The last time the Giants had money to burn in free agency, they burned it at an unprecedented clip. They even managed to essentially buy their way into the playoffs, though that 2016 team was famously one-and-done.
The lesson, Giants co-owner John Mara said in a recent interview on WFAN, was "You can fix some holes pretty quickly (with free agency), but long-term I'm not sure that it really works."
In other words, don't expect the Giants to be big spenders when free agency opens on March 18, even though they'll have more than $60 million in salary cap space to spend. With Mara's endorsement, GM Dave Gettleman has taken a draft-centered approach to rebuilding the Giants (mostly). They'll dip into the free agent pool, to be sure, but it won't be a cannonball-type splash.
In fact, the big splash might even come before free agency begins. The Giants are intent on re-signing defensive lineman Leonard Williams, which is the only way to justify the third- and fifth-round picks they sent to the Jets for him (that fifth-rounder becomes a fourth-rounder if the Giants re-sign him before March 18). And that could be costly since Williams has said he wants a "big contract" because he thinks he's a "top-tier interior defensive lineman."
That would put the 25-year-old Williams, at least in his mind, in the $15 million per year range.
Whether he gets that much or something less, he'll still eat up a considerable chunk of the Giants' available cap space. More could be gone if they try to re-sign linebacker Markus Golden, coming off his 10-sack season.
With whatever is left, here are seven free agents the Giants could, and in some cases should, target next month:
RT Jack Conklin
If the Giants are going to spend in one spot this cycle, it figures to be along the offensive line. Going after the 25-year-old Conklin makes a lot of sense.
For one, they loved him in the 2016 draft before Tennessee traded up two spots to get him. For another, he's the best right tackle available and one of the best in the league. Signing him and drafting a left tackle early would go a long way toward fixing their line problems.
It's going to be costly. He'll be eyeing Lane Johnson's four-year, $72 million contract with $55 million guaranteed, which was a record for right tackles. They wouldn't be able to afford much else.
S Devin McCourty
It's a lock that a new coach will look to bring in some of his former players to help with the transition and to get his message across. So even though McCourty is 33, he's the perfect fit.
He's a Nyack, N.Y. native and a Rutgers product that nearly signed with the Giants back in 2015. His age could make him affordable, and he could start opposite Jabrill Peppers, so Julian Love could ease in to a full-time role.
LB Kyle Van Noy
Never mind that he called Judge "a really good football coach" and even said "Go Giants!" during a radio interview at the Super Bowl. The 28-year-old made a lot of sense before that as a guy who could fit what new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will try to do with this defense.
He's incredibly versatile, good against both the run and as a pass rusher (6 ½ sacks). Also, no position tends to get as hysterically overpaid as pass rushers in free agency. He won't cost high-end money, though.
C Connor McGovern
The Giants seemed OK with Jon Halapio at center, but his torn Achilles leaves his status in doubt. In free agency, the Giants are likely to prioritize right tackle over center, but who they put at this position is still key. The 26-year-old McGovern (6-foot-4, 306 pounds) is probably the best center on the market. He will likely command $8-10 million per year.
DL Arik Armstead
If the Giants don't re-sign Williams, they'll have to replace him, and the most intriguing similar player on the market is probably the 6-foot-7, 290-pound Armstead. He's played as a 4-3 end and a 3-4 tackle, which makes him seemingly ideal for Graham's defense, which apparently will be somewhat undefined.
Armstead is also coming off a 10-sack season, which was by far his best. The 49ers might use the franchise tag on him, but if they don't, then worries about whether he's a one-year wonder could keep his price reasonable. He wouldn't erase the sting of the Giants throwing away two picks on Williams, but Armstead would more than fill his shoes.
CB Chris Harris
He'll soon be 31 and is not coming off his finest season, but the Giants need a veteran cornerback to step in for Janoris Jenkins. They will likely go into 2020 with DeAndre Baker and Sam Beal as second-year starters, but they need a third corner who is versatile enough to play inside or outside, and can mentor those two. He already turned down $12 million per year from Denver, but on the open market, his age might force him to end up taking less.
LB Jamie Collins
If the Giants get rid of Alec Ogletree, they'll need a veteran linebacker, and the 30-year-old Collins certainly would come with at least some knowledge of Graham's scheme. Graham was the linebackers coach during Collins' first stint in New England in the mid-2010s.
He had 11 sacks and four interceptions over the last two years. He's 30 and inconsistent, so his price could be low, but his ceiling might be high.