When it comes to their dozen-plus soon-to-be unrestricted free agents, the New York Giants aren't going to be able to re-sign them all.
Nor should they want to. While cap space shouldn't be a problem for the Giants this year in free agency, there is always that secret hope that those free agents that are not in the team's long-term plans will sign elsewhere and qualify the Giants for a comp draft pick in 2022.
But there are some that they'll want to find a way to keep if possible, so let's run down the list and see who has a legitimate chance of returning and who does not.
IDL Leonard Williams
Age: 27 | 2020 Base Salary: $16,126,000
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman’s faith in Williams was finally rewarded when the defensive lineman recorded his first double-digit sack season in his career (11.5).
Not only did Williams enjoy a career season, but he also had the third-best pass-rushing productivity rate among interior defensive linemen, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Giants have already invested more than $20 million, and two draft picks in Williams to let him waltz away in free agency, but they’ll likely have to slap the franchise tag on him to keep him from going anywhere while they work out a long-term deal.
Edge Kyler Fackrell
Age: 30 | 2020 Base Salary: $2,600,000
After finding success with a one-year prove-it deal to edge rusher Markus Golden, the Giants hoped to catch lightning in a bottle a second time with Kyler Fackrell, who, like Golden, had one double-digit sack season to his name before joining the Giants.
Making Fackrell extra appealing was his prior connection with defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, his position coach in Green Bay, who helped Fackrell to a double-digit-sack showing in 2018.
Unfortunately, Fackrell didn’t come anywhere near hitting double-digit sacks for the season, even after season-ending injuries to Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines meant increased reps. Fackrell himself missed four games with a calf strain and finished with four sacks and ten quarterback hits.
With there being questions about the edge rusher draft class, it would not be surprising if the Giants give Fackrell another whirl on a one-year deal similar to what he received last season.
OT Cameron Fleming
Age: 29 | 2020 Base Salary: $1,500,000
Fleming joined the Giants after playing for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett in Dallas. Originally slated to be the swing tackle, Fleming was pressed into full-time duty when left tackle Nate Solder opted out and left the Giants with little choice than to move first-round rookie Andrew Thomas to left tackle.
Fleming, who other than for planned rotational snaps with third-round pick Matt Peart never missed a snap, had his moments where he was exceptional, but more so when he did enough to survive. According to PFF, he allowed 35 total pressures, tying him for ninth-most among offensive tackles that took at least 80% of their team’s snaps.
The Giants are thought to want to move on to Peart as their new starting right tackle. However, a late-season ankle issue combined with a drop-off in his play down the stretch could be signs that Peart will have to compete to win the job.
As for Fleming, so long as he's not looking for crazy money to return, he should have a place on the 2021 roster. If he is looking for crazy money and the assurance he'll be a starter, then it might just be time to flip the page to the next chapter at that position and place an eye toward finally completing the rebuild.
QB Colt McCoy
Age: 35 | 2020 Base Salary: $1,050,000
McCoy picked up that veteran quarterback mentorship role the Giants lost when Eli Manning retired, and the arrangement was a solid one in that McCoy knew his place and worked behind the scenes to help starter Daniel Jones continue his development.
When pressed into action for two games after Jones suffered lower-body injuries, McCoy had mixed results. Although he has sharp football acumen--he’s not one to make any mistakes that end up hurting his team--he lacked athleticism and arm strength on par with Jones.
McCoy engineered arguably the Giants' biggest win of the season, an 17-12 upset victory over Seattle. But he couldn’t get the team over the hump against the Cleveland Browns as his lack of athleticism and his inability to exploit the deep parts of the field were on full display.
If Daniel Jones, who has missed four games in his first two NFL seasons, is going to make missing time an annual occurrence--and let’s hope that’s not the case--the Giants might want to look for an upgrade that doesn't present a drop-off in skillset if the Giants need to play him.
G/C Spencer Pulley
Age: 28 | 2020 Base Salary: $2,325,000
Giants head coach Joe Judge always stressed that if a guy received a game-day uniform, they were expected to play. However, Pulley, a versatile offensive lineman who can play either guard spot or center and is a guy you can win with, was the only team member who got a weekly gameday uniform but didn’t get any playing time.
With the Giants having signed free agent center Jonotthan Harrison to a reserve/future contract (presumably to backup to starting center Nick Gates and the guard spots), don’t expect to see Pulley back in a Giants uniform in 2021.
S Nate Ebner
Age: 33 | 2020 Base Salary: $1,050,000
As is the case with any new head coach, he tends to bring in a number of guys he previously worked with at another stop. And in Nate Ebner, the “Robin” to Matthew Slater’s “Batman” on the New England Patriots special teams previously coached by Judge, this was no exception.
Alas, Ebner contributed four special teams tackles, his lowest total since 2018 with the Patriots. In what was a curious decision by the Giants coaching staff, Ebner, who played in just three defensive snaps at safety for the Patriots over the two seasons prior, received 39 defensive snaps with the Giants, including 28 in coverage where his final NFL rating was 118.0.
Suffice it to say, the Giants could benefit from an upgrade who's able to give them quality snaps on defense and special teams.
RB Dion Lewis
Age: 31 | 2020 Base Salary: $1,100,000
Lewis, another player with ties to Giants head coach Joe Judge, posted career lows in rushing yards per game (7.2) and rushing attempts.
Lewis, who also had some ball security issues as a kickoff returner, appeared to lose some explosiveness as an outside runner while running between the tackles proved to be a fruitless exercise for him given his smallish stature.
The Giants running backs room will have a new look in 2021, as Saquon Barkley is the only one under contract with experience. That new look figures to include at least one draft pick and one veteran. Lewis probably won’t be that veteran.
IDL Austin Johnson
Age: 32 | 2020 Base Salary: $1,500,000
If the Giants lose Dalvin Tomlinson to free agency, as is widely anticipated, the early projection is that B.J. Hill could move from defensive end inside to the spot Tomlinson played.
Meanwhile, Johnson, coached by Giants defensive line coach Sean Spencer at Penn State, would make for a nice rotational piece. In 231 defensive snaps, Johnson generated four pressures, seven stops, 18 tackles, and one sack.
Johnson is a run-first nose tackle plugger who has just enough mobility to get to the edges and plays his gaps with power and discipline. With such an emphasis on stopping the run, getting him back on a one-year minimum deal to provide depth wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
IDL Dalvin Tomlinson
Age: 27 | 2020 Base Salary: $1,088,468
In a perfect world, the Giants would be able to retain both Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson, two-thirds of one of the best defensive lines they’ve had in quite some time. Alas, we are not in a perfect world, and barring the Giants extending Williams before the franchise tag period ends, Tomlinson’s return is not very promising.
Tomlinson has been everything the Giants have wanted him to be since they drafted him in 2017 in the second round. A dedicated power run defender, Tomlinson’s consistency and reliability--he’s yet to miss a game--have been among his calling cards.
Over the last two seasons, Tomlinson has recorded 3.5 sacks, the result of him learning to use his fine athleticism and power to penetrate gaps and push the pocket. It also doesn’t hurt that the game has slowed down for the big-bodied defender.
Tomlinson's bread-and-butter has been taking on double-teams, giving little ground and causing so much foot traffic that opposing running backs have nowhere to run inside.
Similarly, because Tomlinson, once a champion wrestler, is so adept at taking on double-team blocks, he helps open things up for others to shoot gaps and cause disruptions.
The Giants have a history of letting talented defensive interior linemen walk away--Cornelius Griffin, Linval Joseph, Johnathan Hankins, and Barry Cofield all come to mind. Barring a miracle, Tomlinson will probably be the next to walk away.
Edge Jabaal Sheard
Age: 32 | 2020 Base Salary: $1,050,000
As defensive end injuries began to pile up--the Giants lost youngsters Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter in consecutive weeks--New York turned to Sheard, a veteran defensive end who had been on the Jaguars practice squad.
Working primarily as the power edge, Sheard contributed 1.5 sacks and 19 tackles but was limited due to coverage issues. But against the run, Sheard was a heat-seeking missile who sniffed out runs and limited the gains.
However, his limitations combined with the Giants’ continued attempts to get younger, especially on defense, will likely mean they’ll move on from Sheard.
RB Alfred Morris
Age: 33 | 2020 Base Salary: $1,050,000
Although a far cry from the start of his career when he logged three straight 1,000-yard seasons with the Washington Football Team, Morris showed he still had some life left in his 32-year-old legs, contributing 238 yards on 55 carries and one touchdown, an average of 4.3 yards per carry.
Morris was mostly sound in pass blocking, a problem before his insertion into the lineup. He was also a patient runner who let his blocks develop and found a way to turn nearly every rushing attempt into a positive gain.
If the Giants end up re-signing one of their UFA running backs, Morris makes the most sense if he’s up to playing on a one-year veteran minimum deal.
LS Casey Kreiter
Age: 31 | 2020 Salary: $1,047,500
The one-time Pro Bowl long snapper barely had his name mentioned in his first season with the Giants, and that’s a good thing because it meant all his snaps were stress-free.
That said, for Giants fans used to Zak DeOssie’s consistent ability to be among, if not the first down the field, Kreiter didn’t quite bring that element to his game.
With second-year man Niko Lalos having dabbled in some long snapping during the year and with the team having signed Carson Tinker to a reserve/futures deal, Kreiter is not a lock to return in 2021.
DB Adrian Colbert
Age: 28 | 2020 Base Salary: $825,000
Colbert followed defensive coordinator Patrick Graham from Miami to the Giants after making a quick detour with the Chiefs during the early part of the 2020 training camp period.
He appeared in four games, getting over 100 total snaps and making two starts (in Weeks 4 and 5 against the Rams and Cowboys, respectively) until a shoulder injury landed him on injured reserve in early November.
Unfortunately, by then, any defensive snaps he had been playing at safety had been transferred to second-round pick Xavier McKinney. That left Colbert to primarily contribute on special teams, where he happened to turn in some fine work as a punt gunner.
Given his versatility--he can play cornerback as well--it’s not hard to envision the Giants bringing him back to compete on a one-year veteran minimum deal, especially if they move on from Nate Ebner.
RB Wayne Gallman
Age: 27 | 2020 Base Salary: $825,00
Gallman finally got his chance to show that he can help carry a running game, but it took season-ending injuries to Saquon Barkley and then to his replacement, Devonta Freeman, for that to happen.
Gallman, one of the last remaining Giants draft picks from the Jerry Reese era, is probably going to want a team where he can be more of an equal partner in the running game as opposed to getting the nod when Barkley needs a breather.
Also, with several Day 3 options in the draft, the odds of Gallman returning when there are so many other needs and limited cap space to spend don’t seem very promising.
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