How can the New York Giants upgrade their secondary?

New York Jets, Logan Ryan, Tennessee Titans

The New York Giants pass defense was well documented as being one of the worst in the league last season.  The Giants secondary gave up more than 4,200 passing yards on the season (28th overall) and 7.1 yards per pass attempt (29th overall).  New York must upgrade their pass defense, but according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan, those upgrades will not come from spending big in the cornerback market in free agency.

How will the New York Giants improve their pass defense?

Much of the headaches in the pass defense could be attributed to the lack of experience in the secondary.  Only three of the cornerbacks that saw impactful snap counts for the Giants defense last season had any playing time before last season.  Only one, Janoris Jenkins, started more than ten games heading into 2019. 

Many believe that the New York Giants may look at the top of the 2020 NFL Draft to help upgrade the cornerback position, but is adding more inexperience a good move?  Maybe. Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah seems to have the talent. However, adding a veteran presence to replace Janoris Jenkins looks to be the better move for New York.

If the rumors are true and the Giants won’t spend big on the cornerback market in free agency, who does that leave?  It most certainly rules out Byron Jones, assuming he doesn’t get an extension from Dallas. Jones will be one of the most highly sought free agents on the market and will likely get paid as such.  

Chris Harris, Jr., Logan Ryan, Bradley Roby, and Jimmy Smith are all free agents that made at or above $10 million per year on average.  However, is $10 million the bar for the Giants? Also, was their performance or age going to impact their number? I wouldn’t rule these names out like I would with Jones, but they may be just outside where New York is willing to go for the position.

So, who could the Giants target in free agency?

Former first-round selection for the Minnesota Vikings, Trae Waynes found himself not having an excellent coverage year in 2019.  His speed is his top trait, and he consistently has been good as a run defender. Unfortunately, his coverage ability has not been as consistent.  He shows flashes, but in the last four seasons has given up 16 touchdowns.

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard is another intriguing name for New York to keep an eye on.  He’s a solid cornerback, particularly in the slot, but has not been the most durable. With only one full season in the last six, health should undoubtedly be a concern for the Giants.  

I am sure the Giants would love to take Byron Jones away from a divisional rival and excel.  However, if the cost is an issue, there may be another option. Enter former Eagle Ronald Darby. Darby had an extremely forgetful 2019 season, posting an abysmal 45.9 grade with PFF.  He has battled injuries throughout his career and was put on injured reserve in December for a hip injury. Before 2019, Darby had been a very reliable starter, when healthy. Could he return to that form?

What is the Giants answer at improving the pass defense?

All of these options are risky.  Spend less money on inconsistent talent or durability concerns.  This has been the gamble that has hurt the New York Giants in other recent free agency moves.  The best way to help an inexperienced pass defense is to upgrade the pass rush. It’s been the story for the Giants all along, and that will not change.  

Yannick Ngakoue, Shaquil Barrett, and Kyle Van Noy could all be and should be considerations for the Giants.  The Chase Young dream is unlikely. Isaiah Simmons is versatile and talented, but will that translate to a consistent threat in disrupting the quarterback?  Trading back and somehow taking a K’Lavon Chaisson, AJ Epenesa, or any of the other next tier rookie edge defenders is an option. Whatever the case, if the Giants want to improve the pass defense without spending big in free agency, the best way to do that is to spend big in getting to the quarterback.

New York Giants: 3 free agent cornerbacks to replace Janoris Jenkins

New York Jets, Logan Ryan, Tennessee Titans

With the New York Giants waiving veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins on Friday morning after sending a profound Tweet to a fan and refusing to apologize for his use of “slang,” a gaping hole in the secondary has formed.

Jenkins was the No. 1 corner for the Giants and has been relatively consistent since his addition in 2016. Several problematical actions this season and during a tumultuous 2017 campaign (Ben McAdoo era) have finally led to his exclusion from a rebuild that’s bleeding at the seams.

General manager Dave Gettleman has made focusing on their youth a priority, considering the lack of success the team has had over the past two seasons. Now, heading into 2020, Gettleman must find a way to supplement the loss of Jenkins, as throwing DeAndre Baker into the fire is not a preferred scenario.

Here are three cornerbacks the New York Giants can invest in:

1.) Chris Harris (31)

Harris is one of the better corners in the NFL, racking up 46 tackles and one interception over 13 games this season. This year, however, has been downward trending, as he currently has a 70.2 overall grade, per PFF. In 2018, he racked up three interceptions, and 10 passes defended, far surpassing his numbers from the current campaign.

Considering his unproductive 2019 season, the Giants might be able to secure him on a salary-cap friendly deal. As friendly as a quality cornerback can be.

2.) Logan Ryan (29)

At just 29-years-old, Logan Ryan is a stellar option for the Giants in free agency. His 94 tackles, four sacks, and seven QB hits make him a multi-faceted corner than can be a threat at corner. Factor in his four interceptions and two forced fumbles and the Giants are looking at one of the best all-around corners in football, but it will take a lot of money to lure him to a defense littered with youth and inexperience.

I estimate a player of Ryan’s abilities will earn upwards of $15 million per season, but the Giants have the cap-space to spare.

3.) Jimmy Smith (32)

The oldest of the trio, Smith, is another quality player on a great defense led by Ravens’ Don Martindale. Smith has missed six games this year and is graded a smidge below Chris Harris at 70.1.

However, he has been a force in the secondary for quite some time and might be a great value pickup for the Giants, considering his experience and leadership. He’s the type of player that elevates his teammates, something Janoris Jenkins was void of during his tenure with the Giants.

The days of Smith being a lockdown corner might be over, but he’s a capable player that can supplement Jenkins’ departure.