Between the two of tight end Evan Engram and safety Jabrill Peppers, they’ve played one full season.
Neither has been voted to a Pro Bowl or selected as an All-Pro, and neither has been a part of a playoff team.
So why was the decision to exercise the options of both a good choice? Because rebuilding teams don’t throw away young talent that is part of the team’s foundation without a plan to replace them.
In looking ahead to next year, the Giants are projected to have six draft picks (they won't have their fifth-round pick as that will go to the Jets to complete the Leonard Williams trade). Unless they exercise a trade that nets them additional picks, the Giants picks will likely be slanted more to the gaping holes on the roster that exist by the end of the year.
Despite the rockiness in both players' careers, both the 25-year-old Engram, who will cost the Giants $6.013 million and the 24-year-old Peppers, who will come in at a $6.77 million price tag, are not only solid locker room presences, they’re productive players when on the field.
Last season, Engram, appearing in eight games, caught 44 passes, one less than the 45 he caught the year before when he appeared in 11 games and 20 fewer than his 15-game rookie season.
A foot injury cost him the end of the season, an injury for which he had surgery. Still, Engram, projected to be ready for training camp, is also expected to have a significant role in new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s tight-end heavy offense.
Peppers, acquired in the Odell Beckham Jr trade on March 13, 2019, has started all 40 games in which he has played. His career totals are 210 tackles (147 solo), three interceptions, 13 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and four recoveries.
Although he too saw his 2019 season cut short due to a fractured transverse process, Peppers is a solid young talent capable of playing multiple roles on the defensive and contributing on special teams.
While not much is known about the exact system defensive coordinator Patrick Graham plans to run, based on some of the personnel decisions made in the draft, it appears that the team will be fielding a good number of three-safety packages that are certain to include Peppers and draft pick Xavier McKinney as is core staples.
The Giants have historically exercised the fifth-year option, which is guaranteed for injury and then fully guaranteed the following March, of their first-round picks. Their only recent exception was offensive tackle Ereck Flowers, the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft that didn’t pan out for the team and hence was not worth the higher price he would have been assured since he was a top-10 draft pick in his class.
The Giants also traded cornerback Eli Apple to the Saints before a decision was due on his fifth-year option. The Saints did not exercise Apple’s option.
Then there is the other factor in how to replace them. Unlike this year, when the Giants had three extra draft picks as a result of trades, and comp picks from the league, next year, they won’t have that luxury unless they surprise everyone and make a trade that nets them some 2021 draft picks. Absent additional draft picks, that means they’d have to focus their allotment on their most pressing needs if the value aligns.