The New York Giants haven’t made headline grabbing acquisitions in free agency this season, but they have made a number of shrewd signings that will help turn around the team after a poor 2013 season. A number of those signings have addressed a weakness from last season, the secondary, and turned it into a strength.
Sunday the Giants signed cornerback Walter Thurmond, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks, to a one-year, $3.5 million contract. Thurmond, 26, has good size at 5-foot-11 and 190-pounds, giving the Giants some options with how to deploy him on the field. He could slide right into the starting lineup opposite of Prince Amukamara, the likely scenario, or take over nickel back duties. He started three games last season for the Seahawks, finishing the season with 24 tackles, one interception and one sack after being suspended the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
The Giants had a busy Sunday as they also inked safety Quintin Demps, formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs, to a deal. Demps, 28, made six starts for the Chiefs last season, recording a career-high four interceptions. He will add depth and experience to the safety position for the Giants, something the team lacked in 2013. With Stevie Brown back in the fold after tearing his ACL last season, and Will Hill having off-field issues throughout his time in the NFL, having capable backups is a must.
Where Demps will have the biggest impact for the Giants will be on special teams. Last season the Giants’ kick-return game was nonexistent. With David Wilson’s role in the offense expanding and then him suffering a neck injury, there were no options to replace him on the roster. Demps is qualified as a candidate to jump start the kick-return unit just like Wilson did in 2012. Last season Demps averaged 30.1 yards per return, third in the NFL behind the Minnesota Vikings’ Cordarrelle Patterson and Dallas Cowboys’ Dwayne Harris. The Giants missed out on other top return man options such as Jacoby Jones and Ted Ginn but made a smart decision locking up Demps; it helps the kick return game and shores up the safety position.
The signings Sunday combined with the re-signing of Brown and Trumaine McBride have bolstered the Giants’ secondary immensely. The trio of Antrel Rolle, Brown and Hill gave the Giants a solid group already, but they now have a player capable of filling the void in a pinch without much of a talent drop-off. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell likes using three safety formations, and now he has four capable players at his disposal. Thurmond is coming off a Super Bowl victory and adds versatility to their cornerback group. They can make the unit even stronger bringing Terrell Thomas back on a team-friendly contract.
The Giants have a tremendous amount of flexibility in the secondary now, a necessity for how NFL offenses have changed to pass-heavy play-calling. The Giants are having arguably the best free agency in the NFL, as they continue to plug holes without breaking the bank.