Breaking Down the Giants' Remaining Needs After Initial Free Agency Wave
The New York Giants' free agency activity has, for the most part, wrapped, as that $73 million the team once had to spend has dwindled to approximately $13,958,042 according to Over the Cap, with about half of that money needed to sign the incoming rookie class.
While there is still a long way to go before anyone can definitively say whether the Giants improved through free agency, they did, at least, begin to address some of the roster holes.
Although general managers will insist that come the draft, they'll take the "best available" player, at some point there has to be a marrying of need with value.
So here is our look as to what the Giants still need to accomplish--and how they might go about crossing the need off their to-do list.
Although the Giants added Cam Fleming in free agency, his was just a one-year deal suggesting that he's likely not here for the long term (though obviously if he plays well and the money is right, the two sides could always extend their relationship).
But the fact remains that the Giants still need help at offensive tackle. In an offensive tackle-rich class combined with the fact that the Giants are drafting at a spot to where they can potentially get a blue-chip prospect, it would be hard to justify passing up on one of the prospects.
Or would it?
The addition of Fleming is one of the most underrated free-agent signings made by the Giants so far. Fleming can plan both race spots, and he has starting experience.
If the Giants believe that Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons is the player they HAVE to have in next month's draft, the presence of Fleming allows the Giants to wait until Day 2 to draft an offensive tackle who can be developed in the coming season for a role as a starter moving forward.
Which projected Day 2 offensive tackles might draw consideration? SI.com's Andy Benoit, in his breakdown of NFC East team needs, has a few names in mind:
If Gettleman waits until Round 2 to address the O-line, they could be looking at Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland, a high-ceiling developmental guy like Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson or Auburn’s Prince Tega Wanogho, wide-bodied “right tackle” Lucas Niang of TCU or finesse “left tackle” Austin Jackson from USC.
When people look at the Giants’ needs, they likely put center right up there at the top. In reality, the center position is very similar right now to offensive tackle in that the team has an experienced veteran under contract to hold down the fort for the coming year until a long-term replacement can be found.
That would be Spencer Pulley, who two years ago played very well in relief of Jon Halapio when Halapio broke his ankle. Pulley was signed to a three-year contract last off-season to provide veteran depth.
Although the guaranteed money in his deal is all paid out, it's worth noting that, per Over the Cap, Pulley's total "drain" on the Giants cap hasn't increased or decreased--he still counts for 1.4% of the total cap.
Pulley's presence gives the Giants some flexibility as if they decide to draft a rookie offensive tackle with an eye toward that player being a Day 1 starter, it would be a stretch to think that the coaching staff might want to have two rookies, one at tackle and one at the all-important center spot--starting simultaneously.
The reason for this is Daniel Jones. Jones is entering his second season, where he must show progress in reading and deciphering more complex defenses and hence, making better decisions.
Having a veteran center to help with protection calls and such is a valuable asset for a young quarterback, which is why Pulley shouldn't be dismissed as a potential candidate to start at center this year, regardless of what the Giants do at offensive tackle.
Could the Giants pick up a developmental project int he draft at center? Absolutely. But again, the odds of that youngster starting as of Day 1 aren't very good.
I have edge rusher third of my list for this team because I think devoting resources on the offensive line to help the franchise quarterback is the more pressing need. I also suspect that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham might have a few tricks up his sleeve to scheme a pass rush.
But that doesn't mean that a No. 1 pass rusher, which the Giants currently don't have, shouldn't be a priority.
But here's the question: With the right schemes and usage of players, which we might be able to agree wasn't always the case under former defensive coordinator James Bettcher, could the Giants pass rush be better than it was last year?
We noted in this film study that Lorenzo Carter, a player whom the Giants were hoping would take a big step forward last year, wasn't always used to his strengths.
And if new head coach Joe Judge is to be believed, every player who gets on the field will be put into a position to do what he does best.
So could Carter develop into a No. 1 edge rusher? And what kind of progress is Oshane Ximines likely to make from his rookie season to Year 2?
The common belief is that a No. 1 edge rusher needs to be a first-round draft pick, but the Giants have proven over their history that pass-rush production can come from other rounds.
Hall of Famer Michael Strahan was a second-round pick. Justin Tuck (third round) Osi Umenyiora (second round), Leonard Marshall (second round) and Keith Hamilton (fourth round), and George Martin (11th round) all made the franchise's top-10 list for sack leaders, a list in which only four of the six men listed were first-round picks.
I can't see the Giants forcing a pass rusher, and I suspect that barring something unexpected happening (like Chase Young falling to the Giants or a tag and trade scenario), it's going to be more about scheme than anything.
The key to the scheme is having the defensive front keep the linebackers clean so that Fackrell, Carter, and Ximines could have a chance of silencing concerns about the "absence" of a pass rush.
Of all the "glaring" needs the Giants have, free safety is something of a mystery because of the lack of information regarding what the coaches think about their existing personnel.
Julian Love stepped into the lineup last year after Jabrill Peppers was lost to a back injury, and according to PFF, Love finished with the second-best NFL rating in coverage (84.5) behind team leader Peppers (74.1).
So is Love the long-term answer at safety? Or might he be a better fit for the Giants at slot cornerback, which is also a position the Giants are likely to address?
The answer to that question, to me, is the wild card. With that said, the Giants' current depth chart at safety--in addition to Peppers and Love, they also have Sean Chandler under contract at the moment--is almost begging for additions from the draft class.
This position hasn't gotten a lot of mention this off-season, yet it's been a need for a while.
Ask any quarterback what he'd like most, and chances are he'll tell you that in addition to consistent pass protection, he'd probably love to have a tall receiving target.
Right now, the Giants' tallest receiver is 2019 fifth-rounder Darius Slayton (6'1", 190 pounds). Slayton is part of a trio that includes Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard, both of whom stand 5'10" tall.
While both Tate and Shepard are steady contributors, the Giants need to be thinking long-term here.
Tate is going to turn 34 by the time he finishes his Giants contract in 2022 (assuming he does finish it). Shepard last year dealt with concussion issues which he overcame but which are something that certainly bears watching moving forward should, heaven forbid, he suffer another head injury.
The Giants stayed away from receivers in free agency, rightfully so as this year's draft class is historically deep at the position.
That means there is bound to be some receivers who in any other class might be Day 1 or Day 2 picks falling down the board.
It would behoove the Giants to dip into the receiver class not once but at least twice, especially if the plans to transition the offense to a vertical type of system are what new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is looking to accomplish. in 2020.