Signing a starting offensive lineman — with Andrew Norwell as the primary target — remains the biggest objective of the offseason for the Giants. On Monday, when the “legal tampering” period of free agency opened, they began to make their official overtures toward the soon-to-be-former Panthers guard, according to a source. No deal can be concluded with Norwell until Wednesday.
In the meantime, the Giants took other steps in the rebuilding of their roster on Monday. Those included re-signing guard Jon Halapio and linebacker Mark Herzlich and, according to NFL Network, setting up a meeting for Tuesday with free-agent running back Jonathan Stewart.
The Giants are in the market for a running back, and signing a free agent would be insurance in case they are unable to land one in the draft. Stewart has a history with Giants general manager Dave Gettleman and offensive coordinator Mike Shula from his time with the Panthers, but he also turns 31 next week. In fact, his best game was a 206-yard effort against the Giants that was so long ago, it was at Giants Stadium . . . in 2009.
Gettleman has a history of granting “favor” visits for former players (see Victor Cruz last offseason), and this may be a similar situation. Stewart, who was released by the Panthers last month, visited the Lions on Monday and left without a deal. The Giants’ running back depth chart includes Wayne Gallman and Paul Perkins; pending free agents Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen are not expected back.
As for the players the Giants did retain, Halapio started the final six games of the season at guard. He split time down the stretch with John Greco, who also was re-signed by the Giants this offseason. Halapio was an exclusive-rights free agent.
Herzlich, who was to become an unrestricted free agent, spent 2017 on injured reserve after a stinger in his neck in training camp. He’ll serve as a veteran presence on special teams, can pitch in on defense and will provide leadership in a locker room in which the new regime wants to instill a new culture.