How Dave Gettleman's Plan Has the Giants Heading in the Right Direction
Remember when Giants general manager Dave Gettleman insisted that he had a plan to fix what ailed the Giants?
The critics had their doubts, and in fact, some even mocked the Giants 68-year old general manager for claiming he had a plan but refusing to divulge ahead of time what that plan was.
But as the 2019 season continues to unfold, Gettleman’s plan has slowly revealed itself to the curious eyes of the Giants faithful who had their doubts, and that is to get back to the old-school way of building a franchise through the draft.
To understand the impact the plan, admittedly still in its early stages has had on this franchise, let's zoom in on the salary cap, the very foundation of assembling a roster.
A Quick History Lesson
In 2011, the Philadelphia Eagles provided the league with a valuable lesson on how not to build a winning franchise.
That was the year the Eagles assembled their famous “Dream Team” to help the franchise, which had made it to the postseason three straight years, get to the Super Bowl.
The plan failed miserably. The “Dream Team” helped the Eagles get to an 8-8 season and second place in the division while the Giants capped the postseason with their second Super Bowl win this century.
The Eagles continued to feel the fallout from the investment in the “Dream Team” the following season when they finished with an even worse record of 4-12 in what turned out to be head coach Andy Reid’s last season with the club.
Right then and there, the Giants, at the time headed by general manager Jerry Reese, should have realized that building a team through free agency was not the way to go.
However, with Reese’s draft shortcomings beginning to pile up, he was left stuck between a rock and a hard place in terms of trying to build a competitive franchise while covering the gaping holes that had developed in the roster.
Instead, the Giants not once but twice attempted to go the high-priced mulligan route to cover up for their draft shortcomings.
In 2014, they spent big money on offensive linemen Geoff Schwartz (4 years, $16.8 million) and J.D. Walton (2 years, $5 million); running back Rashad Jennings (4 years, $10 million); and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (5 years, $35 million).
None of those players finished their contracts with the Giants. What's more, the infusion of high priced talent didn't translate into a winning record, as the Giants finished with a 6-10 record in 2014 and 2015.
Rather than learn from their mistake and address the real problem for their struggles--the draft process--the Giants, in 2016, went on another free-agent spending spree to give their rookie head coach, Ben McAdoo, the necessary mulligans to compensate for the draft busts.
The high-priced moves included:
- Defensive end Olivier Vernon (5 years, $85 million), the mulligan for Damontre Moore (R3-2013).
- Defensive tackle Damon Harrison (5 years, $46.25 million), the mulligan for defensive tackle Marvin Austin (R2-2011).
- Cornerback Janoris Jenkins (5 years, $62.5 million), the mulligan for Prince Amukamara (R1-2011), who was not signed to a second contract.
While the Giants did enjoy a winning season in 2016, the light went out in the playoffs and the bottom quickly fell the following year thanks in part to injuries and the lack of young depth on the roster to help fill the gaps.
Harrison and Vernon were eventually traded--Harrison to the Lions for a draft pick and Vernon to the Browns for right guard Kevin Zeitler.
Jenkins, although still on the roster, probably won’t finish out his contract, not if young cornerback Sam Beal shakes off the injury bug and justifies his draft pedigree by the end of this year.
The Giants also dished out big money contracts to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and receiver Odell Beckham Jr, two homegrown talents who were traded after one year into their respective new deals
How Gettleman Fixed the Problem
The Giants brass’ struggle to use the word “rebuild” isn’t quite as charming as actor Henry Winkler's (Fonzie, of Happy Days fame) performance when having to admit when he was wrong.
While it’s understandable that uttering the word “rebuilding” isn’t necessarily good from a marketing perspective, that is where the Giants are right now.
The dead money they’ve accumulated since Gettleman started renovating the roster in 2018—$80,857,971 and counting—is the most concrete evidence to support that statement.
They have jettisoned the high-priced players, some of whom were standing in the way of younger talent deemed ready for their close-up, one such example being Dalvin Tomlinson for Harrison.
The thinking was that they went 8-24 from 2017-18 with those big-money players on the roster, if they were going to struggle, they might as well do so and endure the growing pains that come with breaking in the new talent deemed a better fit for the coaching staff.
That’s a big reason why at quarterback, the Giants put aside any sentimental feelings they have toward Eli Manning and turned to Daniel Jones.
Whether Jones was fully ready isn’t so much as the point as is that his ’ skillset appears to be a better fit for what head coach Pat Shurmur is believed to want to run on offense.
(Side note: For those wondering why the Giants didn’t dump Manning’s $23.2 million cap figure, they had to carry it because, at the time when his $5 million roster bonus was due, the Giants had no guarantees of getting their next franchise quarterback.)
Also, with the Giants’ cap-clearing process now in its second season and one that has generated $36.96 million on dead cap space (currently the third-most in the league, per Spotrac), the Giants are setting themselves up for a healthy cap situation starting next year regardless of what happens with the next CBA.
While the 2020 league-wide cap figure hasn’t been set—Over the Cap estimates it to be $200 million—the Giants will be in their best cap shape since 2016, with $65,099,718 of projected space available as of this writing.
Unlike 2016 when the Giants had to go on a massive spending spree to fill numerous holes, moving forward, the Giants, thanks to two solid draft classes, don’t have to go down that road.
Gettleman’s drafts have brought in key young players on the offensive line (Will Hernandez), quarterback (Jones), running back (Saquon Barkley), receiver (Darius Slayton), defensive line (BJ Hill and Dexter Lawrence), defensive backs (DeAndre Baker, Julian Love, Corey Ballentine), inside linebacker (Ryan Connelly) and edge rusher (Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines).
He also added to that group by acquiring young veterans like safety Jabrill Peppers and guard Kevin Zeitler to join select Reese era holdovers like receiver Sterling Shepard (whom Gettleman extended ) and tight end Evan Engram.
All of that has given New York a very stable nucleus on which to build while also allowing them enough money to re-sign additional members of the roster they might deem as being crucial for the future, such as kicker Aldrick Rosas and pass rusher Markus Golden.
The Giants will also have money if they decide to upgrade even further at the premium positions like tackle or edge rusher, yet will still have enough projected salary cap space to where if the next CBA allows for the carryover of funds as the current one does, they should be able to afford the second contracts of Barkley and Jones and still have enough to get them through the year.
Although the jury is still out on Gettleman’s plan--at the end of the day, wins and losses is what matters most--it’s important to have patience.
The Giants, whose average team age this year is 25.79 according to Spotrac, have turned over the soil and pretty much started from scratch.
The hope is that when these younger players all take root and become firmly established in their NFL roles, the team will be one that is once again fun to watch.
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