Giants gambling on Olivier Vernon’s contract-year surge

Ben Stockwell breaks down Olivier Vernon's monster deal with the New York Giants, assigning a grade to the contract.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Giants gambling on Olivier Vernon’s contract-year surge

The Deal: The Giants signed Vernon on a five-year deal worth $85 million, with $52.5 million of that guaranteed, according to Ian Rapoport.

Grade: B

What it means for the Giants: The Giants have taken an aggressive approach to the start free agency, and in turn are setting themselves up to have one of the most aggressive defenses in the NFL. After going all-in on Janoris Jenkins earlier today, the Giants needed to add the pressure to back up two cornerbacks (Jenkins, along with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) who love to go after the football, and Vernon—at his best—provides just that. The quartet of Vernon, JPP, Johnathan Hankins, and fellow free-agent signee Damon Harrison provides the Giants with a formidable defensive line, but at a hefty price for their newest additions. Vernon was the highest-graded edge defender over the second half of the season, racking up 64 pressures (nine sacks, 26 hits, 29 hurries) from Week 8 onwards, with his 40 defensive stops in that span also the most for any edge defender (only Khalil Mack was within 10 of his total for that 10-week span).

Vernon Season Graph

The question mark over this move is twofold for the Giants. First, the cost is astronomical; they have given Vernon more guaranteed money on a shorter contract than J.J. Watt received from the Texans. Secondly, Vernon’s explosion in production and performance came in an eight-week spell right at the end of his rookie deal. It was not sporadic, and he did damage against some quality tackles (Tyron Smith included), but the Giants have taken a big gamble that this was the start of Olivier Vernon’s emergence as an elite defensive player, and not an eight-week streak for a team that was coasting to the end of the season after firing their head coach.

What it means for the Dolphins: The Dolphins took their stance on Vernon in the last 24 hours by signing Mario Williams after he was cut by the Bills, and rescinding Vernon’s transition tag. The eight games that Vernon produced to finish the regular season this year are better than any stretch that Williams has ever recorded, but Miami clearly felt that another monster contract on their defensive line was too heavy of an investment for one position group. They will gamble that Williams can rebound from a dreadful season in Buffalo under Rex Ryan and get back to his consistent performances from prior seasons.

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • shaunhan murray

    it feels like the owner told Jerry Reese that if this team didnt make the playoffs he was done as the GM.So he went out and bought a new 1/2 of his defense.If these dealse end up bad he HAS tobe done as GM, these contracts r a little out there and scare the hell outa me.

  • crosseyedlemon

    I like the aggressive approach the Giants have taken in free agency. The winners in life are always those who are not afraid of taking risks and with the NFC East up for grabs this is the time to make bold moves. Some fans continue to delude themselves into thinking there is a free lunch and you can get something for nothing but the reality is you have to pony up if you want the kind of quality that will make a difference.

  • Blackfive

    Ben, you’re clearly a Giants’ hater. With all the moves the NY Giants have made they still have more than $25+ million in cap space, and a franchise QB with a 20 million cap number. The Giants went out a got 2 of the best players available at their positions (according to the website that employs you), and you’re hating their moves. What were they supposed to do with $60 mil in cap available? Sign 20 marginal players? Did you notice how the cap went up each season since the new cba? Do you know why’s that? I think it’s because NFL Players want to make more money. You hate on JPP even though in his limited amount of snaps he was one of the most disruptive pass rushers in the league, all while playing with a huge cast on his hand, recovering from an injury during the prior season and missing training camp and most of the regular season.

    As you saw in the Super Bowl and in the NY Giants recent SB victories, a great defense starts with a great defensive line. Since 2007, I don’t remember the Giants ever having great or even good Linebackers or Safeties (Kenny Phillips constantly injured). Have fun hating, I can’t wait for the draft!

  • Steve

    My beloved Giants look like the Redskins of the 90s. Vernon is the Albert Haynesworth of 2016. Vernon played lights out for the final 8 games of his contract year. Duh! I would too. Suckers.