Giants in No Rush to Spend on Veteran Free Agents for O-Line, Cornerback

Patricia Traina

When opportunity knocks, then you better be ready to answer the door. 

That’s the message Giants head coach Joe Judge hopes his players will take, especially at offensive tackle and cornerback, where the unexpected absences of Nate Solder and DeAndre Baker, two players on whom the team was counting on as being contributors through mid-May, no longer in the picture. 

Solder decided to opt-out of the 2020 season, while Baker landed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List as he awaits the resolution of his legal issues stemming from his alleged involvement in armed robbery and aggravated assault. Initially, those seemed like huge blows for the first-time head coach who is looking to turn the Giants' fortunes around.

But don't expect Judge to wring his hands with worry over the cards he was dealt. As he's done all along, Judge is looking at the bright side. 

“In terms of our depth chart, the entire team is really at the same point. Everyone has to come in and compete at ground zero and build their way up,” Judge said during a video conference call with reporters. 

“Again, we had very productive meetings in the spring. We haven’t been on the field together yet besides the walkthroughs with this early group. It’s been more almost a rookie minicamp-type atmosphere of getting guys on the field, getting them acclimated to our systems, just getting used to being on the field with the coaches and players together for the first time.”

By opting out, Solder’s $9.9 million base salary gets credited back to the Giants 2020 salary cap. Baker meanwhile will continue to receive his base salary, which, per his rookie deal will call for him to make a “paltry” $973,442 this year for as long as he remains on the Exempt List.

Oh, and don’t go expecting the Giants to go rushing out with fistfuls of cash to throw at the first veteran free-agent tackle or cornerback that they come across.

“We don’t feel right now that we have money burning a hole in our pocket,” Judge said of the nearly $10 million credit they’re getting from Solder’s decision to opt-out. “We just know there is a little bit more for us in the cap space right now.

“From a football standpoint, we have confidence in all of our players. We still have to get on the field and practice and evaluate them, and that’s at all positions. Whether it’s the offensive line, skill positions, defense, or wherever it ends up being, we have to see these guys perform under pressure and handle the loads in install."

With only 14 padded practices allowed under the new league arrangements and no preseason games, that might be tricky. If the Giants find they don’t have the depth they thought they had, they could now risk finding themselves in a mad scramble with 31 other NFL teams who will probably look to move quickly on snapping up free agents before the season.

That's why as far as Judge is concerned, a player's age or experience level means nothing.

"The age of a player doesn’t really ever bother me," Judge said. "We bring guys in to play. This isn’t like college where a young guy in the NFL is given a redshirt year. You have 53 guys on your roster. Everyone has to contribute and everyone has to play." 

Judge, who at least publicly hasn’t batted an eye since COVID-19 turned everyone’s world upside down expressed confidence in the behind the scenes preparation he and his staff have done to ensure they make the right decisions regarding player evaluation.

“There’s a lot of things that have to be done in a short period,” Judge said. “We have to make good evaluations as coaches. I’ve got to set practices to make sure we can evaluate guys at multiple positions. We have to do a good job of making sure we see what every player does when he understands what to do and can play as fast as possible. That’s our job as coaches and teachers.” 

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