NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2021 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our experts. The new league year began March 17, meaning free-agent signings could be made official after that. The first round of the 2021 NFL draft begins April 29 on ESPN.
The New York Giants entered free agency this year in the midst of rebuild with plenty of needs, despite some positive signs last season. One of those needs was a No. 1 wide receiver. Check that one off. They also made a run at Leonard Floyd, but he returned to the Rams, so a dominant edge rusher will have to wait. But a backup quarterback, depth at running back and another tight end were among the positions addressed during the first week of free agency. And the Giants added to their cornerback depth by signing Adoree' Jackson on Monday.
Here's a breakdown of every 2021 NFL free-agent signing by the Giants, and how each will impact the upcoming season:
Kenny Golladay, WR
Former Detroit Lions receiver Kenny Golladay has reached agreement with the New York Giants on a four-year, $72 million deal, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. The deal can be worth up to $76 million and includes $40 million guaranteed, the source said.
What it means: The Giants finally landed that No. 1 receiver for Daniel Jones. They knew it was a gaping hole, and Golladay was really the only free-agent option that could fill the void. So now he steps into that role and Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Evan Engram can revert to being complementary players, where they are best suited. The hope is that the Giants' offense and Jones now make massive leaps this season with Golladay on the field, having a similar impact to what Stephon Diggs did for Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. No more excuses for Jones and this group of offensive players.
What's the risk: There was a reason this didn’t happen earlier. The Giants had serious questions about some of Golladay's off-field behavior, character concerns and a hip injury that cost him most of last season. He needed to answer them before New York could feel comfortable making this sizable investment. That wasn't going to happen without a visit. The Giants were sold on all three, at least enough to take the gamble on him as a player and person. Coach Joe Judge has talked about how not everyone fits into his program with the way he coaches them hard and asks them to work. He’s hoping this decision doesn’t come back to haunt them.
What was the key to the Giants signing Golladay?
Jordan Raanan breaks down how the Giants were able to land star wide receiver Kenny Golladay in free agency.
Adoree' Jackson, CB
What it means: The Giants' secondary is now loaded. Jackson is the CB2 they needed to complete the group. He's the perfect complement across from the longer, more physical James Bradberry with his speed. Add in Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers and Xavier McKinney at safety, Darnay Holmes in the slot and the Giants have a secondary that should be really good. The Giants didn't expect a player like Jackson to shake free. He's 25 years old and has proven to be a quality starting cornerback on the outside in this league. He also brings versatility with his ability to play in the slot and return punts. Jackson is an ideal fit for the Giants.
What's the risk: The 2020 season didn't go particularly well for Jackson. He injured his knee early and it was something that lingered throughout the season. That is what made the physical such a vital part of this visit. So he's coming off a down season, off an injury and the Giants paid a substantial price for his services. That is because the Philadelphia Eagles had interest and a similar deal on the table. The Giants are betting Jackson can bounce back from the down season, and that it was nothing more than a blip on the screen in what was otherwise a promising start to his career in Tennessee.
Ryan Anderson, LB
The Giants have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the former Washington Football Team linebacker.
What it means: The philosophy, for the time being, seems to be to throw as many bodies as possible at outside linebacker. Anderson joins recently signed Ifeadi Odenigbo, Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines. And surely there is more to come (hello draft!). The Giants admittedly couldn't fill every need in free agency this offseason. But Anderson brings a skill that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham can utilize. He can set the edge and is good against the run. Not much of a pass-rusher, but he is a leader. A Joe Judge kind of guy. Not surprisingly, from Alabama, where Judge used to work under Nick Saban.
What's the risk: Not much with Anderson. He comes at a minimal price and, perhaps, can blossom in a new system that better fits his skills. He's an outside linebacker who was moved to defensive end last season in Washington. It didn't really work and his playing time dwindled. This might be his opportunity to shine, because the Giants have Carter and Ximines returning from serious injuries and should have a timeshare at the position. Who knows if that ultimately will work for a second year in a row. It's a questionable approach.
Mike Glennon, QB
What it means: The Giants have moved on from Colt McCoy as their backup to Jones. Instead they will roll with Glennon, who started five games for the Jaguars last season and threw for 1,072 yards with seven touchdown passes and five interceptions. This does seem like a fit if the Giants become a more vertical team this season. Glennon has a better arm than McCoy and -- like Jones -- throws the deep ball well. He's probably a slight upgrade from McCoy, who the Giants had expressed interest in returning.
What's the risk: Glennon, at 6-foot-7, looks the part. But he hasn't been able to experience much success when pushed into a starting role. Glennon is 6-21 as a starter in his eight professional seasons. McCoy, while limited physically, was 1-1 last season when asked to fill in for Jones. Glennon is also on his sixth team in six years. There has to be reasons why teams are so willing to move on after just one season.
Zach Fulton, G
The former Houston Texans guard agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Giants.
What it means: Fulton will likely be part of a three-man competition to start at guard, along with Shane Lemieux and Will Hernandez. Chad Slade and Kyle Murphy also have a shot to make strong impressions. The Giants needed another experienced option at the position after releasing veteran Kevin Zeitler prior to free agency. Fulton is the guy, at a minimal price. He started 16 games at right guard last season for the Texans and has 60 starts on his résumé at guard, tackle and center. He provides the Giants flexibility and, specifically, some depth at guard should Lemieux or Hernandez falter or suffer an injury.
What's the risk: The downgrade from Zeitler to whoevber ends up starting at guard could be substantial. That would be problematic, because the Giants don't have a proven high-end player at any of their five offensive line positions. That's not exactly reassuring for quarterback Daniel Jones. But maybe Fulton isn't much of a downgrade from Zeitler. They were graded somewhat equitably by Pro Football Focus (Zeitler tied for 32nd, Fulton tied for 42nd) in pass block win rate according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Fulton had a better PBWR at 89.3%, compared to 88.7% for Zeitler.
Devante Downs, LB
The linebacker agreed to terms on a one-year deal to return to the Giants.
What it means: The Giants bring back an inside linebacker who started eight games for them last season. Not that they were a great eight games. In fact, barring a surprise, that won't be his role this season. But Downs can provide depth behind Tae Crowder and recently signed veteran Reggie Ragland. He can compete for a roster spot where his primary value would be on special teams. Keep throwing players at the position. That appears to be the Giants' approach at more than a few spots (edge rusher, inside linebacker next to Blake Martinez, and guard).
What's the risk: Not much, really. The Giants declined to sign Downs as a restricted free agent at slightly more than $2 million. Instead, they let him see what was out there on the market before bringing him back at the veteran minimum for a player with his experience. He will have a chance to make the roster, but the Giants aren't locked in to keeping him.
Kyle Rudolph, TE
What it means: The Giants have a lot of tight ends, and this makes you wonder about the future of Evan Engram. The Giants' starting tight end is slated to play 2021 on his fifth-year option at a touch over $6 million. Rudolph is an established veteran who joins a crowded room with Engram, Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo. The Giants just restructured Toilolo's deal, too. Clearly they wanted to make a move at this position, because they were in the mix for Hunter Henry before he signed with the Patriots. Another move at this position could be on the horizon.
What's the risk: Even at $6 million, this deal seems like a lot for a player who missed time this past season with injuries and is set to turn 32 in November. Rudolph is on the decline. He has failed to top 334 yards receiving each of the past two seasons, after four straight years of at least 495 yards. At the very least, he does seem to be an upgrade with his blocking.
Leonard Williams, DL
The Giants and their twice-franchised defensive lineman reached agreement on a three-year, $63 million deal that includes $45 million fully guaranteed, sources tell ESPN's Adam Schefter.
What it means: The Giants finally locked up Williams after a multi-year dance. He's now their highest-paid player (by a wide margin) and defensive star coming off a career-best 11.5 sacks. Much will be expected from him as a leader and player. The deal also comes at the right time, with the Giants needing to get this done before the start of the new league year (Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday) in order to have flexibility this offseason in free agency. This will allow them to be more aggressive in adding players. The extension lowers Williams' cap hit this season about $8.4 million compared to what it would have been on the franchise tag.
What's the risk: This is a lot of money. It's the fourth-most guaranteed money ($45 million) in Giants history, behind only the deals of Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon. Williams' guarantee is also second-most among interior defensive linemen in the NFL behind only Aaron Donald. Can Williams live up to this price? Sure he's only 26 years old, but he's only topped five sacks in a season twice in six years. He needs to repeat 2020 (or at least come close) the next few seasons in order for this deal to work out in the Giants' favor. It's going to be difficult.
Leonard Williams reaches new 3-year deal with Giants
Adam Schefter reports that the Giants and defensive lineman Leonard Williams have agreed on a 3-year deal.
Reggie Ragland, LB
The Giants agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the former Detroit Lions linebacker.
What it means: The Giants added a low-cost inside linebacker. It was necessary after they released David Mayo this month. The Giants didn't have much aside from Blake Martinez and Tae Crowder, a seventh-round rookie who flashed some promise. But the jury is still out on whether he's a significant player. Ragland played last season in Detroit and at least has been a part-time starter the past two years with the Lions and Chiefs. He provides some insurance and help on special teams, which always plays well with Judge.
What's the risk: They still might only have one true starting-caliber inside linebacker on the roster. Ragland seems to fit best in the part-time role he's handled the past two seasons. But the money and commitment aren't substantial and at least he can serve as a run-stuffing linebacker, if needed. Like most of the Giants' signings so far, he's an inexpensive option who keeps adding to the overall depth of the roster.
Ifeadi Odenigbo, LB
The former Minnesota Vikings linebacker and Giants agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million, according to a source.
What it means: The Giants threw another young body into their outside linebacker mix. Odenigbo, 26, has 10.5 sacks the past two seasons combined. That's more than anybody not named Leonard Williams. Odenigbo started 15 games and led the Vikings with 15 quarterback hits. It certainly looks as if the Giants are going to have to piece it together on the edge again this season. They didn't land any of the top edge rushers on the market despite making a strong push for Leonard Floyd. Odenigbo is a part of that mix, which includes Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines and Carter Coughlin.
What's the risk: The Giants are once again destined to be without a dominant edge rusher who demands double teams. This isn't Odenigbo's fault. In fact, he's a low-risk, high-reward signing. He's sort of like this year's Kyler Fackrell -- or a lesser version of the previous year's Markus Golden -- with an opportunity to prove it on a one-year deal. The downside is minimal, although the Giants are doing some projecting that he fits seamlessly into their 3-4 scheme.
John Ross, WR
The Giants and the former Cincinnati Bengals first-round pick agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $2.5 million with $1 million guaranteed, according to a source.
What it means: The Giants are adding much-needed speed and wide receiver depth. Ross has a first-round pedigree. It didn't work out for him in Cincinnati despite being a top-10 selection in the 2017 NFL draft. But now he gets a clean slate in a new city to try to resurrect his career. The Giants provide opportunity. At the moment, they aren't especially deep at wide receiver with Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton the only real known quantities at the position.
What's the risk: Well, who is to say that Ross can stay healthy and produce at the NFL level? He wasn't able to do either consistently in Cincinnati, having played in just 27 games and accumulating 51 catches for 733 yards and 10 touchdowns. But Ross is only 25 years old and the fresh start might be just what he needs. That speed is rare and enticing. And the Giants took a shot here for only $1 million guaranteed.
Devontae Booker, RB
The Giants agreed to a two-year deal worth up to $6 million with the former Las Vegas Raiders running back, according to sources.
What it means: This likely spells the end of Wayne Gallman's time with the Giants. Booker is the veteran backup behind Saquon Barkley. And the Giants needed a veteran backup behind Barkley, because their star running back is coming back from an ACL tear. He's not going to return and play 100% of the snaps coming off that injury, especially early in the season. So Booker it is. He might not be as good a pure runner as Gallman, but he's probably a more well-rounded back. This was key. Boooker averaged 4.5 yards per carry last year for the Raiders and caught 17 balls out of the backfield.
What's the risk: Though he doesn't have a ton of NFL mileage on his body, Booker will turn 29 in May. He's been a career backup with only seven starts to his name. It's not as if he's super-cheap. This is decent backup running back money for a position one could argue is best to be filled by a cheap late-round pick on a rookie contract.
Austin Johnson, DT
The Giants announced they have agreed to terms with the defensive lineman, who spent last season as a reserve with New York.
What it means: The Giants brought back some depth for the interior of their defensive line, a necessity with the likelihood Tomlinson, a coveted free agent, does not return. Johnson is a run-stuffer who played reasonably well in a rotational role last season. Should Tomlinson leave, Johnson could fill that void. He signed a one-year deal with the Giants last offseason, so he has familiarity in the defense and knows the system well. That is why this deal makes sense.
What's the risk: Not much. It's not expected to be a deal that breaks the bank and the Giants already know what they're getting with Johnson. He is known as a strong worker, fits their culture and played pretty well in their defense in 2020. It would only be a risky investment if the Giants were looking to expand his role greatly and had him pegged as a full-time starter, but that does not appear likely.
Casey Kreiter, LS
The Giants will bring back the five-year veteran, who spent last season in New York after starting his career with Denver.
What it means: The Giants will have their entire kicking operation back with Kreiter snapping to holder/punter Riley Dixon with Graham Gano kicking. That is a good thing because it worked pretty well this past season. Gano made more than 91% of his field goal and extra point attempts. Kreiter is a proven veteran and with him on board for at least another season, there shouldn't be much for Joe Judge and Co. to be worried about.
What's the risk: Not much. Kreiter isn't signed long term and for big money. He's stable and reliable. Maybe if the Giants were really trying to save every dollar against the cap they could have gone with a younger and cheaper option. But the savings would've been minimal and that's not the way they seem inclined to operate considering the emphasis Judge, a former special teams coordinator, puts on the kicking game.
C.J. Board, WR
The Giants agreed to terms with Board, who caught 11 passes last season in limited duty.
What it means: The Giants liked what they saw enough last year to bring Board back, even if it wasn't at the restricted free agent price of over $2 million. This will allow him to be thrown into the wide receiver mix. Board caught a solid 69% of his targets last season while finishing with 11 receptions for 101 yards. There were even some games where the Giants entrusted him as their No. 3 receiver.
What's the risk: It's a basic deal where Board will have to earn his spot on the roster. That limits the risk. There really is no downside to having him return other than needing the roster spot for a younger receiver. The Giants know what they're getting as a wide receiver and returner.