The NFL free agency period is about to start, and the Giants are expected to spend it sitting on the sidelines. Prices, as usual, already seem out of control and the Giants just don't have the salary cap room to spend.
That doesn't mean that nothing of interest will happen with or to the Giants when the market opens. So now that teams are legally allowed to talk, here are five things to watch in the hours before 4 p.m. Thursday when the signing period officially starts:
1. The explosion of the market for DT Johnathan Hankins. Never underestimate the crazy sizes of NFL deals, not when the market is loaded with mediocre players and teams have over $1 billion in cap room to spend. Hankins, all of 25 years old, is probably one of the three best defensive tackles on the market. And another one, Dontari Poe, is reportedly seeking $10 million per season. A month ago, an NFL agent told me Hankins wouldn't get near the five-year $46.25 million contract the Giants gave Damon Harrison last year. But I wouldn't bet against it.
2. Most, if not all, the Giants' free agents will test the market. First of all, when they get this close to free agency, why not? By now they've gotten a pretty good sense of their market price (because yes, teams and agents talk long before the "legal tampering" period starts). So if they were going to strike a deal with the Giants, it likely would've happened by now. Among the Giants' 14 remaining unrestricted free agents, they had expressed the most interest in bringing back guard John Jerry and linebacker Keenan Robinson. They still might, but probably not before the opening bell.
3. Watch the tight ends, because the Giants are. Yes, the Giants have expressed some level of interest in New Jersey's own Anthony Fasano, but at 32 and coming off an 8-catch season he's likely not the answer to all their tight end troubles. The 6-4, 255-pounder is more likely an inexpensive blocking tight end who would free up the Giants to pursue a tight end in the draft. From conversations with various league sources it does sound like the Giants have inquired about all the top tight ends too - Martellus Bennett, Jared Cook … even Jack Doyle before he agreed to terms to return to the Colts on Tuesday night for a reported $19 million over three years. Their market is expected to be robust, though, and the Giants likely won't be players unless those prices go down.
4. The Giants will be mentioned with some big names, but you shouldn't believe it. They have $13.1 million in salary cap space at the moment and they need a defensive tackle, an offensive tackle, a tight end, maybe a veteran running back and a receiver, plus a kicker and a backup quarterback and they have to sign their draft class. So where are they getting the money for Terrelle Pryor who might end up as one of the highest-paid receivers in this class? Ditto for tackle Russell Okung, who surely wants more than the $8 million he got last season. GM Jerry Reese makes a lot of calls and agents like to portray that as "interest" and they make for some fun stories. Sure, it's technically "interest." But the price of most of these guys would have to go way, way down for it to be anything more than that.
5. Look at the "second wave" names, not the first. The big money goes fast in NFL free agency, and sometimes it feels as if free agency is over when the weekend ends. But some interesting work happens later, and that's where the Giants will go bargain-hunting for the receiver, tackle and veteran running back they need, among other things. So if you're into predictions, look in the bargain bin for running backs like Eddie Lacy and Latavius Murray, receivers like Kamar Aiken or maybe Torrey Smith, or tackles like Austin Pasztor or Matt Kalil. If you're looking at a big name for the Giants or one of the top available players at a position, you're probably aiming a little too high this time around.