After the fallout of ex-general manager Jerry Reese’s 2016 spending spree, and Odell Beckham Jr.’s dead money coming off the books, the New York Giants finally had cap space to burn this offseason. With it, they signed veterans James Bradberry and Blake Martinez, among others, to fortify a defense in desperate need of more talent.
It’s accepted theory that perennial playoff contenders are built through the draft. While that may be true, strategic free-agent signings can turn a good team into a great one. In fact, Big Blue’s not-too-distant history is rife with invaluable free-agent additions, especially on defense. The Giants hope their 2020 signings will one day join that class.
So New York’s newcomers have something to aspire to, here are the Giants’ three best defensive free-agent signings of all-time.
1. MLB Antonio Pierce
It’s always nice when your own gain comes at an adversary’s expense. That’s exactly what happened in 2005 when the G-Men signed Antonio Pierce away from NFC East rival Washington. Despite starting just one season in D.C., Big Blue inked the Arizona alum to a six-year, $26 million deal. Pierce became the high-effort, high-IQ general in the middle of a talented Giants defense. His five-year stint in New York included three 100-plus-tackle seasons, one 95-tackle season, a Pro Bowl, and a Super Bowl XLII championship. Giants fans will always remember his brilliant touchdown-saving tackle against the Green Bay Packers in the 2007 NFC title game.
2. S Antrel Rolle
The Giants needed a veteran safety to pair with the young and talented Kenny Phillips. Enter Rolle, who in 2010 signed a five-year, $37 million contract with New York. The former Arizona Cardinal quickly became an emotional and vocal leader for Big Blue. His play on the field wasn’t bad either, as the ex-cornerback had the ability to play deep, in the box, or cover slot receivers. His versatility allowed the Giants’ defense to play in multiple packages without making overt substitutions. The Miami product’s five-year Big Blue resume includes two Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl XLVI championship.
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3. DT Chris Canty
Remember the point about how signing Pierce away from Washington was extra sweet because they’re NFC East rivals? Well, that goes double for the Dallas Cowboys. New York stole Canty away from Dallas in 2009 when he signed on for a six-year, $42 million deal. The Virginia alum played defensive end in the Cowboys’ 3-4 scheme, but the Giants had him play tackle in their four-man front, and it worked out beautifully. The 6-foot-7 Canty’s length and ability to penetrate perfectly complemented nose tackle Linval Joseph’s space-eating capacity. The Bronx-native spent four seasons with Big Blue and was an essential part of their Super Bowl XLVI victory over the New England Patriots.
Honorable mentions: Michael Boley, Michael Barrow, Fred Robbins, Janoris Jenkins, Damon Harrison.