Although we’re taught not to harp on the past, we can still wish we had a do-over.
The Giants have had their fair share of those over the last few seasons when it comes to their personnel, so in this article, we’ll take a look at seven players we wish the Giants brass had reconsidered in their handling of them.
Establishing continuity on the OL a lot sooner.
For all the Giants' faults when it came to personnel decisions, they devoted some premium draft capital to the offensive line before their big splurge last year.
They spent a first-round pick on Justin Pugh and a second-rounder on center Weston Richburg. They also picked up from the scrap heap another first-round pick in DJ Fluker. And they had a solid right tackle on the roster last year with whom they could have won: Mike Remmers.
But instead of keeping some of these guys to form a foundation, the offensive line turned into a revolving door. Pugh, Richburg, and Fluker each left the Giants after 2017, a year in which Eli Manning was sacked 31 times. That’s not a good statistic unless it’s compared to 2018 when Manning was sacked 47 times.
The offensive linemen might not have been household names when they were here, but each went on to thrive with a new team after leaving New York.
While Fluker hasn’t been the outstanding tackle that he was with the Chargers, he’s still put together some solid seasons in Seattle and Baltimore.
Pugh’s last two seasons in Arizona have been the best two years of his career as he's been a critical part of protecting quarterback Kyler Murray.
Mike Remmers has always been dependable, as was the case this season in Kansas City when he stepped in to help that offensive line.
And before Weston Richburg was injured in 2019, he was the starting center for a San Francisco team that wound up in the Super Bowl.
Given each of their experiences since then, it's fair to wonder what the Giants offensive line might have looked like had some of those guys gotten second contracts from the team.
LB Devon Kennard
After 2017, the Giants let linebacker Devon Kennard, a homegrown draft product, become a free agent. Kennard signed a contract with the Detroit Lions, and he flourished.
In two seasons with the Lions, he was their defensive captain and accumulated 14 sacks. He joined Arizona in 2020 after becoming a cap casualty last off-season, but some steep competition in the linebacking corps prevented him from playing a full season with the Cardinals.
The Giants' initial decision to part ways with Kennard may not have seemed like a bad idea when it originally happened, but one can't help but wonder if there is just the slightest bit of regret today.
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DE/OLB Olivier Vernon
On the surface, the decision to dump Olivier Vernon and his hefty contract made some sense given his injury issues. Still, in retrospect, it would have been nice to keep the one remaining guy who, after the Giants traded away Jason Pierre-Paul, was capable of producing a consistent pass rush.
Instead, the Giants traded him to Cleveland in the 2019 offseason (separate from the Odell Beckham trade). New York got guard Kevin Zeitler in return--not a horrible haul.
But until tearing his Achilles late last season, Vernon had finally started to come on for the Browns defense, teaming with Myles Garrett and Sheldon Richardson, making one wonder what he might have been able to do with the Giants with some upgraded talent around him.
OLB Markus Golden
Considering the Giants struggled to generate a pass rush that got home, it was a mystery as to why the coaching staff limited the snaps of OLB Markus Golden, the team's first-double-digit sack holder since Jason Pierre-Paul recorded 12.5 in 2014.
Yet Golden's snaps this year were about as rare as a golfer hitting a hole in one. After the Giants secured his services on the rarely used UFA tag, Golden only saw 175 snaps on defense for the Giants before being traded to the Cardinals (the team that originally drafted him) for a sixth-round draft pick.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul
At the time, trading veteran defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to the Bucs after the 2017 season made sense because while he was still a very good player, he never seemed to duplicate his dominant 2011 form.
But then he found new life with the Bucs, and over the last three seasons, he’s tallied 30.5 sacks, the best three-year total of his career. He also added a second Super Bowl ring to his collection a few weeks ago.
DE Romeo Okwara
Whether it was how they deployed him or another reason, the Giants coaching staff couldn't get the most out of defensive end Romeo Okwara, an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame.
In 22 games played with four starts as a Giant, Okwara recorded 28 total tackles, 1.0 sack, and two pass breakups.
The defender found new life as a member of the Lions. Okwara appeared in 45 games with 24 starts for Detroit and added five forced fumbles, 19.0 sacks, 111 total tackles, and 42 quarterback hits to his career totals.
While the Giants’ defense allowed the ninth-fewest points this season, imagine how much better they could have been with Pierre-Paul, Vernon, Golden, Okwara, and Kennard playing along with Leonard Williams, Blake Martinez, Jabrill Peppers, and James Bradberry. They would have given opponents fits.
I did consider including the Odell Beckham trade to Cleveland but ultimately decided against it. Yes, the Giants’ receiving corps has been severely depleted in his absence, but he’s had a hard time staying on the field the last few seasons, including 2020, when he suffered a torn ACL in week seven.
Additional input by Patricia Traina.
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