New York Giants: Time For a Fresh Start
The 2019 NFL season was an interesting one for the New York Giants. Ultimately they ended up finishing 4-12, but the path to getting there is worth more than a cursory discussion. After being steamrolled in their first two games of the season, Pat Shurmur made the decision to bench veteran quarterback Eli Manning and turn to rookie Daniel Jones. He was immediately rewarded, as Jones firstly engineered a spectacular comeback on the road to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, before beating fellow rookie Dwayne Haskins at home in his second start.
At 2-2 with Jones not looking a complete disaster in his first two starts there was suddenly hope for the Giants. However, a nine game losing streak snuffed out any hope of a fairy tale season. The only real positive of the final 12 weeks of the season was Manning getting one final victory for the side he won two Super Bowls with at home against the Miami Dolphins in Week 15. Now with Manning retired and Pat Shurmur fired, the Giants have a chance to build their franchise around the young QB/RB duo of Jones and Saquon Barkley with a new head coach in charge.
General Manager: Dave Gettleman
Head Coach: Joe Judge
If you are generous you would say that opinions on Gettleman are split at best. At worst you would say that he is mocked quite openly on most platforms for his old school thinking and the results of the Giants since he arrived as GM. Gettleman had reaonable success as GM of the Carolina Panthers, overseeing a 51-28 record in his five seasons. However, since arriving in New York the Giants record is 9-23, and many were surprised he kept his job this past offseason. To blame all of the problems on Gettleman would be a little unfair, but he has certainly done nothing to earn himself any credibility. With his young QB and RB in place Gettleman must now make serious strides this offseason towards getting the Giants back into the .500 realm or we will hear the same conversations about his job security next season.
The hiring of Judge by the Giants came somewhat out of the blue. After the Panthers swooped in and hired Matt Rhule from under the Giants nose, the hiring may seem something of a panic move. Judge has spent the last 11 season as a special teams assistant/coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide and the New England Patriots. However, when it became clear the level of trust he is afforded by Bill Belichick, and after a strong interview performance, the Giants did not hesitant to hire Judge following Rhule’s decision to sign in Carolina.
Cap Space: $61.8 million
The Giants are in a pretty comfortable spot cap wise given they have their quarterback under contract for four more years. They have ways of adding space, but immediate need is not there as we stand. Perhaps the biggest cut potential lies with Alex Ogletree, who could open up $8.25m with his departure. Ogletree had a somewhat down year in 2019, allow a completion percentage over 80% on passes which were targeted against him.
The other major cut candidates lie on the offensive line. Kevin Zeitler is an expensive option but his experience and reasonably strong play is something I expect the Giants to value more than the $7.5m they could save. Another name is Nate Solder, who has not developed into one of the best left tackles in the league as the Giants may have hoped when they signed him. His performances are often widely mocked, but metrics such as Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value rankings actually have him performing to a similar level the last two years to what he did in New England in his final season. The Giants could save $6.5 million if they moved on, but much like Zeitler his experience and level of play are more useful than trying to replace him on the open market using that money.
Two names I expect to see depart are Kareem Martin ($4.8m) and Rhett Ellison ($5m). With a combined $3.5m in dead cap, neither player has performed to a high enough standard to make keeping them worthwhile. They could easily be replaced at a cheaper cost in free agency or by late-round draft picks.
Impending Free Agents
On the surface of it there are not that many big name son the way out of the door. Having not been very good in the last few years does often mean that you do not have much talent to retain. That is where the Giants are right now. Leonard Williams is the most interesting because they traded draft picks for him in the 2019 season and therefore, expectations are they will try to re-sign him. The only other player worth mentioning is Markus Golden, who rewarded the Giants for increased playing time with the best year of his career to date. He could offer them a presence at linebacker as well as an experienced leader for this offense, especially if they allow Ogletree to leave.
Major Need: Offensive Line
The needs on this team start in the trenches and go from there. With a second year QB on your roster, protecting him has to be the ultimate goal. You have fixed starters in Solder and Zeitler, who both carry plenty of experience. However, this line has under-performed and this offseason gives the Giants an opportunity to target players who could improve this line. The free agency market for offensive lineman can be dangerous, as can be the draft, but the Giants have the capital this offseason in order to be able to invest in a position for which the whole offense hinges off.
Major Need: Defensive Line
In a similar way to how the offense hinges from the offensive line, the defense needs a strong line. If your defensive line cannot fill gaps and occupy blockers then your linebackers can be moved back in the run game opening up holes. Similarly, if you cannot get to the quarterback with your pass rush, then opponents will move the ball at will against you through the air. The Giants need to spend considerable capital fixing both lines this offseason. If they do that then they can start to look at building up the secondary and linebackers who can feed off the play of the defensive linemen.
Image credit: AP Photo/Bill Kostroun