Reunion Floated with Veteran Giants Previously Signed to $85M Deal

Giants urged to avoid Olivier Vernon reunion

Getty Defensive end Olivier Vernon #54 of the New York Giants looks on from the bench in the first half of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals.

If you’re a New York Giants fan, you’re well-versed in Jerry Reese’s extravagant spending spree in 2016 as a last-ditch effort to save his job. The team splurged on big-ticket free agents such as cornerback Janoris Jenkins, defensive lineman Snacks Harrison and pass-rusher Olivier Vernon.

The initial returns on the haul were not only good — they were exceptional. The unit as a whole ranked 10th in total defense and second in points allowed (17.8) that season. The team captured an 11-5 record on the year, while all three signings earned All-Pro nods (Harrison: first-team, Jenkins & Vernon: second-team).

However, things quickly crumbled from that point on. Riddled by injuries, the team got off to a horrendous 2-10 start in 2017, and Reese was shown the door. Shortly after, his high-priced free-agent acquisitions followed. Snacks and Vernon were each shipped out of town via trade, while Jackrabbit was waived following an “offensive tweet.”

While at the time, the team was desperate to wash their hands of a previous regime’s players, time heals everything. With potential glaring holes along their front-seven, could the Giants be headed for a reunion with former high-priced signee Olivier Vernon? It’s certainly plausible. Yet, according to Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox, that’s not to say they should.

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Giants Urged to Avoid Olivier Vernon… For Now

“If the Giants cannot retain [Leonard] Williams and/or [Dalvin] Tomlinson, might it make sense to bring back edge defender Olivier Vernon?” Knox asked. “Under normal circumstances, it might.”

However, as the B/R columnist eludes to, this is far from normal circumstances.

Since leaving New York as part of the Odell Beckham Jr. trade, Vernon has actually exceeded expectations in Cleveland. This past season the former Pro Bowler racked up 9.0 sacks in 14 games, while his 51 pressures were just five behind All-Pro teammate Myles Garrett for the team lead.

Perceived as nothing more than a pipedream prior to the season, Vernon’s performance in a contract year had him on the verge of cashing-in yet another hefty payday (albeit not as hefty as the $85 million, $52.5 million guaranteed deal the Giants previously handed him).

Unfortunately, a late-season injury altered Vernon’s free agency trajectory tenfold.

“While Vernon was productive in 2020 — he also suffered a torn Achilles in the regular-season finale,” Knox noted. “This means that he likely won’t be available until late in 2021, if at all.”


Pros & Cons of a Vernon Reunion

Knox believes that in the Giants’ current cap situation, they’d be foolish to target future contributors such as Vernon, adding “If he is healthy in 2022 and the salary cap jumps, then New York could revisit this idea. For now, though, Vernon needs to be firmly off their radar.”

To play devil’s advocate here, you could make an argument that a low-risk, low-buy signing such as Vernon is exactly what the Giants need in their current cap situation. The Giants are hopeful to retain both Williams and Tomlinson this season. Yet, doing so would likely leave New York strapped to add additional pieces along their front-seven.

As for Vernon, he wouldn’t be a sexy addition and with a 9-12 month rehabilitation timeline. Vernon wouldn’t sniff the field until December — if he’s lucky. Yet, on a multi-year, team-friendly deal heavily built around incentives, the Giants could eventually pay pennies on the dollar for a legitimate edge presence, something they’ve missed essentially since Vernon left (aside from one strong year from Markus Golden). Not to mention, Vernon does have ties to defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who served as his positional coach from 2016-17 during his time in New York. 

Vernon finished 2020 as PFF’s 21st-ranked defensive end with a 74.6 overall grade. Yes, he’ll be 31-years-old by the time 2022 rolls around, which would have been a problem under his previous contract and role with the Giants. However, expectations for Vernon under a new deal would make Vernon nothing more than a viable role player and situation pass rusher with upside.

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