The Giants wanted to bring Johnathan Hankins back and they did all the right things to try to make that happen. They made him a generous offer. They patiently waited for his response. They didn't seriously pursue other defensive tackles or (for the most part) publicly pressure him to take their deal. They let their offer sit there and gave him all the space he needed until he decided to make up his mind.
In the end, he found his riches elsewhere. They always knew that was the risk.
But if the early word on his new contract with the Indianapolis Colts prove to be correct, the Giants were right to let Hankins go because that price was way too high.
Now, chances are the three-year, $30 million deal -- which is the max value according to reports, and confirmed from a league source -- won't be that big when the full details are known. The guaranteed money is somewhere between $14.5 million and $15.9 million, depending on which report you believe, and the NFL Network reports Hankins will make a total of $10.5 million this year.
But even if any of those details are correct, it's hard to argue that the 24-year-old Hankins would have been worth $10.5 million this season for the Giants -- or even $14-16 million over the next two. He's a good player who once had a seven-sack season and at his age it's easy to see him getting better. He probably hasn't come close to maximizing his potential yet.
On the Giants, though, he was their fourth-best lineman and there was a significant gap between him and the top three. And it's not like those three come cheaply. Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, and Damon Harrison are on contracts that are worth a combined $193 million. In salaries alone, they are scheduled to make $21.75 million in 2017 and eat 20 percent of the Giants' salary cap ($33.85 million in cap space combined).
Those numbers only get bigger in the future, so it's not the most fiscally responsible idea to invest even more money in one position -- not on a team with holes on the offensive line, at tight end and running back, and with several key players (guard Justin Pugh, center Weston Richburg, and receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.) getting close to being in line for potentially lucrative new deals.
That's not to say Hankins wouldn't be a valuable player to have, but given those circumstances he was an unaffordable luxury here. With the Giants' defensive line already so strong, they can get by at their second defensive tackle spot either with a draft pick or perhaps Jay Bromley or Robert Thomas. In a salary-capped sport, they simply can't have top-paid players at every single spot.
Besides, it's not like the Giants didn't try. They leaked word this week that they had a four-year, $28 million offer on the table for Hankins - a deal that seems reasonable, though to be fair the important details (guaranteed money, structure, etc.) aren't publicly known. Hankins, according to multiple sources, had always been seeking a deal in the range of the five-year, $46.25 million contract the Giants gave Harrison (though lately teams have leaked that his initial asking price was higher than that).
In the end, Hankins got what he apparently wanted - more than the Giants offered, a deal with an average value higher than Harrison's, and one that significantly will allow him to hit the market again at age 27 (possibly even sooner). He gets to cash a big check, save face after an embarrassingly quiet trip through free agency, and in a few years he can do it all again.
And the Giants shouldn't be upset either. No, they won't be returning all their defensive starters, but most of the ones they kept were far more important. They've always known that the reality of free agency is they can't always have everything they want. So all they can do is make sure they spend to keep what they really need.