Giants Pushed to Make Late Free Agency Splash on Former $61 Million DB

Giants urged to sign Justin Simmons in free agency after NFL draft.

Getty An NFL writer suggested free agent safety Justin Simmons as a possible veteran fit for the New York Giants.

Like it or not, the New York Giants have an uncomfortable number of holes to fill heading into the 2024 NFL Draft.

There are roster needs at quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback, offensive line, safety, running back, tight end — if Darren Waller retires — and more. And there’s no way the Giants can trust in rookies to bolster each and every one of these areas of concern.

Instead, a late free agency splash or two could prove necessary in rounding out this depth chart after the draft, and one position with a ton of available talent on the open market is safety.

For example, two-time Pro Bowl DB Justin Simmons is still currently out there in free agency, and a player like that can change the entire complexion of your defense. Bleacher Report writer Matt Holder highlighted Simmons as a veteran the Giants should target once we move past the draft.

Voicing: “With Xavier McKinney now in Green Bay, New York could use a safety… Simmons could take on the deep or free safety role for the Giants and he’s still a quality player having been a second-team All-Pro and/or Pro Bowler in each of the last five seasons.”

Holder added that “while [Big Blue] did sign Jalen Mills already this offseason, Mills was more of the strong safety/slot corner type of defensive back last year in New England.”

Simmons is an eight-year NFL pro that began his career as a third-round pick. Since 2016, he’s quietly become one of the more consistent free safeties in the game with 108 total starts over that span, as well as 30 interceptions, 64 pass defenses, five forced fumbles and over 600 total tackles (19 for a loss).

The respected vet also served as a team captain during his time with the Denver Broncos.

How Could the Giants Afford Justin Simmons?

The first thought that comes to mind when hearing that a player of Simmons’ talent level has been connected to the Giants is price tag. After all, the G-Men aren’t exactly flush with cap space right now — Over the Cap estimates approximately $5.45 million in available funds — and Simmons once signed a $61 million contract in Denver.

There are a couple of factors to take into account when debating whether or not the Giants can afford Simmons.

One, the safety market is not what it used to be, and Simmons turns 31 in November.

McKinney signed for top of the market money because he’s entering his prime. Simmons’ eventual deal will likely be more in line with a veteran like Kevin Byard (age 31), however. The Chicago Bears awarded Byard $15 million over two seasons this spring, with an average annual salary of $7.5 million and just $7.39 million guaranteed.

Even if Simmons gets slightly more than that in 2024, it looks like he’ll be taking a significant pay cut from his previous $15.25 million salary.

The second factor involves veteran wide receiver Darius Slayton.

Giants Could Trade or Cut Darius Slayton in Order to Sign Justin Simmons

Slayton made headlines for skipping the first week of voluntary workouts on April 17. Not only was he absent, but he also requested a revised contract as part of his delayed attendance.

When asked about this request at his pre-draft press conference, Giants general manager Joe Schoen told reporters that “we just signed [Slayton’s] deal a little over 12 months ago” — seemingly implying that the front office is not interested in honoring the wideout’s wishes.

“That response provides a glimpse into the rough business side of the NFL since teams don’t maintain that mindset when it comes to cutting players for under-performing,” The Athletic’s Dan Duggan reacted on April 19. “So Slayton, who led the Giants in receiving for the fourth time in five years last season, is trying to exercise his leverage.”

“Slayton, who would forfeit a $350,000 workout bonus if he continues to stay away, would gain leverage if the Giants don’t draft a wide receiver in the first round Thursday,” Duggan went on. “But his leverage would disappear if the Giants take a wideout with the sixth pick.”

Later, the NYG media member concluded that “Slayton could become a trade candidate if the Giants take a first-round receiver.”

This was a curious move by Slayton and his agents, considering Big Blue can still save $3.8 million in cap space by releasing him. A trade would shed even more of his $8.15 million hit, freeing up enough money ($6.4 million) to sign a key piece like Simmons to a one- or two-year deal in free agency.

With star wide receiver prospects Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze expected to be available for the Giants at No. 6 overall, Slayton’s contract request was quite bold, to say the least.

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