When the 2020 season ended, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman knew he had his work cut out as far as taking a competitive yet underachieving roster and adding enough to it to help second-year head coach Joe Judge steer the team into the playoffs.
Only time will tell if the over $200 million Gettleman approved for more than a dozen free agents will pay off. Still, even though championships aren’t won in the off-season, the Giants brass—Gettleman and assistant general manager Kevin Abrams, who joined the video call with reporters—feel good about the direction the club is headed.
“We feel like we got three or four, really – have to count [DL] Leonard [Williams], spent money on him – we got four high-dollar guys at very good value for their positions, for the whole nine yards,” Gettleman said. “We feel very good about what we’ve done.”
To get to this point, the Giants broke with some more conservative practices of the past, such as staying away from players coming off injury. They went all-in on three players—cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, tight end Kyle Rudolph and receiver Kenny Golladay—who missed part of the 2020 season due to medical issues.
Gettleman said the chance to host players during free agency, which they couldn’t do last year, went a long way toward alleviating any concerns about those players.
“We had them in here and it was an old school free agency,” Gettleman said. “We got to talk, a chance to visit with them, they went out to dinner with various people in the organization, they were here a couple of nights, and our doctors were able to put their hands on them. [Head Athletic Trainer] Ronnie [Barnes] and Head Team Physician] Doctor [Scott] Rodeo felt very comfortable with us moving with the signing of those three guys.”
At the end of the day, the Giants brass feels good about the direction the roster is headed, but they also realize that it’s only April, and there are still games to be played.
“It’s not going to be quantified until the fall and we start playing in September. But we feel very good about what we’ve done, we feel very good about the direction the team is taking with getting Kenny signed and Kyle Rudolph and Devontae Booker and Adoree' Jackson and Leo,” Gettleman said.
“We feel really great about that and we really feel we’re building a solid football team that the fans can be proud of.”
Here are a few other takeaways from the joint video call with Gettleman and Abrams.
Booker Set to Assume a Big Role on Offense
The Giants remain hopeful that running back Saquon Barkley, currently rehabbing from a torn ACL, will be as good as new come September. Still, even if that’s the case, it’s probably unrealistic to expect the coaching staff to throw Barkley into his old role of taking most of the team’s snaps on every down.
That’s where running back Devontae Booker comes in. Booker was signed to a two-year deal, and Gettleman believes the veteran can be an every-down back.
“One of the things that made Devontae so attractive was the fact that we felt he was a legitimate three-down running back,” Gettleman said. “It’s always a group decision here, everything’s in the best interest of the Giants, so obviously he can be a good part of our solution at running back.”
It’s early, but don’t be surprised if, in their attempt to ease Barkley back into the fold, Booker takes on a number of the third-down plays for the offense.
Why the Giants Didn’t Revise the Kyle Rudolph Contract
Gettleman and Abrams were asked why the team didn’t adjust their contract offer to tight end Kyle Rudolph, who, during his physical, was found to have a foot issue that required surgery.
“Well, once he went through all the medical evaluations, we didn't feel like it was necessary,” Abrams said.
“And we are the Giants,” Gettleman added. “We’re going to do everything with class. We had an agreement, (Vice President of Medical Services) Ronnie (Barnes) signed off on it, and (team physician Doctor Scott) Rodeo signed off on it, so we were fine.”
More Focus to Come on Adding to the Offense?
The Giants added playmakers to the offense in what’s quarterback Daniel Jones’ critical third season, and Gettleman didn’t rule out adding more resources to that side of the ball.
“I’ve always believed that you draft the guy that you feel is going to be your franchise quarterback, the first thing you’ve got to do is get people around him to keep him upright, and then you’ve got to get him playmakers,” Gettleman said. “You help him by doing a variety of things. As I’ve said before: offense scores points, defense wins championships.
The point is every move you make is obviously to help each side of the ball, and again special teams are critical as well. So, everything is made with a broad view of how we’re going to put the finishing touches on this and make it right.”
Gettleman Likes the Giants Pass Rush
There were reports that the Giants tried to woo defensive end Leonard Floyd during free agency only to lose him when he re-signed with the Rams. So what does that mean for the Giants' pass rush?
“Listen, [LB] Lorenzo [Carter] and [LB Oshane Ximines] are rehabbing, they’re coming along well, I feel good about those two guys. You feel good about [LB] Cam Brown getting better, [LB] Carter Coughlin’s going to be better,” Gettleman said.
“You’re always looking to get better. Like I said, you can never have too many good players at one position, so you’re always going to look to improve. Those guys, I wish that Lorenzo and X had been able to play the whole season last year, but you know what, they couldn’t, so we filled in with some guys and did the best we could. We’re going to do better.”
Gettleman, in particular, was asked about Ifeadi Odenigbo, a young pass rusher signed from the Vikings.
“Believe it or not, he’s got some inside pass rush to him,” he said. “He’s got some inside, sub pass rush to him. He’ll play outside and he’ll also do some sub, inside sub pass rush stuff.”
Free-Agent Visits Were Mutual
Much was made of the Giants hosting free-agent receiver Kenny Golladay and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson before engaging in contract talks, and with good reason. There were reports that each of those players’ tenures with their previous teams didn’t end well, and it was thought the Giants were doing due diligence by putting each player through a Q&A.
Gettleman and Abrams shared a different view.
“Well, you bring him in because you want to get a physical on him. That was the biggest reason, get a physical on him,” Gettleman said. “But it was nice for a change to get to know a guy and have that opportunity to do that. Like I said, it was like the old days. The biggest reason was the physical.”
“It wasn’t just our decision,” Abrams added. “The players wanted to come in as well. Both parties wanted to have the visit.”
Gettleman Sad to Lose Dalvin Tomlinson
Gettleman has nothing but respect for former defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, who signed a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings, and expressed regret over being unable to retain the former defensive captain.
“Dalvin is a wonderful young man, and he was a captain, so obviously there’s regret,” Gettleman said. “At the end of the day, you only have so much money, and you’ve got to make decisions; that’s just the way it is.
“We’ll miss Dalvin and I’m thrilled that he got what he wanted. Sure it’s hard, but unfortunately because of what happened you have to make decisions.”
The decision thought to be the one that cost the Giants Tomlinson was re-signing Leonard Williams, on whom the Giants had to use the franchise tag to keep other teams from negotiating with him. Of retaining Williams, Gettleman has no regrets.
“Well, maybe 11.5 sacks—maybe that was part of it,” he said when asked why he chose to emphasize Williams over Tomlinson. “You know, he’s very versatile, he’s a legitimate inside pass rusher and he really blossomed. He loves being here and we love having him, so that was part of the decision.”