The Giants made moves yesterday that got the blood flowing to all the right places. I would not be upset if I woke up tomorrow and it was the Giants 2016 opener, which will inevitably be a SNF game in Dallas. With a now beefy and intimidating defensive line that has a ton of personality–Snacks Harrison, Hank, Frenchy* and Three-Finger Jason–the Giants 2016 roster now has a nice luster to it.
Despite my perpetual (and unfounded) confidence in the Giants, I am not yet ready to crown them Super Bowl favorites. I’ve certainly tried to call the guys at the Quest Diagnostic Center–as well as the proper authorities in NYC–about the next February’s Super Bowl parade plans, but that seems a bit premature. Instead, let’s check the positions the Giants need to fill and players they may target.
Linebacker: Shout out to all Giant fans everywhere with an opinion and a voice. This position gets asked about on Twitter more than any other. In years past, you’ve seen the Giants dish out some cash for guys like J.T. Thomas and Jonathan Casillas, trade late picks for Keith Rivers and sign Chase Blackburn away from a middle school teaching position. Not exactly an extravagant use of funds to get the proper men in the middle. Big Blue fans are well aware that the Giants true glory days were way back in the 80s, when Bill Belichick coached linebackers like Harry Carson, Carl Banks and Lawrence Taylor. To put it lightly, we would be better off putting pads on something LT excreted than what we currently have. Gross negligence towards the linebacker position has left a void their that any opposing tight end cashes in on, and their certainly is a precedent in the NFL for great linebacker play on great defenses.
With nearly $30M left to spend this off-season, the Giants should target a veteran talent to anchor the middle of their defense. The last time Steve Spagnola coached a great Giants defense, Mathias Kiwanuka, Antonio Pierce and Kawika Mitchell played well for him at the position. As of the now, the Giants have no middle linebacker and it would be less than ideal to move someone like Devon Kennard to the middle, a spot where his athletic ability wouldn’t shine as bright. Names to watch today: Jerrell Freeman, Shea McClellin and Keenan Robinson, the last of which played significant snaps for Washington over the last two seasons.
Offensive Line: While the Giants have a trio of young and talented offensive linemen, they still need to sure up the guard and right tackle position. Marshall Newhouse is not someone to get excited about, and Bobby Hart still has yet to prove himself as a competent NFL player. With players like Bobby Massie and Mitchell Schwartz off the board, names to look at now are T Donald Penn and T Kelvin Beachum, both relatively good players. Massie, Schwartz and Joe Barksdale all took home per year dollars in the $6M range. Expect the Giants to look to spend a little less annually on whoever they pick up, while they use the draft to find a younger tackle to develop. The Giants previously made the mistake of allowing their offensive line to age while they wasted first round and second round picks on players like David Wilson and Marvin Austin. For now, a starting five of Flowers, Pugh, Richburg, Jerry and Newhouse is stable, but there is room for significant upgrades along the right side.
Side note: I know everyone, including myself, is waiting for the Giants to make a move at the safety position, which was a toilet bowl of talent last year outside of rookie Landon Collins, but I’m not sure we will see any moves in free agency. The Giants had the misfortune of placing several young safety’s who they liked on IR last season, and in the past Jerry Reese has been a fan of looking for his next “guy” on the roster I.E. Donnell, Cruz. So don’t be surprised if the Giants add Safety’s via the draft in lieu of spending more money in free agency (although, I will say adding a veteran *COUGH* ERIC WEDDLE *COUGH* entices me)
Wide Receiver: With Marvin Jones and Rishard Matthews getting snatched up within the last day, and Mohammad Sanu reportedly closing in on the Falcons, not much is left by the way of wide receivers. Jermaine Kearse is a guy who I could definitely give a decent fist pump for if we signed him, but I don’t think day two should be a continuation of the excess spending. Despite an atrocious and injury-riddled 2015 season, Brandon LaFell is someone who I personally would like to see brought in on a small deal. Although LaFell was a BEAST during the Patriots 2014 Super Bowl run, foot injuries + wide receivers are a season-ruining combo. This is a position that the Giants would likely address via the draft, as history would indicate they often value youth over experience I.E Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith. The Giants may end up taking a flier on someone like LaFell or Jeremy Kerley, possibly even a re-signing of Reuben Randle. The bottom line: Odell Beckham Jr. needs a Robin to his Batman, and we need someone more tangible to believe in than Victor Cruz.**
If the Giants can add depth at the aforementioned positions before the draft, consider this free agency period a success for the time being. We’ll get into the draft later on, but the Giants are in an enviable position and should add one to three more contributors during that process. All arrows are pointing up.
*The Olivier Vernon deal is an preposterous amount of money, but consider a few things:
- The market for “best-available” at the premium position rises every single year. Especially considering Vernon’s age and the production in his most recent season, we had to give him the blank check treatment.
- Peter King’s MMQB highlighted the specifics of the contract:Note the last two sentences: The Giants have front-loaded his contract, which coincides with a period I consider to be their window. They are trying to ensure that they do not run into dead money issues down the road, a far too common theme with mega-contracts. Credit the Giants front office for maneuvering this deal. Remember, the only important numbers in a contract are the guaranteed dollars and the dates when roster bonuses are due a la’ Peyton Manning in 2012 with Colts and Drew Brees this season with the Saints. Is it any coincidence they can free themselves of this contract around the time Odell Beckham needs to re-up?
** Shout out Victor Cruz for taking an INCREDIBLE pay cut to stay with this team. ON a day when money is being given out like it’s about to spoil, Cruz slashed his base salary to ensure he has a future with the Giants. I’ll hope and pray we get at least 70% of 2011-2012 80 next season.