New York Giants Must Make a Decision On Johnathan Hankins by the NFL Draft
Aug 20, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Giants defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (95) during the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

While a key member of their 2016 defensive attack, the New York Giants must make a decision on whether to re-sign Johnathan Hankins by the NFL Draft.

With the NFL draft just three weeks away, the New York Giants roster appears to be relatively set in stone.

With the additions of receiver Brandon Marshall, tight end Rhett Ellison, guard D.J. Fluker and quarterback Geno Smith, the Giants have helped improve what was already an 11 win team in 2016. Despite the additions though, the Giants still have a lingering quagmire on their defensive line.

With Johnathan Hankins still unsigned, his potential future with the Giants is anyone’s guess. However, despite being a difference maker on their line, the Giants cannot continue to drag out his free agency. They must make a decision on whether to re-sign Hankins by the NFL Draft. 

Last year, Hankins was a key contributor to what was the third best-run defense in the NFL. Recording a combined 43 tackles as well as 3.0 sacks, Hankins was an asset for the Giants defensive line. Also, being that he suffered a torn pectoral muscle midway through the 2015 season, which kept him sidelined for the remainder of the year, Hankins’ 2016 success was a pleasant sighting.

Despite his bounce-back year, however, Hankins remains unsigned. That could potentially be due to Hankins overvaluing himself.

Given that it’s his first time hitting the free agent market, Hankins wants to cash in big time. Even in doing so, that shouldn’t come at an eight-figure sum per season. Not even his fellow tackle gathered that amount a year ago. The Giants though have a way they could and should value Hankins. 

The Giants should determine Hankins’ worth based on the deal they gave to tackle Damon Harrison.

A little over a year ago, the Giants went on a massive free agent spending spree. They signed Rams’ cornerback Janoris Jenkins, Dolphins’ defensive end Olivier Vernon and Jets’ defensive tackle Damon Harrison — who was exceptional in 2016.

In his debut year with big blue, Harrison was everything and anything the Giants could’ve wished for by recording an astonishing 86 tackles, leading all defensive lineman. Harrison also recorded a career-high 2.5 sacks.

While not skilled in getting after the quarterback, Harrison served as a run stopper for the Giants, helping build a lethal defensive attack. Despite the impact he had though, Harrison inked just a five-year, $45.5 million deal. Given this price tag, Hankins should receive nowhere above that on his payday.

That doesn’t mean he’s not important, though. If Hankins is retained, the Giants would have their entire 2016 defense back for the 2017 season. That would make the Giants a complete, well-rounded team, given how they’ve helped aid their offense this offseason. The Giants though have to draw the line in Hankins’ contract talks.

Given that he remains unsigned, Hankins is likely in no hurry to ink a deal. The Giants must decide his future with them before the NFL Draft, though, as dragging his free agency out past that point would be nothing but a distraction for a team looking to make a Super Bowl run.

Another reason for that though is due to the fact that New York has more pressing needs and could potentially be working against the clock.

While they did improve their offensive line with the addition of Chargers’ guard D.J. Fluker and blocking tight end Rhett Ellison, the Giants offensive line remains mediocre. Outside of guard Justin Pugh and center Weston Richburg, the offensive line has a number of question marks including tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart.

In 2016, both Flowers and Hart struggled to keep opposing ends in front of them and, as a result, was the cause of a lot of unneeded pressure on Eli Manning. With roughly $12 million to play around with in free agency, though, the Giants could still find some help for their offensive line.

While on the back nine of his career, tackle Ryan Clady remains unsigned and could be a shrewd pickup for the Giants. Clady would help add some much-needed depth, as well as a veteran presence for their offensive line.

Also, if the Giants let Hankins walk, they’ll likely look to add some depth at tackle. One name to keep an eye on is Jaguars’ lineman Jared Odrick — who the Giants are said to have an interest in.

While he missed ten games and struggled to be a difference maker in 2016, Odrick has been an impactful presence at the tackle position in year’s past. From 2011-2015, Odrick recorded 22.0 sacks and likely wouldn’t cost the Giants an outrageous contract — something Hankins may want — coming off a dismal campaign.

While he’s been made an impact on their defensive line throughout his time with them, the Giants must make a decision on tackle Johnathan Hankins before the NFL Draft.

Is he a proven player and someone who would be great to have back? Yes, but the Giants aren’t in a position where they can wait around for him. With a couple of pressing needs still lingering, the Giants must decide whether they want to re-sign Hankins or move on.

Robbie Stratakos is a New York Knicks/Giants Beat Writer for Elite Sports NY (ESNY); he also covers the NBA nationally. He previously wrote at Last Word On Pro Basketball and Empire Writes Back. In addition to writing for ESNY, Robbie is an MLB columnist at Baseball Essential. He previously wrote at HardBallScoop - part of Scout/CBS Interactive/247Sports, Last Word On Baseball and District On Deck. He is attending Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York. Follow him on twitter @RPStratakos