Giants sign 30-year-old running back Jonathan Stewart despite recent struggles
The Giants' decision to pay an aging, unproductive running back in free agency is puzzling
It's been tough to figure out how new Giants general manager Dave Gettleman views his team. On the one hand, the Giants are coming off a three-win season with a 37-year-old quarterback, which seems to signal a full-on rebuild is coming soon. On the other hand, the Giants made the playoffs in 2016 and their 37-year-old quarterback is a two-time Super Bowl MVP who didn't have his top target, Odell Beckham Jr., for most of last season.
On Tuesday, a bit more clarity arrived when Gettleman decided to sign 30-year-old running back Jonathan Stewart, who will turn 31 later this month. The move was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter and later confirmed by the team.
"I am very pleased that we were able to make Jonathan a New York Football Giant," Gettleman said in a statement. "He is a quality runner with power and speed and brings a veteran, professional presence to our locker room. He's a terrific addition for us at this time."
Stewart will reunite with Gettleman and offensive coordinator Mike Shula, both of whom come from Carolina. That's why this move makes sense. There's a clear connection between the Giants' decision-makers and Stewart.
But that doesn't make it a wise move. Rebuilding teams shouldn't be signing 30-year-old running backs. Add in the fact that Stewart is coming off a season in which he averaged 3.4 yards per carry with the Panthers and is clearly on the downslope of his career and, well, it certainly seems like Gettleman thinks his team isn't that far off from competing and that Stewart will help get them over the top.
Really, this move doesn't really make any sort of sense, even if it's a relatively cheap deal.
The Giants started free agency by missing out on top-tier guard Andrew Norwell, . The Giants were smart to pursue a player of Norwell's caliber and age (26), because he'd help them immediately and also be there to help once their rebuild is complete. But Stewart is an aging player who hasn't been productive in a few years.
There's no doubt that the Giants need help at running back. None of their backs a season ago -- Orleans Darkwa, Wayne Gallman, Shane Vereen, and Paul Perkins -- did anything overly impressive, and two of them (Darkwa and Vereen) are free agents. But Stewart likely isn't the answer.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, "Stewart's 3.55 yards per touch were the fewest by a running back with at least 200 touches in a season since BenJarvus Green-Ellis (3.47) and Rashard Mendenhall (3.49) in 2013." Plus, there are a whole host of promising running back prospects in this year's draft like, say, Saquon Barkley, who the Giants could take at No. 2 overall.
Stewart's signing shouldn't take the Giants out of the running for Barkley or another rookie running back, but the decision is a puzzling one -- and one that seems to signal that Gettleman believes the Giants can rebound from a disastrous 2017 season rather quickly.
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