By Michael Stewart
Introduction: From day 1 the New York Giants GM Dave Gettleman was very adamant that fixing the offensive line would be priority one to rebuild the Giants team that went 3-13 in 2017. Now let’s add new HC Pat Shurmur into the mix who has basically the same game plan as Gettleman and that restoring the offensive line should be on the top of the list. Shurmur pointed out his past experience while with the Vikings how they ignored the offensive line a few seasons back and the team suffered through a disappointed season. To cure this, the Vikings opened up the vault and signed two veteran linemen (Reily Reiff and Mike Remmers) and then drafted center Pat Elflein in round 3 in the 2017 draft. These moves transformed the Vikings offensive line from a weak link to a major cog to the team’s success this season. As free agency approaches, the Giants added more caps space with the release of veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie; who reportedly wouldn’t agree to a pay cut.
It’s no secret that the Giants have some major decisions to make regarding free agency; especially their own in house offensive linemen Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh. All speculations points to the GM Dave Gettleman not re-signing Richburg and still considering the possibility of re-signing Pugh only at a hometown discount. The Giants have roughly $31 million in cap space and could increase this total by releasing players such as: Brandon Marshall ($5M), Dwayne Harris ($3.225M), John Jerry ($3.05M) and Ray-Ray Armstrong ($1M) and along with a few other casualties (Giants just released punter Brad Wing, adding $1.025M in cap space) put into the mix towards the cap and based on recent rumors, the Giants will need it. March 12th will be a defining date and moment for the Giants as that date allows teams to pursue unrestricted free agents around the league and the prize on top of that list for the Giants will be Guard Andrew Norwell.
Thus far, there are no indications that the Panthers intend to franchise tag Norwell and retain him or franchise tag him and then make a trade. If neither of these two options occurs, expect the Giants to have Norwell’s agent cell phone number on speed dial and expect a deal done within a day. Adding the 6’6/325 pound offensive linemen would immediately upgrade the Giants line. Signing Norwell will not be cheap; which is why additional cuts/releases will be essential for the Giants to provide enough cap space as Norwell could command a contract similar to Kevin Zeitler and higher than T.J Lang got last season. So projections to sign Norwell could be north of 5 years at $60 Million (approx $12M per year). Based on this and if the Giants could add additional cap space on top of the amount mentioned above; then signing Norwell will most likely be the most expensive free agent signing this offseason; which is why I have my doubts that the Giants can also bring back Pugh unless he is willing to take a huge hometown discount to remain with the Giants.
A couple of free agent offensive linemen I failed to mention are D. J Fluker and Brett Jones. The Giants would like to re-sign both based on reports out of Giant camp, however; Fluker has indicated that he plans to explore the FA market and will most likely find another suitor in 2018. If so, that leaves Brett Jones who did a great job in place of Richburg at center and it seems very likely that the Giants would offer Jones a respectable deal and not break the bank. So if Norwell is signed along with Jones, That leaves basically three spots vacant with the current candidates in Ereck Flowers and Dan Wheeler who saw the most action aside from the ones mentioned above as possible options. However; here’s the problem with this equation is that Flowers days at LT are over and Wheeler is strictly a RT. So both will battle for the RT position, assuming the Giants (Gettleman and Shurmur) give Flowers another chance. Also in this mix should be Adam Bisnowaty who has the makeup to be a solid RT in the NFL.
Final Thoughts: The addition of linebacker Alec Olgetree eats up $4.75M in cap space, so GM Dave Gettleman will need to be creative here and make some moves to add more to the kettle. So what’s missing? If you have read carefully you should have noticed that the Giants are missing a LT and another OG to complete the line. Well, that’s where the upcoming draft comes in and with basically a weak free agency for LT or perhaps over priced LT and OG on the market; it would make sense for the Giants to explore the draft to complete the offensive line. The Giants have several options to go in the draft; which are trading back in the 1st or even the 2nd round for additional picks or holding onto their picks and select the BPA (best player available) on the their board. Currently, the Giants have 5 picks in this year’s draft (after trading for Alec Ogletree) and I expect at least one of those picks to be an offensive lineman (LT presumably). I have my own perspective on what the Giants might or should do in this year and in the following weeks my mock draft will be out for review. I expect Gettleman to focus on the offensive line, the cornerback and linebacker position in free agency. Aside from Norwell, I don’t expect Gettleman to have spending spree as I believe Norwell will be his only high end signing. Whether it’s in house or outside the organization, look for the Giants to add at three positions (offensive lineman, cornerback and linebacker) and then fill out the rest of the roster through the draft and possibly UDFA signings. Until then, first things first for the Giants and that’s to sign Andrew Norwell.