At the root of the New York Giants revival this season are the early days of free agency, when general manager Jerry Reese took a huge gamble on three high-dollar signings.The moves were out of character for an organization that rarely ventures into the murky waters of the firstfree agency wave. Reese was under fireafter four consecutive non-playoff seasons. With the ble sing of team owner/president John Mara, it was a case of desperate times calling for desperate measures.I know from my own experience as a GM and team president that Reese was plenty nervous about whether the performanceof these players would justify the money risked in their contracts.Butit looks like Reese hit a raretrifecta.IYER: Giants' late-season riselooks familiarReese Rob Gronkowski Super Bowl LII Jersey
was seeking to improve the NFL's worst defense, which had given up 420 yards per game during a 6-10 season in 2015. So he opened up the Giants vault for defensive end Olivier Vernon (fiveyears, $85 million, $52.5 million guaranteed), cornerback Janoris Jenkins (fiveyears, $62.5 million, $28.8 million guaranteed) and defensive tackle Damon Harrison (fiveyears, $46.25 million, $24 million guaranteed).I have to admit I was among the pundits who questioned the Giants' wisdom. I thought thesignings could leave the franchise with loads of dead money on their cap if they didn't pan out.I also had concerns about the changes within New Yorks coaching staff. I did agree with Mara's decision to let go of coach Tom Coughlin after so many blown late leads last year. But I was apprehensive about New York's staying in-house and promoting offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to head coach, thenMcAdoo's follow-up move to retain Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator.To Mara's credit, both of those decisions have paid off, and the continuity in the coaching staff has helped pave the way for the team's improvement. But the free-agent signings are the biggest factors.I was fine all along with the Harrison signing, as he is a great run stopper and arguably was the best defensive tackle on themarket. It has played out well, as Harrison is having an excellent season. Heanchors the league's fifth-ranked run defense that is giving up 30 fewer yards per game than a year ago, and hewas a Julian Edelman Jersey
big part of keeping NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott out of the end zone and holding him to 158 yards on 44 carries during the Giants' two-game season sweep of the Cowboys (a 3.6 average per carry compared to Elliott's 4.9 season average).Le s safe than the Harrison signing in my view, though, were the acquisitions of Vernon and Jenkins considering the money spent in light of their history.MORE: NFL's highest-paid defendersOlivier Vernon (Getty Images)Vernon's deal made him the highest-paid defensive end in the league. It seemed to be a major stretch to pay that amount for a player with 29 career sacks over his first four seasons, and he was coming off a year with 7.5 sacks.I still call the Vernon contract an overpay, but that often happens with premier free agents. He definitely has been productive for the Giants with a team-leading eight sacks. He and his defensive line-mates put a ton of pre sure on Dak Prescott in the big Week 14 win, and they held the Dallas rookie sensation to 165 Tom Brady Navy Limited Jersey
yards pa sing, sacked him three times and forced two interceptions.One of those picks was by Jenkins, who had an outstanding game against Cowboys star receiver Dez Bryant (one catch for 10 yards). Jenkins also forced a key fumble by Bryant that the Giants recovered with 2:25 to play.Jenkins had character i sues in college, as he was kicked out of the Florida program for drug-related arrests and a bar fight. But he had played well for Devin McCourty Jersey
the Rams and had stayed out of trouble over the past four seasons.The question for New York was whether the big money would cause Jenkins to regre s to poor decision-making off the field. It has not, and with three interceptions and 47 tackles as their shutdown corner, Jenkins is off to an excellent start with the Giants.WATCH: Giants D steps up at perfect timeJanoris Jenkins (Getty Images)It's a risk to sign any expensive free agent aGM can never be certain that a guy will play as well for his new team as he did previously considering the change of city, team, scheme and often the newfound wealth. But what I liked about the Harrison, Vernon and Jenkins signings is that all three players were 27 or younger.The Giants at least knew thistrio was not as injury prone as older players can be. I always preferred to sign a free agent coming out of his rookie contract and, usually, going into his fifth season. That was the case with the Giants threesome.The numbers show the improvement, as the Giants are giving up 70 fewer yards per game to improve from last to 14th in the league. They already have four more sacks than they did for the entire 2015 Chris Hogan Jersey
season. Most important, points allowed have dropped from 27.6 per game (third most in the league) to 18.8 per game (seventh fewest).At 9-4,the Giants are the front-runners for the top NFC wild-card playoff spot and remain in contention for the NFC East with three weeks to play. And with their vastly improved defense, quarterback Eli Manning's playoff pedigree and a big-timeplaymakerin Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants have the look of a Super Bowl contender.MORE: NFL playoff picture | ScenariosAs with all multi-year deals, we have to judge New York'sthree big signings over several years. But for Reese, Mara and the Giants, the Dallas game was the latest proof that it's so far-so good for this expensive foray.They stepped into the free-agency batter's box and took a swing for the fences. Early returns say they hit a home run.Jeff Diamond is the former president of the Titans and the former vice president/general manager of the Vikings. He was selected NFL Executive of the Year in 1998. Diamond is currently a busine s and sports consultant who also does broadcast and online media work. He is the former chairman and CEO of The Ingram Group. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffdiamondNFL.