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Giants FA Preview: Reese has resources to upgrade roster

Sean Smith is an option at cornerback during free agency for the Giants.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Sean Smith is an option at cornerback during free agency for the Giants.

He’s never had to pull off a roster miracle before. But that’s exactly what Jerry Reese is counting on right now.

After guiding the Giants into their darkest ages since the 1970s, the embattled GM doesn’t exactly have any other choice. So he points to the Giants’ eight losses by a touchdown or less last season, and he promises that he can turn the ship around quickly.

“You can get well pretty quickly in the National Football League,” he said at last month’s NFL Scouting Combine. “We have work to do obviously, but I think we’re close enough to believe that we can compete in the NFC East.”

It was two months ago that Giants owner John Mara placed all the pressure on Reese, saying that Reese knows this offseason “is all on him.” And when NFL free agency opens this week, somehow, Reese must deliver. The 48-hour “legal tampering” window opens on Monday, and teams can officially begin signing players on Wednesday. And the Giants likely need a blockbuster showing in the free agent marketplace to spark a turnaround and energize a disillusioned fan base.

The GM hits the market with what could be as much as $ 60 million in cap space, the third-largest cap warchest in football behind the Jaguars ($ 90 million) and Raiders ($ 74 million). And he may need every penny of it to revamp a ball club that’s limped to back-to-back 6-10 seasons, three straight losing campaigns and four years out of the playoffs.

From the pass-rushing void to the lack of cornerback depth to the absence of a quality starting receiver to pair with superstar Odell Beckham Jr., the roster is littered with holes. And Reese, who helped erect Super Bowl champions in 2007 and 2011, knows it.

“We need good players, that’s what we need the most,” Reese said. “We need good players, and we’ll try to look for good players at every level — offense, defense and special teams.

“We just didn’t close (games) out, and that’s for a number of reasons,” he added. “It’s personnel. We made some bad decisions.”

Those bad decisions remain a reminder to Reese of the dangers of this rebuild. Using free agency to fashion an also-ran into a contender rarely works (remember the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles “Dream Team”?), and the Giants know that firsthand.

DE Malik JacksonEric Lars Bakke/AP

DE Malik Jackson

Just three years ago, Reese handed out more than $ 100 million in player contracts, hoping to restore the club to its former glory. All that did was get the club a 19-29 record over the last three seasons, and guard Geoff Schwartz, the big-money pickup that offseason, and linebacker Jon Beason (a key 2013 offseason re-signing) were both released last month.

This year’s free agent market could be thin on transcendent talents as well. Broncos pass-rusher Von Milller, Chiefs safety Eric Berry and Rams corner Trumaine Johnson, all of whom could have filled positions of need for Big Blue, were franchised by their current teams last week. And with a first-time head coach in Ben McAdoo and a new cellar-dwelling rep, the Giants aren’t exactly in position to entice veterans to take discounts in hopes of playing with a contender, either.

But somehow, Reese must find a way to own the market.

“It’s all a process,” he said. “We look at what’s available in free agency, we look at what their value is, we look at what’s in the draft, and it’s all a process… I think we can put together a team that can challenge for that NFC East crown next year.”

* * *

TOP 5 POTENTIAL TARGETS

MOHAMED SANU, WR, BENGALS

With Rueben Randle almost certainly on his way out, the Giants need a receiver to pair with Odell Beckham Jr., and there are rumblings that they’ve set their sights on Sanu, who makes up for a lack of speed by knowing how to use his 6-2, 210-pound frame. It would be a homecoming of sorts for the Rutgers grad, who made 33 catches for 394 yards last season.

MALIK JACKSON, DT, BRONCOS

S Tashaun GipsonRon Schwane/AP

S Tashaun Gipson

Denver re-signed defensive lineman Derek Wolfe and franchised linebacker Von Miller, leaving no room for Jackson, the club’s best interior pass-rusher. He had five sacks last season, and he’d give the Giants a potentially dangerous defensive tackle duo when teamed with 2013 second-round pick Johnathan Hankins.

TASHAUN GIPSON, S, BROWNS

Second-year man Landon Collins is best utilized as an in-the-box safety, so Gipson, who had 14 interceptions in four years in Cleveland, might be the perfect tag-team partner. Even coming off a down year (two interceptions in 2015), he’ll almost certainly be the top safety available, so the Giants will have to pay a hefty price.

SEAN SMITH, CB, CHIEFS

The Giants must find a replacement for starting corner Prince Amukamara, who’s been told to test the free agent market, and Smith is an intriguing option, a 6-3, 218-pound corner who made few big plays last season but was consistent in coverage. He also offers the reliability that the injury-prone Amukamara never did: He’s missed just four games in seven NFL seasons.

KELECHI OSEMELE, OL, RAVENS

Versatile offensive lineman who can play tackle or guard but would likely serve as right tackle for the Giants. He’s another free agent who will won’t come cheap, though: There was talk in Baltimore that he was seeking to become the game’s highest-paid guard.

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