With the bulk of free agency in the books around the NFL, and certainly for the Giants, it is a good time to sit back and assess what general manager Dave Gettleman did and why, and where the players he added eventually will fit in.
Following Saturday’s signing of former Jets tight end Eric Tomlinson, pending a physical, the Giants have signed or agreed to terms with 11 players from outside their organization in what was a fairly productive, but not overly splashy haul. There are just two guaranteed starters in the group. Six of the players come aboard on one-year contracts, meaning they are stopgaps or low-priced backups selected to fill specific roles.
In many ways, it was a workmanlike effort with a long-game view from Gettleman as he undeniably helped a defense in need of repair, though how much remains to be seen.
Here is a rundown of the 11 players that make up, for now, the Giants’ 2020 free-agent class:
James Bradberry | Cornerback; three years, $45 million
Here is the star of the newcomers. Instantly becomes the top player at his position on the roster, and at just 26 years old is entering his prime. While with the Panthers, Gettleman drafted Bradberry in the second round, and he will be needed to provide leadership and guidance for the young corners surrounding him. The Giants knew Byron Jones and Bradberry were the top two corners out there and got the second-best one for a much lower price.
Blake Martinez | Inside linebacker; three years, $30 million
The new regime in Green Bay spent one year with Martinez then opted not to re-sign him, ending a four-year run filled with loads of tackles, but not a great deal of impact plays. He is smart, and the Giants will trust him to make the defensive calls. They also hope to offer more protection from the big guys up front to give Martinez cleaner lanes to the ball-carrier. He has not missed a game or start in three years.
Kyler Fackrell | Outside linebacker; one year, $4.6 million
This is an interesting one. Fackrell had 10.5 sacks for the Packers in 2018, showing real edge-rush potential. His position coach that year was Patrick Graham, now the Giants’ defensive coordinator, and the hope is he can again kindle the spark in this 28-year-old. Fackrell had only one sack in 16 games last season and needed a change of scenery. Can he be for the Giants what Markus Golden (10 sacks) was for them in 2019? That seems like a stretch.
Levine Toilolo | Tight end; two years, $6.2 million
Rhett Ellison retired, and this fills a need for a blocker, something the towering (6-foot-8) Toilolo does quite well. Do not expect much out of him as a receiver — he has just 97 receptions in his seven-year career. He has blocked for some strong-rushing teams with the Falcons and 49ers, and he will be asked to do the same for Saquon Barkley.
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Cameron Fleming | Offensive tackle; one year, $4 million
This is the embodiment of a “swing’’ tackle, a guy capable of playing the right or left side and filling in as a starter. New head coach Joe Judge knows this 27-year-old from their time together with the Patriots. New offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and new offensive line coach Marc Columbo know Fleming from their time together the past two years with the Cowboys. Fleming has 26 starts in six years and might be the best right tackle option on the roster. For now.
Colt McCoy | Quarterback; one year, $1.5 million
Heck, every starter needs a backup, right? McCoy, 33, is a career understudy, and he should fit right in as insurance and a helper to Daniel Jones. In 10 years, McCoy has bounced around, from the Browns to the 49ers before spending the past six seasons with the Redskins. He has 28 career starts, but just three in the past five years. With 29 touchdown passes and 27 interceptions, he is an emergency option best used sparingly.
Dion Lewis | Running back; one-year deal, terms undisclosed
How does a 29-year-old running back fit into the youthful roster the Giants are putting together? Well, Lewis has mostly been a career backup, so he will be well-acquainted with the role of waiting his turn behind the starter, in this case the inimitable Barkley. Lewis won a Super Bowl in New England, making him a player Judge knows exceedingly well. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and will add some veteran moxie to the room.
Nate Ebner | Safety; one year, $2 million
It is probably wise to ignore the position label here. Ebner has taken one defensive snap in the past three seasons, and there is no reason to believe anything will change with the Giants. This addition has Judge written all over it, considering the coach was the special teams assistant and coordinator with the Patriots the past eight years, with Ebner a huge part of those units. Ebner, 31, will consume what Judge is serving and share it with his new teammates.
Dravon Askew-Henry | Defensive back; two-year deal, terms undisclosed
The Giants reached into the XFL for a player who was with the New York Guardians and is expected to compete for a spot as a slot corner or at safety. A cousin (by marriage) of Darrelle Revis, Askew-Henry kicked around with the Jaguars, Patriots and Steelers, but has yet to stick on an NFL roster.
Austin Johnson | Defensive tackle; one-year deal, terms undisclosed
A run-stopper with four years of NFL experience, Johnson was a 2016 second-round pick of the Titans. His Giants connection: He played two years at Penn State with Sean Spencer as his position coach. Spencer was hired by Judge to work with the Giants’ defensive line. Johnson has 2.5 sacks in 58 games.
Eric Tomlinson | Tight end; terms undisclosed
Tomlinson, 27, entered the NFL undrafted in 2015 and spent the majority of his career with the Jets. He totaled 16 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown in 36 games over three seasons (2016-18). Tomlinson spent three weeks with the Giants last year, but did not appear in a game before his release. From there, he spent time with the Patriots and Raiders, and mostly was used as a blocker and special-teams contributor.
— With Ryan Dunleavy
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