By Michael Stewart/@golferbad
Introduction: The New York Giants are entering a well-needed bye week before they head to Chicago to face the Bears on November 24th. Currently; the Giants are 2-8 and treading towards a top 5 pick in the upcoming 2020 NFL draft. After reviewing the Giants current roster and contracts; I wanted to re-evaluate what would be needed to fix this team before the start of the 2020 season.
The Giants currently have seven picks as they await what possible compensation picks they might receive; which could be two additional picks (a 3rd and a 7th). Aside from the draft, GM Dave Gettleman will have $56.7M in cap space to start with. However; if you add in possible cuts and/or trades of notable players such as: Janoris Jenkins ($11.25M) Alec Ogletree ($8.25M) Rhett Ellison ($5.M), Kareem Martin ($4.8M) and Antoine Bethea ($2.75M). This would give them an additional $32M in cap space making the total to possibly be $88.7M before factoring in a possible increase in cap space; which could raise the total to close to $100M and dead money hit of $9.5M (total for 2020 $10.5M).
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. 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 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 and Spencer Pulley are suitable linemen, but perhaps Gettleman might want to upgrade there as well. 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 offseason 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 concern 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.
- Rodney Hudson/Oakland Raiders (Center/$8.25M): Hudson is 31 years old and is still grades in the top tier among centers based on the PFF rating system; especially in pass blocking. Perhaps the Giants could offer a two-year deal at $16M with incentives (Pro Bowl selection/PFF rating over 80) and then possibly draft a young center in the upcoming draft.
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) as they have decided to shut him down for this season. 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 is having a solid 2019 season with 52 receptions for 591 yards and 5 touchdowns after nine games this season and could get another Pro Bowl invite. 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.
- Tyler Higbee/Los Angeles Rams (Tight End/$2.025M): Higbee gets lost often times in the Ram’s offense and is usually a 3rd or 4th option in the passing game. However; at 27 years old, Higbee could be a bargain for a team willing to invest in his services and include him into the offense. Higbee is regarded as an excellent blocker with reliable hands to move the chains.
- 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, Bennie Fowler. Robinson has seen limited action for the Chiefs, but is a reliable receiver with deep threat ability.
- Tajae Sharpe/Tennessee Titans (Wide Receiver-$654K) Sharpe has good size and speed and can provide solid contribution as a possible 3rd option among the wide receivers. Sharpe grew up in New Jersey and this would be a homecoming for him if the Giants have interest.
Inside & Outside Linebacker positions: The Giants could be moving on from Alec Ogletree as his production has slipped since being acquired a couple of years back. Not sure if the Giants will be able to trade Ogletree in the offseason or just release him. 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 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 receive a substantial raise, but well within the Giants budget.
- Jamie Collins/New England Patriots (OLB-$2M): Collins finished with 10 sacks in 2019 for the Patriots and could be in line for a big contract. The Patriots by all indications intend to bring him back, however; if Collins is seeking a contract too rich for New England, then expect Collins to explore other options. The Giants could be interested if Collins is a better option than what the Giants already have and if his demands are reasonable.
- Deone Bucannon/New York Giants (ILB): The Giants could make the free agency process very easy this offseason by re-signing Bucannon, along with Golden and Williams. Bucannon is a hybrid linebacker, able to play inside or outside and will have the 2nd half of the season to convince Gettleman to bring him back.
Defensive Ends/Edge Rushers
- Leonard Williams/New York Giants (DE/$4.650M): The Giants trade for DE Leonard Williams from the Jets will cost the Giants a 3rd round (2020 draft) and more than likely a 4th round (2021 draft), because I believe Gettleman has full intention of re-signing William. If so, would this change the Giants decision of re-signing Markus Golden? Or could Gettleman bring both players back for 2020?
- 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). If both sides could agree on a fair deal, the Giants should look to re-sign him to at least a 3 year deal. The development of rookie Oshane Ximines could decide if Golden returns.
- 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.
- Yannick Ngakoue/Jacksonville Jaguars (DE/$870K): Ngakoue is only 24 years old and is emerging as a lethal weapon on the edge. Jacksonville will do everything in their power to bring Ngakoue back, but he will have other options.
- Benson Mayowa/Oakland Raiders (DE/$1.7M): Mayowa having a solid season for the Raiders with seven sacks thus far 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.
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). These moves are no doubt the expectations that CB Janoris Jenkins will likely be traded or released. Gettleman could certainly draft another cornerback in this year’s draft as we should see an abundance taken in all 7 rounds.
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 expected to be released, 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 has a nose for the ball.
- 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, but also on special teams.
Final Thoughts: 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. Lastly; speculations have been swirling regarding the fate of not only Head Coach Pat Shurmur, but also Dave Gettleman’s job status for 2020. Historically; the Giants ownership has shown patience with their personnel over the years and with multiple years remaining on both Head Coach Pat Shurmur and General Manager Dave Gettleman’s contract; expect to see both still with the club at least in 2020. Part 2 will follow once free agency starts in the off season and if adjustments need to be made.