Johnathan Hankins feels as though his patience was rewarded.
“I guess when you wait for things,” he said on a conference call on Friday, a day after signing with the Colts, “good things come to good people.”
It didn’t seem as if that would be the case for Hankins, the Giants’ second-round pick in 2013 and a three-year starter for the team. The Giants had an offer to the free agent on the table for more than a month, a four-year deal believed to be worth $28 million. Hankins did not sign with a team in the early stages of free agency and did not officially visit any of them until earlier this week with the Colts. He ultimately wound up signing a three-year deal that reportedly could be worth $30 million with $14.5 million guaranteed.
“I knew I was going to be playing this season, wasn’t too much worried about it,” Hankins, 25, said of a free agency journey that was longer than most would have expected. “But with the strength of my family and my agent, Kevin Poston — he did a tremendous job of talking to teams and getting everything in place . . . Thank God I was blessed to get this deal with the Colts and be able to play this season.”
Hankins follows a trend of second-round defensive tackles leaving the Giants after their rookie contracts for more lucrative deals than the Giants were willing to offer. Linval Joseph did that after his four years with the Giants, signing with the Vikings. At that point the Giants had Hankins ready to take his spot.
Now, who will take Hankins’ spot? Jay Bromley and Robert Thomas are on the roster. The Giants may have interest in free-agent Jared Odrick. And it’s likely they will draft a defensive lineman this spring, a year after they went an entire draft without any offensive or defensive linemen selected.
There will be an adjustment for Hankins, too. He goes from being the fourth-best defensive lineman for the Giants to being the center of a rebuilt defense in Indianapolis. He’ll be asked to play some nose tackle in their 3-4 schemes. More than that, he’ll be the one who players on that team — and outsiders — now look to as a leader. $30 million comes with a lot of responsibility.
“I guess it just comes with the deal I got,’’ Hankins said. “As long as I go out there and do my job and be productive and do what I told them I was going to come here and do, I’m okay with that. Continue doing what I was doing with the Giants, bring a different dimension over to this team and be more of a leader, get wins, and get to the ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl.”