The New York Giants needed to make a splash in free agency to improve their secondary, which was one of the worst units in football last season.
On the first day of free agency, the Giants inked former Carolina Panthers top cornerback James Bradberry to a three-year, $43.5 million contract. He immediately brings legitimacy to a New York pass defense that allowed the fifth-most passing yards and seventh-most passing touchdowns during a 4-12 2019.
While the free agent was expected to be a hot commodity on the market, he didn’t necessarily have the Giants on his radar at first.
“They came out of nowhere and made an offer,” Bradberry said. “I didn’t even expect them to make an offer.”
But the 26-year-old has previous connections with Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, who selected Bradberry in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft during his time as GM of the Panthers.
“He already knew the type of guy I was, and I already knew the type of guy he was,” Bradberry added. “I already knew what type of organization he was trying to build over there in New York. I knew it was nothing but positive.”
“Positive” isn’t a word that has been linked with a Giants team that has gone 12-36 over the last three seasons too often.
The lone promising aspects of the team is a young core that it is building around second-year quarterback Daniel Jones and third-year running back Saquon Barkley.
There was a lack of promise in the secondary despite its young core.
Deandre Baker struggled mightily at times during his rookie campaign last season, even admitting that he wasn’t grasping former defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s defense midway through the season. Sam Beal and Corey Ballentine — who played limited roles last season — didn’t do much to assert themselves, either.
All three are expected to see more time in 2020 and it will be up to Bradberry, who isn’t much older, to be the guiding presence.
“In order to improve you have to take knowledge and apply it on the field,” Bradberry said. “That’s what I want to do for the younger guys, I want to give them knowledge and hopefully they can apply it on the field.”
The Giants will be hoping that those younger corners will have an easier time developing under new defensive coordinator, Patrick Graham’s, scheme — one that is expected to see plenty of man-to-man coverage for Bradberry’s unit.
Graham is just one of the numerous new faces under new head coach Joe Judge’s coaching staff, who was a surprising hire following the dismissal of Pat Shurmur following two unimpressive seasons.
Given the times, though, Bradberry hasn’t had much of an opportunity to speak with either of his coaches — or even visit Giants team facilities — as the coronavirus pandemic has forced the general population to stay home.
“I don’t think it still has hit me yet [that I signed with the Giants],” Bradberry said. “I feel like after we get everything figured out and the coronavirus, everyone is safe and whatnot. I feel like it will hit me when I am able to come up and visit.”
He is currently training in Charlotte, NC where he is preparing to undertake the momentous task of helping turn the Giants’ fortunes around.
“Honestly, my motto is just go out there and do it. There’s no point in being scared of it or hiding back from it,” Bradberry said. “Just embrace the challenge, accept it and make sure you put the time in so that when it’s time to play on Sunday, that you’re able to perform at your highest level, put on a good show for the fans and also get a win.”