New York Giants: Grading the returning free agent contracts

New York Giants (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
New York Giants (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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Eli Penny of the New York Giants
Eli Penny of the New York Giants (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images). /

FB Elijahh Penny

On March 11th, the New York Giants announced that they would be re-signing fullback Eli Penny to a two-year extension. The deal was valued at $2.2 million with $335,000 of the deal being guaranteed.

Last season Penny had 15 rushing attempts for 39 rushing yards for the Giants. In his career, he has 53 rushing attempts for 188 rushing yards. Penny’s role has essentially been defined as a lead blocker for Saquon Barkley.

Penny was initially signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Idaho by the Arizona Cardinals in 2017. He was a tailback in college but would transition to the fullback position after being signed to Arizona’s practice squad. After being placed on the 53-man roster, the Cardinals were going to place Penny back on their practice squad. Instead, the New York Giants opted to sign him to become their fullback in 2018.

At 6’2″ and 235-pounds, Penny is still developing as a blocking fullback. Scouts have raved about Penny’s pass-catching abilities out of the backfield but he has just 14 career receptions despite the high praise for his receiving abilities.

While he is a physical blocker, a diligent worker and a high character player it seems as though $2.2 million is a high price to pay for a fullback who continues to be a developmental project as a blocker and who has not contributed as expected as a receiver.

Penny is said to be an excellent locker room presence and has served as a solid special teams contributor with the Giants. However, New York would have likely had been better served signing an undrafted free agent following the draft to fill the fullback position on the roster.

Allocating $2.2 million to a player who played only 127 snaps or 11.91% of the total offensive plays for the Giants offense last season seems to be a poor decision. The lack of playing time comes despite the fact that Saquon Barkley and Wayne Gallman missed multiple games each this season due to injury, requiring the Giants to utilize Penny more than normal.

While the New York Giants seem committed to featuring an offensive scheme that leans heavily on a power rushing attack, the sparse usage of the fullback position would indicate that the team would have been better served allowing the 26-year old Penny to walk in favor of a younger and less expensive option at fullback. The difference between his $1.2 million annual deal and the 2020 league minimum of $510,000 may have served as the difference between the Giants being able to land a higher rated free agent versus one of the players they ultimately landed.

Grade: C-