PHOENIX — When the Giants’ brass met after the 2016 season to talk about their offseason wish list, one of the items that popped up almost immediately was the need for a big-bodied receiver. The Giants had plenty of talent at the position last year, but most of those players, including Odell Beckham Jr., were less than 6 feet tall. The Giants decided they wanted someone who could be a vertical threat in the height department as well.
“And then all of a sudden,” co-owner and team president John Mara said Sunday, “he becomes available.”
He, of course, is former Jets receiver Brandon Marshall, who was released by the team that shares MetLife Stadium with the Giants. Big Blue swooped in quickly and signed Marshall, all 6-4 of him, to a two-year deal before free agency even began.
It could turn out to be just the kind of kindling the Giants’ offense needs.
“It was a spark to the entire organization getting a player of that caliber,” Mara said at the NFL’s annual meetings in Arizona. “I think that’s really going to help us. He’s got a great attitude and he wants to win and I think he’ll be a good influence in the receiver room.”
A mentor for Beckham and the group that spent time publicly partying in Miami the week of the playoff game in early January?
“We hope so. With everybody, not just Odell,” Mara said. “We have a young group there and he’s had a lot of success for a long period of time and I think they’ll respond to him.”
The Giants made some other additions. Mara spoke about signing tight end-fullback Rhett Ellison to help the running game, which was a major source of disappointment in 2016. He also was pleased to have signed Jason Pierre-Paul to a four-year, $62-million deal.
“If we didn’t know him at all, I’d be a little more nervous, but I know how prideful he is and how hard he plays and how much he wants to win, so I feel comfortable with that,” Mara said of the price tag. “It’s always a risk when you pay that much money, but he always plays hard and wants to win so badly. I think he’s well worth it.”
Mara said the Giants have made a concerted effort to keep last year’s defense together.
“There’s still one more piece out there that we’d like to keep, but we wanted to try to do that if possible without being irresponsible,” he said, pointing to free- agent defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins as the only defensive starter currently not under contract to return for 2017. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. We certainly want him back, but it’s got to make sense for us. He’s an important part of our team, he’s a great kid, he’s young and he fits in very well with us. So we hope to have him back.”
If they can get him back, and Marshall can help kick-start the offense, Mara believes the Giants can build upon their 11-5 record and postseason berth.
“On the field, it was partially successful,” he said of 2016. “You’re never fully happy unless you get to the Super Bowl, but having not been in the playoffs four years in a row, you start to feel that pressure. And when you spend all that money [$200 million on defensive free agents last year], you really feel that pressure. I was happy to be back in the playoffs. I was disappointed with how we played in Green Bay, but I think it gives us something to build on.
“We still have a pretty good young nucleus. We still have a quarterback who can play at a high level.
“I think we’re moving in the right direction.”