Ever since former Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo was named the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants, everyone wants to link every impending Packers free agent to the Giants. The problem with this is that each high profile Packer comes at a premium position that the Giants already have talent at. I wrote here why I think Jermichael Finley is one of the most overrated free agents and a terrible fit within the Giants’ plans, but James Jones is a bad signing for the team for other reasons. Signing Jones would further stunt the development of the Giants’ young wide receiver talent in Jerrel Jernigan and Rueben Randle.
Giants owner John Mara made headlines in late December when he questioned how the coaching staff used Jernigan. He said, “I’m not sure why it took us three years to find out Jerrel Jernigan could play. Sometimes you have to put younger players in the game and give them a chance. It would have been nice for him to get in a little bit earlier.” However, according to head coach Tom Coughlin, it wasn’t until late in the 2013 season that he saw the light switch on with Jernigan. Either way, when Jernigan finally did get a chance to play following an injury to Victor Cruz, he racked up 19 catches for 237 yards and two touchdowns in just three games. He also added two carries for 57 yards and another touchdown.
Getting Jernigan on the field is mandatory for 2014. Even though we know very little about what kind of offense McAdoo plans to bring over, in the limited sample size of those three games that he started, Jernigan’s game compared to Randall Cobb of the Packers. I’m not saying that he is nearly as quick, elusive or laterally explosive as Cobb is, but he offers the Giants a similar skill-set. I think that adding another receiver to the mix will lead to less snaps for Jernigan, and McAdoo might not get the chance to utilize him in unique ways like Cobb was deployed for the Packers.
The potential of signing Jones could be detrimental to Randle as well. Jones is not the exact same player as Randle, but he has a very similar build to him. If they want to stay balanced, the Giants might opt to use both Jones and Randle on the outside and Cruz in the slot for “11 personnel” or three-wide receiver sets. On the other hand, suppose McAdoo wants to get all the speed he can on the field but stay in that same personnel grouping—it is likely he would replace Randle with Jernigan because Jones is faster than Randle in straight-line speed.
Compromising playing time for two promising talents like Randle and Jernigan doesn’t seem to make much sense unless you are bringing in a superior talent. Jones is not a superior talent. He is just over a month away from his 30th birthday and he has never topped 64 catches or 784 yards in his entire career. It’s not like he’s had a superior quarterback throwing him the ball and talent around him to take coverage away from him—said only the Bizzaro Jerry-version of a Packers fan.
As I mentioned here, investing guaranteed money and years in veterans above the age of 29 with a history of injuries or in Jones’ case, the drops, is like handing over money to Jesse Pinkman—as soon as it leaves your hands it will be tossed out the driver side window and lost for good.
Aside from everything football related, the Giants have both Jernigan and Randle under contract for cheap. Allocating salary cap space to another receiver is not as beneficial as using it on areas of greater need—like the offensive line for example.
The Giants need to stay away from Jones and provide Jernigan and Randle with the necessary reps and playing time in McAdoo’s offensive system. Their talent will be on display once given the opportunity to fully shine.