Why Giants should re-sign Robert Ayers, let Prince Amukamara walk
This offseason will be an important one for the Giants after they finished below .500 for the third straight year and installed a new head coach in Ben McAdoo. The team has a hefty amount of cap space to work with, and there are plenty of holes to fill after both the team’s offense and defense collectively graded among the worst units in the NFL.
Here are the players the Giants should re-sign, let walk, and consider signing during free agency.
DE Robert Ayers
Pass rush is always at a premium, and Ayers has been one of the most productive rushers on a per-snap basis over the last several years. He finished 2015 with one of the top-10 pass-rush grades among edge defenders, and has been above average against the run in five of his seven career seasons.
Jason Pierre-Paul is also an option; he’s still just 27 years old, and in 511 snaps managed 41 combined pressures and six batted passes (the most among edge defenders). The hand injury should also lower his price tag, but it’s still a concern given his sizable drop-off in run defense from what we’ve seen in previous seasons.
WR Rueben Randle
Despite a somewhat poor contract year during which he ranked 61st in yards per route run, Randle has graded well in three of his four seasons, particularly in 2014, where he forced 14 missed tackles (10th-most among receivers). Given the relatively weak group of free agent WRs, Randle would be a decent signing if he can return to his 2014 form.
LB Jasper Brinkley
Brinkley is a solid two-down run defender, and was the team’s highest-graded linebacker last season. He doesn’t offer much in coverage, but the rest of the unit is also lacking there, and Brinkley at least provides above average play against the run. Another plus is the fact that he’ll likely come much cheaper than other free agent options at the position.
DT Cullen Jenkins
At 35, Jenkins still provides above-average pass-rush ability (34 combined pressures in 2015), but it’s not enough to make up for his play against the run, where his grade ranked 66th of 70 qualifying DTs last season.
FS Brandon Meriweather
Meriweather graded below average in coverage for the third straight year while missing 16 tackles—tied for the fifth-most among safeties. His overall grade ranked 72nd at the position, and the team can likely find better production elsewhere at a similar cost.
CB Prince Amukamara
This free agent decision is dependent on price—when healthy, Amukamara has been above average in coverage, but he’s logged fewer than 800 snaps in four of five seasons.
TE Dwayne Allen
Tight end should be one of the multiple positions they look to address after seeing little production from the incumbents last season. That was particularly true in the run game, where both Will Tye and Larry Donnell graded poorly. While Allen saw a drop-off in that facet of play during 2015 and ended the season on IR, he’s shown capability in all facets, and will be just 26 when the season starts.
DE Olivier Vernon
There will likely be a lot of interest in Vernon given his 2015 season; he finished second to Khalil Mack in both overall grade and defensive stops, while racking up 81 combined pressures. The massive leap in production during a contract year might cause hesitation, but if Vernon can maintain that level of play, he’d be an upgrade over both Ayers and JPP on the edge.
LB Derrick Johnson
The Giants had just one linebacker finish with a positive coverage grade in each of the last two seasons, while Johnson has consistently been one of the highest-graded linebackers there. His run defense isn’t bad, either, and last season his 60 stops ranked fifth at the position. If Johnson’s age (33) is a deterrent, Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan could be potential younger options.