Andrew Norwell will become the highest-paid guard in the NFL shortly after free agency opens at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Many expected that to be the case. What he won’t become is a Giant, and that is the biggest surprise.
Despite connections to general manager Dave Gettleman and offensive coordinator Mike Shula from his years with the Panthers, and the Giants’ keen desire to sign Norwell as the cornerstone of their offensive line rebuild, Norwell agreed to sign a five-year, $66.5-million deal with $30 million guaranteed with the Jaguars early Tuesday morning, according to ESPN.
Tom Coughlin, it turns out, prizes “hog molly” linemen just as much — or more — than Gettleman.
While that deal won’t be finalized until the start of free agency and any agreements in place prior to that are verbal and non-binding, it’s clear that the Giants will have to move when it comes to fixing the most pressing need of their offseason.
That may include a push for Patriots left tackle Nate Solder, who would be an upgrade over Ereck Flowers. The Patriots, though, have a habit of letting their players test free agency before reeling them back in. They did that with safety Devin McCourty in 2015 when the Giants were hot for him and thought they were close to a deal.
Other free-agency options for the Giants on the interior of the line include Senio Kelemete, a backup swingman for the Saints who emerged as a starting-caliber player last year; and center Ryan Jensen of the Ravens, who has one year as a starter. They also may focus on the outside of the O-line with tackles Cameron Fleming (Patriots) or Jack Mewhort (Colts). According to multiple reports, Steelers swingman Chris Hubbard agreed to a five-year deal worth $37.5 million with the Browns.
The Giants also could reconsider Justin Pugh, their own pending free agent who many believe to be the second-best guard on the market. There is also the draft, with a number of starting-caliber linemen projected to be available in the first and second rounds.
One route the Giants had already determined they would not pursue will be unavailable anyway. Weston Richburg, a second-round pick of the Giants in 2014, has agreed to sign a five-year deal with the 49ers, according to ESPN. Richburg missed most of last season while on injured reserve for a concussion and was replaced by Brett Jones. The Giants will tender Jones, a restricted free agent, before the 4 p.m. deadline Wednesday to bring him back in 2018.
Stewart to Giants. Running back Jonathan Stewart, released by Carolina late last month, visited and signed with the Giants on Tuesday. At 31, Stewart won’t be asked to be a feature back but he will bring some of the locker room culture with him from the Panthers, something Gettleman has spoken about many times since taking the Giants’ job. He’ll also be a veteran presence for young running backs Wayne Gallman and Paul Perkins, and possibly even Saquon Barkley or any another running back the Giants may draft. “I am very pleased that we were able to make Jonathan a New York Football Giant,” general manager Dave Gettleman said in a statement. “He is a quality runner with power and speed and brings a veteran, professional presence to our locker room. He’s a terrific addition for us at this time.” . . . According to NFL Network, linebacker Devon Kennard will sign a three-year, $18.75-million deal with the Lions when free agency begins. He was a fifth-round pick of the Giants in 2014.