NFL free agency kicked off with a flurry on Thursday. Some of the biggest names in the sport were garnering headlines, from trades to signings to potential releases. The New York Giants slid beneath the radar on the official first day of free agency, but there were still a number of news items pertaining to New York.
The team’s signing of Brandon Marshall obviously takes center stage, though that took place before the official opening of full free agency. It was allowed because, rather than just having his previous contract expire, Marshall had been released. On Thursday, the Giants’ lone signing was fullback Rhett Ellison.
Ellison is a very good blocking back, something the team lacked in 2016. Of course, NY rarely, if ever, runs formations utilizing a fullback in the first place. This signing is odd in that regard, but perhaps one led to the other. Maybe no formations used a fullback because Ben McAdoo and company didn’t have one they believed in. Ellison could change that.
He received more money than fans were certainly expecting. The market for fullbacks took a surprising leap this offseason, with other franchises shelling out substantial bucks for the forgotten position. New York joined that fray, perhaps foolishly. It will depend on how much field time Ellison warrants.
In response to the Ellison pick-up, the Giants will be cutting Will Johnson. Johnson was supposed to be a multidimensional fullback but couldn’t get healthy. Another back, Orleans Darkwa, was re-signed as depth in the backfield. Darkwa was not awarded a tender before free agency opened but was brought back anyway. He possesses quality potential for a third or fourth back in a rotation.
Elsewhere, kicker Robbie Gould moved on, signing with the San Francisco 49ers. Gould was great for the Giants last year after becoming the kicker mid-season. He didn’t miss a field goal all year, though lacked the leg strength to make deep kicks. New York will be on the lookout for a replacement in the coming days or perhaps after the draft.
In terms of other targets the Giants had their eye on, the offensive tackle market is growing thin. Andrew Whitworth signed with the Los Angeles Rams; Russell Okung went to LA as well, to the Chargers. Rick Wagner, Riley Reiff, Matt Kalil, and others also signed new deals. The possible left tackle options for the Giants are dwindling. The draft may be the best resort at this point unless another team makes a surprising cut in the next few days.
Day one dominated the sports world’s headlines, but there are still plenty of useful players out on the market. There is also the remaining headache of trying to sign Jason Pierre-Paul to a long-term deal to free up some 2017 money, as well as more potential cuts for the Giants. Free agency was a whirlwind for one day, but there are lots of moves still to come.