Ahead of the 2021 off-season, the Giants were facing some difficult decisions on key free agents, several of whom have been starters this year.
But by agreeing to contract extensions with two critical contributors during the season--kicker Graham Gano earlier this year and, more recently, safety Logan Ryan--the Giants have wisely gotten a head start on ensuring they keep as much of the band together.
But there are still several remaining starters on this team set to hit free agency absent receiving a new deal, so let's take a look at those starters, their contributions, and whether they might be in the Giants plans for 2021 and beyond.
DL Leonard Williams: After initially drawing the ire of Giants fans and media who viewed the trade as a disaster, Williams has, at least this year, quieted his critics thanks to his flourishing in defensive coordinator Patrick Graham's scheme.
But it's the sacks that will likely drive Williams's asking price up. With the 2021 salary cap expected to drop from the 2020 total of $198 million, retaining Williams might be tricky unless the Giants are willing to devote another franchise tag to keep him, a tag that is estimated to cost about $17.309 million in 2021 if Williams is classified as a defensive end.
But the Giants might not have any choice in the matter, not if they want to retain the 26-year-old. Several teams in need of pass-rushing help should have significant cap dollars to spend--the Jaguars, Jets, Colts, Washington Football Team, and Bengals are just a few. Teams with money to burn could probably put together a deal for Williams that the Giants will have no hope of matching short of cutting their roster to the bone.
Williams said Thursday that he hasn't thought much about his next contract, not with two games remaining. He also said that as far as he knows, there have been no discussions regarding a new deal, which wouldn't take effect until 2021 since Williams is currently playing on the franchise tag.
"I just try to control what I can control," he said. "I’ve been proud to be a Giant for however long it’s been. If it ends this year, then it ends this year. But either way, I’ve been happy to wear these colors and play this season. It’s been fun being a part of this defense and this team."
The Giants will probably apply the franchise tag on Williams once again if the two sides can't agree to a new deal.
DT Dalvin Tomlinson: Tomlinson has quietly put together a career year that cannot merely be measured by stats alone.
Tomlinson, who has never missed a game since turning pro, has been a load in the middle, taking up multiple blockers, which have freed things up for players like Leonard Williams and the linebackers to shoot gaps into the backfield and penetrate gaps. Tomlinson, a team captain this year, could find himself out of the Giants price range because of all that production.
If the Giants lose Tomlinson in free agency--a very real possibility as it might prove to be tricky for the Giants to retain both Tomlinson and Williams--they have Austin Johnson as a veteran option in case they can't add to the defensive line via the draft or free agency.
RB Wayne Gallman: Gallman became a starter by default after the injuries to Saquon Barkley and Devonta Freeman. But since finally getting his long-overdue opportunity, Gallman has been steady for the Giants, including putting together a five-game streak in which he had at least one rushing touchdown per game between Weeks 7-12.
With that all said, Gallman, one of four draft picks remaining from the Jerry Reese era (tight end Evan Engram, receiver Sterling Shepard, and Tomlinson being the others), is in no way a lock to return.
First, it would be hard to imagine him wanting to return to a backup role behind Barkley. At the very least, Gallman would probably want equal time as a runner in a rotation, very similar to the setup the Giants have at the moment. And second, running backs are a dime a dozen, especially in the draft where a younger and more cost-efficient player can be found.
The Giants might kick the tires and see if Gallman is interested in returning, but don't expect them to jump through hoops or break the bank to keep him.
OLB Kyler Fackrell: The Giants signed Fackrell to a one-year prove-it deal, hoping that the former Packer, who recorded double-digit sacks in 2018 when Patrick Graham was his position coach, might recapture that production.
That hasn't been the case, partly due to a calf injury that cost him a quarter of the season and partly due to the Giants wanting to get more snaps to Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines, who both landed on season-ending injured reserve.
Overall though, Fackrell's production has been pedestrian at best. He has 31 tackles, nine quarterback hits, and only three sacks, and has caused just one forced fumble.
Moving forward, the Giants likely hope that Carter, who started to show signs of coming on as a pass rusher before suffering an Achilles injury early in the season, and Ximines can combine to contribute some of that firepower.
And don't be surprised if the Giants look to add another pass rusher early in the draft, especially after being caught short-handed this year thanks to injuries.
RT Cameron Fleming: Fleming was initially served as a stop-gap swing tackle who got pressed into starting duty with Nate Solder opted out of the 20202 season due to COVID-19 concerns.
With the promising emergence of rookie Matt Peart, it's unlikely the Giants will look to re-sign Fleming, who might want to pursue a contract that pays him more like a starter after his showing with the Giants this year.
LS Casey Kreiter: Kreiter, a 2018 Pro Bowler with Denver, is a player whose name is rarely spoken or written, which means he's been doing his job without fanfare. The Giants' long snapper has been mostly solid with his snapping for punts and place-kicks. But he only has one special teams tackle in 14 games.
While that stat in itself doesn't necessarily mean Kreiter is a one-and-done player, the Giants do appear to have some other options at the position. These include veteran Carson Tinker, who has been on their practice squad all year, and rookie Niko Lalos, who a couple of times this year was spotted dabbling in some pre-game long snapping.