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Giants aren't likely to make big splash in free-agent pool

New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese speaks

New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese speaks with the media regarding the end of the season at the Quest Diagnostic Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on Tuesday Dec. 30, 2014. Credit: Andrew Theodorakis

When it comes to this year's free-agency shopping, the Giants figure to do a lot of re-gifting.

That's because they made a good number of purchases last year but were never really able to see them on the field.

Geoff Schwartz, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Jon Beason and Walter Thurmond were the key signings a year ago, but none of them made it through the season without breaking down. Of the group, only Rodgers-Cromartie managed to play in more than four games. They're mostly still in the box, still have the tags and receipts on them.

"Those guys are some good players, but they all ended up getting hurt," team president and CEO John Mara said earlier this winter. "Even [running back] Rashad Jennings, who I think is a very good back and was hurt for a good part of the year. It's hard to pass a final judgment on [those signings] just yet . . . If we can just get half of them back healthy next year, I think we will be a much better team."

With that in mind, and with the Giants having devoted almost half of their available salary-cap space to Jason Pierre-Paul's franchise tag earlier this week, there probably won't be a lot of dynamic additions when the free-agency signing period opens Tuesday (teams are allowed to begin talks with prospective free agents beginning Saturday).

"There'll be some changes, like always," general manager Jerry Reese said. "There are always changes every year and there will be some this time. We definitely want to keep a good core of players because you can't turn your roster over every single year. You have to try to keep a core of guys that you can build around."

The Giants seem content to try again with the pieces they have left over from 2014. Still, they do have holes to fill and decisions to make.

They still are one projected starter short on their offensive line. They are negotiating a pay cut with Beason, and if they are unable to reach an agreement, they could be in the market for a middle linebacker.

Reese has said several times that he is not counting on the 100-percent return of Victor Cruz from patellar tendon surgery, and he has noted a desire to replace the game-breaking backfield element the team lost when David Wilson's career ended prematurely. Perhaps wide receiver and running back are positions they'll look at.

The Giants also have to decide what they will do with their own free agents.

The biggest among them is defensive captain Antrel Rolle. If they cannot (or do not want to) re-sign Rolle, that could put them in pursuit of Devin McCourty, the top safety available. Plenty of other teams are interested in McCourty as well, which could escalate his price. And if the Giants also let Stevie Brown walk (they are in talks to bring him back), they might need two starting safeties heading into 2015.

Other prominent players about to hit the market include fullback Henry Hynoski, linebacker Spencer Paysinger and cornerback Zack Bowman. They could wind up back with the Giants after testing free agency.

Others, such as wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan, offensive lineman James Brewer and linebacker Jacquian Williams, seem destined to land anywhere but on the Giants' roster. Thurmond, who said after the season he wants to return to the Giants, could go either way.

The Giants have some maneuverability with their salary cap, but there does not seem to be much progress in working out extensions for Eli Manning or Prince Amukamara or nailing down a long-term deal with Pierre-Paul. That leaves them with about $13 million in space, some of which will be allotted to draft picks.

That's not a lot of money. It allows for them to address a few needs, and maybe sign a recognizable name or two.

"I think we'll be able to do what we need to do for the offseason as far as free agency goes," Reese said at the NFL Combine last month.

Given their budget, what they need to do probably won't constitute a whole lot.

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