By Michael Stewart/@golferbad
Introduction: The New York Giants finished the 2019-20 season with a 4-12 record and the 4th overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. The Giants currently have a total of seven picks as they await what possible compensation picks they might receive; which could be two additional picks (a 3rd and a 7th) giving them possibly a total of nine. Aside from the draft, GM Dave Gettleman will have possibly $85M in cap space after more cuts/releases.
Now I believe Gettleman and the Giants should look to invest in some free agent signings, but I don’t think he should break the bank and overspend on certain free agents available and keep in mind that it would be beneficial for him to have ample cap space for the next couple of seasons as players currently in their rookie contracts will be eligible for new deals. So with this in mind, let’s take a look at possible unrestricted free agent targets within and outside the organization the Giants could be interested in for 2020.
Offensive Linemen: Nate Solder performance has been in decline since he signed his 4-year deal with the Giants and unless they find a suitable trading partner, Solder could remain at LT for at less another season or become a cap casualty in the offseason. The Giants other tackle Mike Remmers will be a UFA and it’s highly unlikely the Giants plan to bring him back.
Gettleman is set at the guard position with Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler as the starters but could use more depth. At the center position, Jon Halapio struggled in 2019 and once again suffered an injury in the last game, so his future as a Giant is questionable. Spencer Pulley could be a casualty cut, so Gettleman might want to upgrade there as well and not bring back Halapio in 2020. Here’s a look at a few offensive linemen that could interest the Giants in free agency.
- Daryl Williams/Carolina Panthers (Right Tackle/6M): Gettleman had Williams on his radar last off season before Williams re-signed with the Panthers at a bargain ($6M). Expect that amount to go up a bit, especially if Williams can stay healthy and produce the way he did in 2017. Williams can play both tackle positions effectively.
- Jack Conklin/Tennessee Titans (Right Tackle/$4M): Conklin made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2016, but has seen a decline in his production due to injuries. The Titans declined to pick up this fifth year option; which would have paid him $12.8M. Conklin has a pass/blocking rating over the past three seasons (2016/2017/2018) are 80%/86%/82%. Although he has seen his sacks surrendered go from 4 in his 1st thirty-two games to 4 over his last 9 games. Health seems to be the main concerns for Conklin in 2019, however; if he can stay healthy and finish the season on a strong note, he could be an option for the Giants.
- Connor McGovern (Center/$630K): McGovern is 26 years old and had a solid season for the Broncos and a PFF rating of 71.9. Perhaps the Giants could offer a 4 year deal at $32M-40M ($8M-$10M per year).
Offensive skilled positions: The Giants need to address the tight end and more importantly the wide receiver positions in the off season. They have high hopes for rookie wide-out Darius Slayton who has established himself as a reliable and deep threat receiver for the Giants. They also have practice squad candidates Reggie White Jr. and David Sills waiting in the wings and could get a fair shot to make the team in 2020.
The Giants should have concerns about the health of Sterling Shepard (two concussions) and also tight end Evan Engram has been injured each of his NFL seasons. Also, it’s unclear if Corey Coleman will be in the Giants plans in 2020. Gettleman could utilize free agency and/or the draft for both positions. This year’s draft is very deep at the wide receiver position, but the same can’t be said at tight end. There is some value in free agency at both positions that could interest the Giants.
- Austin Hooper/Atlanta Falcons (Tight End/$803K): Hooper made the Pro Bowl in 2018 and had another a solid 2019 season with 75 receptions for 787 yards and six touchdowns this season and made the Pro Bowl again. Hooper is more advanced in the passing game and is considered an average blocker; however; if the Giants are leaning on trading Evan Engram; perhaps Hooper would be a solid replacement through free agency along with drafting a tight end on Day 3. However; it could cost them around $8-9M per year. Might be too rich for the Giants.
- Lance Kendricks/Los Angeles Chargers (Tight End-$930K): Kendricks plays behind All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce and has seen limited action and important minutes. Playing in the shadows sometimes lowers your value and that is what’s happened with Kendrick. Given the opportunity; Kendrick could prosper under offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and along with Kaden Smith could be utilized the same way Jason Witten/Blake Jarwin were handled in Dallas. The cost on Kendrick seems to be around $1.5-2M per year and at that price, it might be worth it for the Giants.
- DeMarcus Robinson/Kansas City Chiefs (Wide Receiver-$715K): Robinson could be an option for the Giants as a depth contributor if the Giants decide to move on from players like Cody Latimer. Robinson has seen limited action for the Chiefs, but is a reliable receiver with deep threat ability.
- Breshad Perriman /Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Wide Receiver -$720K): Perriman is a big-bodied receiver with elite speed that can stretch the field. Perriman’s bounce-back season in Tampa will attract a number of teams looking for his services; perhaps one to those teams could be the Giants.
- Cody Latimer/New York Giants (Wide Receiver-$925K) Latimer could return in 2020 for the Giants as he has given them solid production in limited action. The fact that Latimer already knows the playbook and is inexpensive are two good reasons he could return.
Inside & Outside Linebacker positions: The Giants have moved on from Alec Ogletree since his production had slipped since being acquired a couple of years back. 2019 draft pick Ryan Connelly impressed the Giants staff before his season-ending injury, so expect him to return and ready to compete for one of the two ILB positions in 2020.
Other notable ILB that the Giants like are, David Mayo and Josiah Tauaefa, however; they are more suitable for backup roles. On the outside, the Giant have two young linebackers in Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines who are projected to anchor the OLB positions for the next decade. The Giants are also high on Nate Harvey (IR) who was a UDFA out of East Carolina. However; if Gettleman believes he can improve the OLB position and wants an impact ILB/ OLB now, he could find one in free agency and certainly in the draft.
- Blake Martinez/Green Bay Packers (ILB-$680K): Martinez is a tackling machine registering 144 tackles in 2017/2018 & should easily eclipse that total in 2019. Martinez will be sort after by a number of teams, so he should receive a substantial raise ($16M per); which could be well beyond the Giants budget.
- Joe Schobert/Cleveland Browns (ILB-$744K): Schobert adds tremendous value for the Giants at the inside linebacker spot. Schobert can play either in a 4-3 or a 3-4 alignment. Spotrac has a value on Schobert at $10-12M per.
- Bud Dupree/Pittsburgh Steelers (OLB-$2.4M): Dupree could be an option if the Giants miss out on Chase Young and/or Markus Golden departs for more money. Dupree can disrupt and make plays behind the line of scrimmage with 12 sacks this season. The price tag for Dupree will be the deciding factor.
- Kyle Van Noy/New England Patriots (Edge/OLB-$5.9M): The Giants need for an outside edge rusher is evident and with new Head Coach Joe Judge on board, perhaps signing a familiar face like Van Noy makes sense. However; the price tag will be the decided factor.
Defensive Ends/Edge Rushers
- Leonard Williams/New York Giants (DE/$4.650M): The Giants traded for DE Leonard Williams from the Jets will cost the Giants a 3rd round (2020 draft) and possibly a 4th round (2021 draft), if Gettleman re-signs William. If so, how much is Gettleman willing to invest in Williams? Williams has hinted he’s looking for a big contract, although his performance doesn’t justify that (0.5 sacks with the Giants). Spotrac estimates that William’s current value would be $8.2M per year, but many believe it could go as high as $14M. Could the Giants offer to commit to Williams long term? The decision on Williams could directly impact the Giants free agent plans.
- Markus Golden/New York Giants (DE/OLB/$3.75M): The Giants could keep one of their current players in Markus Golden as he has done well on his one year deal with the Giants and has shown the ability to get to the quarterback (10 sacks). The Giants depth at linebacker is not as deep as they would like it to be and if both sides can find an acceptable number; I think Golden could return on a 3 year deal at roughly $10M per as many of the elite pas rusher will not be available.
- Arik Armstead/San Francisco 49ers (DE/$2,460M): If Gettleman decides to move from Leonard Williams in favor of Armstead, I don’t think many Giant fans would mind; although it will likely cost him more in years and dollars. Armstead currently has seven sacks and should reach double digits by the end of the season. Aside from being a solid pass rusher, Armstead is also solid against the run and despite playing in a 4-3 defensive scheme; he could produce in a 3-4 scheme as well. However; Armstead could demand upwards of $17M per year; which eliminate the Giants.
- Benson Mayowa/Oakland Raiders (DE/$1.7M): Mayowa had a solid season for the Raiders and should have a number of teams interested in his services if he decides to move on from Oakland. Mayowa is explosive off the edge and also does well against the run. Mayowa could demand somewhere between $13-15M per year.
Cornerbacks & Safeties: In the 2019 draft, GM Dave Gettleman loaded up the board with three cornerback selections & also one in the supplemental draft (Sam Beal). Gettleman could certainly draft another cornerback in this year’s draft as we should see an abundance taken in all 7 rounds. With no experience at the corner position, it would make sense to bring in a reliable corner to help the young core of corners currently on the roster.
Gettleman can also take a look at free agency as well. At the safety position, Antoine Bethea has not worked out as well as anticipated, so I expect the Giants to release him and move on. A couple of in house are Julian Love, Michael Thomas (if re-signed) and possibly Mark McLaurin. I still see the Giants investing in a draft pick for a safety and there are a handful of good ones in this draft. Lastly; Gettleman could look at the free agent market for a serviceable/affordable option at the safety position.
- Kendall Fuller/Kansas City Chiefs (CB-$780K): The Giants invested at the cornerback position through the draft/supplemental draft over the last two seasons with four prospects. However; with Janoris Jenkins being cut, it’s unclear if the Giants are comfortable with their young corners taking on larger roles. Fuller can provide some experience at the CB position and is still relatively young at 25 to help with the development of the other corners on the roster. Fuller has a nose for the ball and is a sound tackler.
- Darqueze Dennard/Cincinnati Bengals (Cornerback-$4.5M): Giants had more issues in slot coverage than on the outside as Grant Haley and then Cory Ballentine struggled in 2019. Ballantine is more suited to play on the outside, so it make sense to find a corner who will an upgrade in the slot. Dennard can be a short term solution for the Giants as the young core of corners keep developing. The Giants would also be wise to invest in a slot corner in the draft as well. Dennard on a one year deal at $4M.
- Justin Simmons/Denver Broncos (Safety- $768K): Simmons could be an option for the Giants at the safety position to play alongside Jabrill Peppers. Simmons has good size and he a ball hawk, who can excel in the Giants defensive system. Any interest in Simmons depends upon if Gettleman has confidence in any of his own safeties currently on the roster.
- Michael Thomas/New York Giants (Safety-$2M): Thomas is another current Giant that could return only if the Giants can re-sign him at a reasonable rate. Thomas has been a solid performer for the Giants not only at safety and special teams; but also in the locker room where his experience can help the younger defensive backs currently on the roster.
Final Thoughts: The Giants have other notable free agents/players on their roster that Gettleman would need to make decisions such as: centers Jon Halapio and linebacker David Mayo, Wide Receivers Corey Coleman, Russell Shepard, and Cody Core, and CB Antonio Hamilton. Most of these players are expendable and will be replaced with either younger players who will be less expensive. With a high cap space available for GM Dave Gettleman and possibly having at least nine picks (after compensation) for the 2020 draft; Gettleman should have plenty of ammo to get the Giants back on track.
I believe the Giants main priority should be the offensive line and then addressing the defensive front 7; most notably defensive ends and/or linebackers. Free agency will be Gettleman’s first opportunity and then followed by the draft. Hopefully, after the dust clears, Giants will have a revamped roster that could be good enough to earn a playoff spot in 2020 and in years to come.