One of the most overlooked players on the New York Giants defense last season was defensive tackle, Johnathan Hankins.
Most of the attention was focused on players such as Landon Collins, Janoris Jenkins, Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, but it was Johnathan Hankins and fellow defensive tackle Damon Harrison who were the reason why the Giants were tied for third in rushing defense.
After missing the final seven games of the 2015 season due to a torn pectoral muscle, Hankins came back and had a solid season. He finished the season with 43 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble.
Now, Hankins is a free agent and is once again being overlooked as most of the conversation you hear about the Giants pending free agents is on whether or not the Giants will bring back defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
General manager Jerry Reese as let other notable defensive tackles such as Linval Joseph and Barry Cofield walk when they became free agents during his tenure as he values pass rushers more than run stoppers. So, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s been more of an emphasis on bringing back JPP than Hankins.
Even Pro Football Focus values JPP much higher than Hankins as they list JPP as seventh best available free agent and has Hankins at 46.
But perhaps Reese should rethink his strategy here and prioritize in bringing back Hankins instead of JPP.
The Giants main competition is the Dallas Cowboys, who have the best offensive line in football and all of the linemen are relatively young so they’ll be a force to deal with for the next couple of years. Having 670 pounds of beef in the middle with Hankins and Harrison will be tough for the Cowboys O-line to deal with as it was this season.
In addition to that, it might serve the Giants best to keep Hankins over JPP because he is almost a full four years younger than JPP, and it will cost significantly cheaper to bring him back. The Giants will need as much cap space as they can get to improve the offensive line and prepare to give Odell Beckham Jr. a huge contract in a few years.
The only downside with bringing back Hankins is that he’s a two down interior linemen just like Harrison. In scenarios when they’re both on the field in passing situations, the Giants struggle getting a pass rush up the middle. It might serve Big Blue best to try to get a smaller more athletic tackle that can bring pressure to quarterbacks up the middle.
With free agency starting in three weeks the Giants will need to make a decision quickly on what to do with Hankins in what will be one of their biggest decisions of the off-season.