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Casillas goes to bat for Giants to keep Johnathan Hankins
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Jonathan Casillas wants Johnathan Hankins back on the New York Giants.

Johnathan Hankins has been on the free agent market for nearly three weeks.

This was not how the talented 24-year old New York Giants defensive tackle expected this to go, but here we are now. Most teams have already executed their free agency plan. Although they may still have salary cap space, they have chosen not to hand out a multi-year contract at Hankins’ exorbitant asking price for a one-dimensional defensive tackle.

Hankins can stop the run — no one ever doubted that — but he didn’t excel when given more opportunities to rush the passer from the 3-technique defensive tackle position in 2016. This position switch didn’t suit him very well, but the Giants aren’t planning to turn his old position back over to him or anyone else with Damon Harrison on board. So Hankins is left in limbo and waiting for an offer that may never come his way.

Through it all, Giants 2016 team defensive captain and leader Jonathan Casillas has been keeping tabs. Dan Duggan of NJ Advanced Media had a chance to speak with Casillas at a charity basketball game at New Brunswick High School.

Casillas’ message to the Giants front office was clear.

“I vouch for my boy Hank,” Casillas said, via NJ Advance Media. “I want him. He’s a Giant. He was drafted by the Giants. He had a great year last year. We want to keep him.”

The “we” Casillas is referring to is every individual member of the Giants’ defense.. In their eyes, defense is a team effort. The Giants don’t earn a top-five run defense in average yards per carry against without Hankins, according to Casillas and his teammates. The Giants don’t make the critical goal-line stand against the Ravens in Week 6 without Hankins. And they can probably recall countless examples of when Hankins played some role that made a major impact for the Giants’ emerging defense in their breakout 2016 season.

Then, reality sets in. Like all players who devote their lives to this spot, Casillas knows that sometimes the business side of it takes over. A 24-year-old player with Hankins’ natural talent and current resume can accept a team-friendly deal, but it may not be in his best long term interest.

“I think we all want him back,” said Casillas. “But at the end of the day, if you feel like you need to be compensated for what he’s been doing, he deserves that. We all deserve that. It’s a business. I don’t know exactly where we’re at with him. But I vouch for him. I want him to come back.”

The best case scenario for both Hankins and the Giants is the same thing at this stage of free agency. A one-year lucrative “prove it” deal is the end game. Jason Pierre-Paul signed a one-year, $10 million “prove it” deal last offseason and look where that got he and the Giants. Hankins’ one year deal should come in the $6 million range and the Giants should make their final splash on re-signing the final returning starter from the 2016 defense. The Giants currently have $9.3 million in salary cap space after freeing up nearly $10 million when they signed Pierre-Paul.

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