Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has a big job ahead of him that’s certain to be filled with many sleepless nights. The most significant cause of angst is the uncertainty regarding the salary cap and how much he will have to spend.
Solving some of their needs via free agency could depend on negotiations with some of their own free agents. Will, for example, they be able to lock up Leonard Williams to a multi-year deal that carries a lower first-year cap number, or will they have to devote an estimated $19 million to the franchise tag?
Will they have room to re-sign Dalvin Tomlinson, or have they already decided to let another young defensive interior lineman walk away as they’ve historically done with guys like Cornelius Griffin, Linval Joseph, and Johnathan Hankins?
Many questions and no clarity could make for a precarious time for an NFL general manager. How might it play out? Here is a look at one very early blueprint.
There’s no denying that a playmaking wide receiver has to be among the Giants top needs this off-season if not the top need.
Besides the fact that none of the Giants’ top-3 receivers this past season scored more than three touchdowns and none averaged more than 3.1 yards after the catch, a more significant and looming reason for the Giants to upgrade at this spot is they will soon have to decide on quarterback Daniel Jones.
It’s not fair to make that decision without surrounding him with the very best possible supporting cast a general manager can put together.
Free Agent Option: In keeping with what the Giants did last year in free agency—they invested in younger veterans who displayed a steady stream of production, Carolina’s Curtis Samuel, yet another player whom Giants general manager Dave Gettleman drafted in Carolina, might warrant some serious consideration.
Samuel’s yardage production has increased every year since he was drafted in the second round in 2017 out of Ohio State. While not a tall target—he stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 195 pounds—the Brooklyn, New York native can also rush with the ball, something the Giants coaching staff likes to deploy with the receivers. Samuel has 478 yards on 72 rushing attempts and five touchdowns to go along with 185 receptions (out of 293 pass targets) for 2,087 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Best of all, Samuel likely wouldn’t break the bank in the same way Allen Robinson of the Bears or Juju Smith-Schuster of the Steelers would. Spotrac projects a modest annual market value of $11.9 million per year for Samuel based on a 4-year, $47.929 million contract, putting him in the same neighborhood as Houston’s Brandin Cooks, the Rams’ Cooper Kupp, Cleveland’s Jarvis Landry, and Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs.
Draft Option: Jaylen Waddle? Devonta Freeman? Lamar Chase? One of those three could realistically fall to the Giants at No. 11, and here’s why.
Figure Jacksonville (No. 1), Atlanta (No. 4), and Carolina (No. 8) are drafting quarterbacks. Denver (No. 9) will probably look for an edge rusher if a parting of the ways with edge rusher Von Miller is imminent.
The Jets (No. 2) will probably go receiver if they are committed to staying with Sam Darnold as their quarterback. Miami (No. 3) could use a stud offensive tackle; the Bengals (No. 5) will probably want a receiver while the Eagles (No. 6), Lions (No. 7), and Cowboys (No. 10) need defensive help more than anything.
In this very early scenario, one of the big three receivers could be there for the Giants. And if that guy is Waddle from Alabama, it would be pretty hard for the Giants to pass on on drafting him unless concers about his medical pop up.
Which Way to Go? Both—that’s how badly the Giants need playmakers on the offense. While it’s okay to be optimistic about Saquon Barkley returning to form from a torn ACL, that’s not a lock, so the last thing you want to do as a general manager is put all your eggs in one basket. Get multiple playmakers and finally give opposing defenses something to worry about when they face the Giants.
There’s little doubt that the Giants need a boost to their pass rush, especially with both Lorenzo Carter (Achilles) and Oshane Ximines (shoulder) coming back from season-ending surgeries.
The Giants last year rolled the dice on Kyler Fackrell, who had once recorded double-digit sacks with the Packers with current Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham as his position coach at the time.
Speaking of Graham, kudos to him for actually being one of those defensive coordinators who could generate a respectable enough pass rush through the scheme.
The Giants’ 40 sacks tied with the Colts for 12th most in the league—again, not bad considering the injuries the Giants had at outside linebacker combined with the lack of a stud pass rusher.
Graham worked hard to make that happen, so finding him a pass rusher to make his life a little easier should be right up there among this team's top off-season needs.
Free Agent Option: Fackrell was productive, but unlike Markus Golden the year prior, he didn’t reach double-digit sacks. But a free-agent-to-be who did reach double-digit sacks, five of those coming against the Giants no less, is Cardinals outside linebacker Haason Reddick. Reddick finished his season with a career-best 12.5 sacks to go along with 15 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits in what amounts to a breakout season.
Draft Option: If you’re looking for the next Chase Young in this draft, you’re not going to find him. It’s been said that this group of edge rushers isn’t a solid class, as you can point to every single member in the class having at least one deficiency.
Tulsa’s outside linebacker Zaven Collins is about as complete a prospect as you’ll find in this year’s draft class. Collins’ skillset makes him an ideal fit for the multiple fronts the Giants like to run. A high school safety, Collins can rush the passer, play downhill, drop into coverage, and function in space.
The Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner (Young, by the way, won the award last year) paired with a healthy Lorenzo Carter would give the Giants a solid set of edge rushers under the age of 25 who have shown an ability to get to the quarterback.
Collins, a junior, racked up 236 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 5 interceptions (2 returned for touchdowns), and eight passes defensed in three seasons for the Golden Hurricanes. That’s a lot of playmaking ability right there that’s hard to ignore.
Which Way to Go? Draft. Most of the consistent producing pass rushers will likely be tagged, and those who aren’t, well, unless there is a history of production to justify spending a ton of money in a limited cap year, teams would be best served going with youth.
As previously noted, the Giants will probably have to franchise tag Williams barring a new long-term extension reached before the start of the new league year. It would be hard to envision them splurging big money on another veteran free agent at that position with so many other needs to address.
Cornerback No. 2:
The Giants went through something of a revolving door trying to find a complementary cornerback to shine the opposite of James Bradberry.
They started with Isaac Yiadom, acquired in a trade with Denver before moving on to Ryan Lewis until he got hurt. They then went back to Yiadom, who played well so long as he wasn’t asked to do too much in a zone scheme, never a strength of his. They then finished up the year with Julian Love returning to his natural position, with Love calming things down.
There’s certainly a possibility that the Giants might leave Love at cornerback to solve the No. 2 spot for 2021, a move that could make sense if safeties Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, and Xavier McKinney are all healthy (the Giants could supplement that group by adding a draft pick for depth).
They will also presumably have Sam Beal back after he opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns, though it’s too soon to say if Beal will want to resume playing football since the virus isn’t going away.
Could Love be the answer the Giants have been looking for all along? Perhaps, but if not, here are some other options.
Free Agency: If Love isn’t the answer, perhaps Seattle free agent Shaquille Griffin might be. Only 25 years old, Griffin and a still-young James Bradberry would give the Giants cornerback some experienced and quality veteran depth, allowing the Giants to add younger pieces via the draft that they can get ready for down the line.
Draft: Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley is a 6-foot-2, 207-pound prospect who became the first high-profiled college player to opt-out of the season due to COVID-19 virus after having some concerns with the health and safety protocols that had been in place at the school.
Farley, who lost his mother to breast cancer in 2018, did not want to put the rest of his family at risk. When he gets to the NFL, however, the risk will still be there, though the NFL has more stringent protocols in place that, if followed, should keep the players and their families safe.
In two seasons for the Hokies, Farley appeared in 23 games and recorded 56 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, six interceptions (1 returned for a touchdown), and 19 passes defensed.
As a perimeter corner, Farley is at his best in schemes calling for man and press coverage, while his one coverage abilities are still a work in progress as he’s still relatively new to the position. The traits, though, are there for him to be successful—he would need the reps to gain a comfort level.
Which Way to Go? Draft. Honestly, with the return of Bradberry at the first cornerback spot and the safety trio of Ryan, McKinney, and Peppers (probably the second most solid position unit on the Giants), the Giants can probably get away with having Love at the second cornerback.
That’s not to say they shouldn’t draft a player to provide competition, but of the three top needs, corner might very well have slipped to the bottom of the list given Love’s play at cornerback in the closing games of the 2020 season.
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