Re-Ranking the Biggest Giants Needs After First Wave of Free Agency

The New York Giants addressed a number of needs in the first wave of free agency but work still remains in some areas. Here's a unit-by-unit review of what was done and what still needs to be done.
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The New York Giants were busier than anyone anticipated during the first wave of free agency. Although general manager Dave Gettleman addressed many of the top needs—receiver, cornerback, and getting Leonard Williams signed to a new deal—there is still more work to be done.

To recap the Giants’ free agency activity, they signed C/G Jonotthan Harrison, RB Devontae Booker. WR John Ross, FB Cullen Gillaspia, DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, QB Mike Glennon, TE Kyle Rudolph, ILB Reggie Ragland, WR Kenny Golladay, CB Adoree' Jackson, OLB Ryan Anderson, OG Zach Fulton, DT Danny Shelton, TE Cole Hikutini, DB Joshua Kalu, and DB Chris Milton.

That’s quite a haul for a team whose salary cap was in the red at one point before free agency.

As we inch closer to the NFL Draft later this month, let’s reassess the Giants roster and determine where there is still more work to be done by going through where each unit stands and assigning a priority level (high, moderate, or low) regarding the need.

Quarterback

The addition of Mike Glennon offers somewhat of a clue as to  what the Giants likely are planning to do with their offense this year, and that is throwing the deep ball a little more often. 

Last year, the Giants completed 43.1% of their deep (20+ yards) throws, this a combination of of them lacking speed at receiver. When starter Daniel Jones had to miss two games due to lower-body injuries, backup quarterback Colt McCoy’s lack of arm strength hurt them in the deep passing game.

Glennon gives the Giants a stronger armed backup quarterback who should be able to make the throws like Jones if he has to play.

Priority Level: Low

Running Back

The Giants remain optimistic that Saquon Barley will make a complete recovery from ACL surgery. Still, as is usually the case with players coming off this type of injury, sometimes it can take a player up to two years to fully return to their pre-injury self. 

That said, Barkley at 80% is often better than most running backs at 100%, so the running game should be back in full swing to where it hopefully lessens the need for Jones to defend his title as the team’s leading rusher in 2021.

Behind Barkley is Devontae Booker, who figures to take on that Dion Lewis role. But the Giants could probably still use some additional talent at this spot which they’ll likely pluck from the draft on Day 3 since Booker signed a two-year deal. 

If the Giants can get a younger version of Wayne Gallman, but someone with a little better jump-cut through the hole and who’s more consistent with catching passes out of the backfield, then this unit will look a lot better come September.

Priority Level: Moderate

Lions receiver Kenny Golladay celebrates a first down against the Giants at Ford Field, Oct. 27, 2019.

Lions receiver Kenny Golladay celebrates a first down against the Giants at Ford Field, Oct. 27, 2019.

Wide Receiver

Signing Kenny Golladay was big—and not just because the Giants finally have a legitimate X-receiver with size. This lessens the Giants’ need to take whosever is left from the top receivers in this draft (Ja’Marr Chase of LSU, or the Alabama duo of Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith) at No. 11.

But just because the Giants added Golladay and speedster John Ross, the latter on a one-year “prove it” deal, that doesn’t mean they should stand pat at this position. With the league having morphed into more of a passing league, an offense can never have too many speedsters at the position.

Priority Level: Moderate

Tight End

The Giants are heading into training camp with Kyle Rudolph, Evan Engram, Levine Toilolo, and Kaden Smith as their experienced tight ends. Rudolph will be coming off foot surgery. 

In the option year of his rookie deal, Engram will be trying to recover from a bad case of the yips from last year. Toilolo started slowly but finished strong last season, and Smith seems to be stuck in neutral right now.

The Giants probably won’t have a chance at Florida tight end Kyle Pitts at No. 11 (if he’s there, they should send the roadrunner up to the commissioner with the card). But Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth should be there in Round 2.

Having two solid tight ends is vital for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s offense to succeed. On paper, they have that, but it’s what’s been put on the field that counts, and outside of Rudolph, the Giants tight ends have been a rather underwhelming group the last two years.

Priority Level: High

Offensive Line

Dave Gettleman insists that the young offensive linemen need to play, and he’s right to a degree. But there are still many questions remaining on what’s perhaps the most important unit on the offense, and one that the general manager didn’t address in free agency outside of a couple of veteran depth signings (Jonotthan Harrison and Zach Fulton).

What will be the guard configuration? Will Hernandez and Shane Lemieux have played left guard in college and the pros. Will one of those two flip over to the right side, where the cutting of Kevin Zeitler left a big hole?

Or will the Giants bite the bullet and look to acquire Rashawn Slater to plug that hole? Slater should be there at No. 11, but drafting a guard that high might be a bit of a reach and hence warrant Gettleman to trade down in Round 1 for the first time in his career.

And is Matt Peart the answer at right tackle? Gettleman spoke highly of him as having played “damn good.” Still, unless the kid’s late-season ankle injury was worse than anyone realized, it spoke volumes that with that Week 17 game on the line, Peart, like Hernandez, weren’t part of the offensive line as they had been in previous weeks.

These questions aside, it would behoove the Giants to add young faces so that they have a new crop of offensive linemen in the pipeline to serve as backups and eventual starters. Right now, their depth consists of older veterans like Nate Solder, Harrison, and Fulton—all of whom figure to be here for just this season.

Priority Level: High


Check out the video above in which I discuss with host Kim Becker
how the Giants free agency activity sets up their draft.


Defensive Line

The reigning best unit on the team (in my opinion) took a big hit when it didn’t retain Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency. Instead, the team is looking to go with a committee approach that consists of Danny Shelton, B.J. Hill, and Austin Johnson to fill Tomlinson's snaps.

It’s too premature to determine if that trio can bring to the table what Tomlinson did. Still, it’s also worth noting that each of them is only signed through 2021, making the addition of another young defensive tackle a sneaky need in this draft.

Priority Level: High

Edge Defender

Edge rushers don’t grow on trees, but this year’s class does appear to have some solid options worthy of first-round status like Penn State's Micah Parsons, Miami's Gregory Rousseau and Michigan's Kwity Paye.

Holdovers Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines are returning from season-ending injuries, Carter an Achilles and Ximines a shoulder. Meanwhile, second-year players Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown flashed as edge rushers, but neither left one with the impression that he could be an every-down presence.

In the above video, Pete Smith of Browns Digest speaks with Jim Mora about Miami edge defender Jaelan Phillips.


While there is still a lot of time before they have to take the field, the Giants need Carter and Ximines to finally step up and show that they can be every-down players who are the core of he edge rusher group.

Otherwise, the Giants took one-year fliers on guys like Ifeadi Odenigbo and Ryan Anderson. Odenigbo is the more intriguing of the two, given he’s posted 10.5 sacks over the last two seasons, but can he hold up against the run?

The Giants’ Super Bowl championship teams have all had three solid edge rushers that were worked into different packages. Until we see otherwise, the current Giants team doesn’t have one such player, and that’s holding this defense back to being what it could be.

Priority Level: High

Linebacker

Blake Martinez is set in stone as the quarterback of the defense, but again, the Giants added a group of guys on one-year deals—Reggie Ragland and Devante Downs—to compete with Tae Crowder and Carter Coughlin for the other spot. 

The Giants aren’t really in their base defense much, which deprioritizes the need for a solid second inside linebacker.

Still, if anything should happen to Martinez, they’ll want to make sure they have someone able to step in that won’t result in a drop-off. Whether that someone is on the roster is the question they must answer.

Priority Level: Low

Safety

The only question mark with this group—the new undisputed strength of the team in this writer’s opinion, by the way—is if Gettleman plans to sign Jabrill Peppers to a long-term extension, thus lowering the $6+ million cap hit he currently carries.

Gettleman likes to say contracts get done when they get done, so maybe a new deal is in Peppers' future. If nothing else, lowering his first-year cap hit would certainly help the team's financial picture heading into the 2021 season.

Priority Level: Low

Cornerback

The Giants eliminated a pressing need at cornerback No. 2 by signing Adoree’ Jackson, the former first-round pick by the Titans who was in need of a fresh start. But just as a team can’t have too many receivers, one can’t have too many corners.

The Giants’ experienced depth at this spot includes Julian Love (also a safety), Isaac Yiadom (who agreed to a pay cut), Darnay Holmes (their slot guy), Ryan Lewis, and Sam Beal. Still, other than maybe for Holmes and Love, this is a lackluster group that might benefit from a new face.

Priority Level: Moderate


Final Rankings in Order of Need 

  1. Edge defender
  2. Offensive Line
  3. Tight End
  4. Running back 
  5. Defensive Line 
  6. Wide receiver 
  7. Cornerback
  8. Linebacker 
  9. Safety
  10. Quarterback

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