When the trade deadline came and went and Dalvin Tomlinson remained with the Giants despite interest from other teams last season, it appeared the defensive lineman was part of the organization’s long-term plans.
"We had a lot of people calling about our guys," Joe Judge said at the time. "We want to keep building with the guys we have. We have a lot of confidence in the guys we have, and their hard work is paying off."
Four months later, the Giants have lost Tomlinson. And unlike the opportunities that presented themselves last November, they have nothing to show for it.
Tomlinson, one of the most popular and productive players on the team, a defensive captain and Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee, agreed to sign with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent on Monday. When the league year begins on Wednesday, he’ll sign a two-year, $22 million contract.
Tomlinson’s departure continues a trend of second-round picks by the Giants who have walked away (or been shown the door) after their rookie contracts expired, leaving the team with neither the young player nor compensation beyond a future compensatory pick. It’s a trend that began with Linval Joseph — coincidentally a defensive lineman like Tomlinson and coincidentally a Vikings acquisition like Tomlinson — and has continued with Jonathan Hankins, Weston Richburg and Landon Collins.
The only second-round picks since 2006 to sign and play on a second contract with the Giants are Sterling Shepard and Will Beatty. Terrell Thomas signed a one-year deal but never played on that second contract after suffering knee injuries. Before Shepard and Beatty, Corey Webster, picked in 2005, was the last second-rounder to actually play on a second contract.
The Giants came into the offseason with tough decisions to make regarding two potential free agents on their defensive line, and they made their intentions clear when they used the franchise tag to keep Leonard Williams earlier this month. That left little room under the salary cap to compete for Tomlinson. They signed backup defensive lineman Austin Johnson on Monday, too, another indication.
Judge seemed to indicate as much when he practically eulogized Tomlinson’s career with the Giants just last week.
"Obviously we have a lot of love for Dalvin as a person and as a player," Judge said. "To me, I don’t think stats are always the overlying factor. You have to understand how you use him in your scheme and the overall production he has sometimes by allowing other people to be productive. Look, in terms of Dalvin, I can’t say enough good things about him. I love him as a person, he’s a fun guy to coach. All that being said, we’d love to have all of our guys back. There’s a process every team has to go through this time of year through free agency and all that stuff will be addressed when the time comes."
On Monday, the time came for the Giants to say goodbye to Tomlinson.