevity for the future. A healthy defensive line that includes JPP, Vernon, Snacks (Harrison), and Hankins is one to be feared. If and when Jerry Reese gets this deal done, this free agency period will be almost as successful as last years. Retaining huge impact players is key to a team’s success. If Hankins wants to win and realizes that he can get paid and have an amazing chance to win in New York, the choice is very easy. Giants fans should be ecstatic for this upcoming season and the fire this team is going to bring. But for now, we wait for Jerry Reese to put the final piece of the puzzle together and create a team that hoists the Lombardi Trophy next February.