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New York Giants 2019 Offseason Blueprint

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)Getty

Last weekend marked the first time  the New York Giants didn’t play a game since the preseason. Unfortunately, that’s what happens when a team’s season comes to a crashing halt at 5-11.

Although the Giants did make progress in some areas, there is still a lot more work to be done by general manager Dave Gettleman and the rest of the front office if they are to continue building on the foundation they laid in 2018.

Let’s look at some of the most pressing questions the Giants face and how they might address them.

How much cap space do they have?

According to, the Giants have $31.662 million of cap space with $25.227 million of that counting as their effective cap space (space that can be used to fit contracts under their cap once the Top-51 rule begins at the start of the new league year.

However, those totals do not include any rollover of their 2018 cap space, of which the NFLPA’s public cap report shows the Giants having $5,911,243 left from 2018.

That estimate by, which is based on a projected $190 million league-wide cap figure, also doesn’t take into consideration any postseason accounting that needs to be done. This includes crediting incentives not reached by the players to the 2018 rollover amount or deducting from that rollover amount any “Not Likely to Be Earned” (NLTBE) incentives that were indeed earned.

Who are likely to be cap casualties?

Realistically speaking, the most likely candidate is edge rusher Olivier Vernon, who carries a $19.5 million cap hit in 2019.

Although Vernon finished as the Giants highest-graded defender per Pro Football Focus, and the team’s  second-best overall graded player (behind receiver Odell Beckham Jr.), there are a couple of concerns with Vernon’s game.

The first, of course, is his injury history—he once again was forced to miss a handful of games this year with another high ankle sprain (to the same ankle).

New York Giants outside linebacker Olivier Vernon (54) during the National Football League game between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys on December 30, 2018 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)Getty

But injury aside as that’s not a player’s fault, where Vernon’s game has been quietly slipping is against the run, his 71.2 grade just barely topping last year’s 69.5, the latter his lowest as a Giant. Grades aside since they’re subjective, Vernon tied last year’s total of 22 run stops, a sharp drop from 2016 when he had 40.

If the Giants are going to pay out a hefty contract to Vernon in 2019—and to be clear there is always the possibility that Gettleman might offer Vernon a pay cut—they no doubt want effectiveness against the run as well as against the pass, the former being an area in which Vernon’s play has slipped.

Some other players whose names have been mentioned as salary cap casualties include quarterback Eli Manning and cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

Manning is more likely to be a target for a restructure/extension than he is a cut as even with Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins having declared for the draft, it’s unlikely the Giants will send Manning packing and start a rookie quarterback who has just 22 college games under his belt.

As for Jenkins, that one is a toss-up. Jenkins is still a top-shelf cornerback capable of making plays, but at times this year, he looked disinterested, especially once the playoff hopes were dashed. Jenkins is due to count for $14.75 million against the 2019 cap and is unlikely to accept a pay cut two years in a row.

With the Giants cornerback depth already in need of a lot of work, it probably makes the most sense to bite the bullet and keep him, while getting projected starter Sam Beal and youngster Grant Haley additional experience and supplementing the rest of the depth

The more realistic cap cuts, besides Vernon, who would yield an $11.5 million savings if he’s designated a regular transaction versus a $15.5 million savings if he’s designated a post-June 1 cap hit (the more likely scenario), include running back Jonathan Stewart ($2.525 million savings) and linebacker Connor Barwin ($1.5 million savings).

Is Odell Beckham Jr. on the trading block?

Gettleman told reporters last week that they didn’t sign Beckham to trade him. (A quick side note: players can’t be traded unless they’re signed to contracts.) With that said, the cap hit the Giants would have to absorb would be enormous if they did look to trade Beckham.

Right now, Beckham is due to count for $21 million against the team’s 2019 cap, which is the second highest figure behind Manning’s $23.2 million. If the Giants traded Beckham, the remaining $16 million of his signing bonus would accelerate into the Giants’ dead money pool which as of this writing stands at $9.291 million.

Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants looks on prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 25, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)Getty

To put things into perspective, if the Giants were to trade Beckham, the dead money cap hit alone would rise  to over $25 million –and that’s not counting the other potential moves.

And just imagine, if you will, what over $25 million in money that can’t be spent this year could have bought a team that has a lot of holes to fill and which would also be creating another hole by moving its only receiver who can beat man-to-man coverage.

What is the greatest offseason need?

Pass rush, and it’s not even close. The Giants’ 30 sacks tied them for 31st (with the Patriots) in the NFL, and the lack of a pass rush was a big reason why the defense struggled to get off the field on third down, allowing 42% of their opponent’s third downs to be completed (26th in the league).

Just about every NFL draft analyst has spoken glowingly about this year’s class being loaded in defensive help, and particularly pass rushers. Expect the Giants to dip into that pool at least once, if not twice. And if they do pick a couple of pass rushers, figure one will be an edge whom they’ll potentially pair with Lorenzo Carter in 2019 and one will be an interior defensive lineman.

What about the offensive line?

Absolutely! The Giants have the left side of their line set with Nate Solder and Will Hernandez. They will likely re-sign Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley to compete at center. And they are believed to be hopeful of re-signing Jamon Brown, the right guard they picked up off waivers from the Rams at the bye, to a multiyear deal.

But the Giants absolutely need to upgrade at right tackle, where Chad Wheeler, despite battling his heart out, just isn’t what they need moving forward.

This is a position Gettleman might look to address in free agency with veteran Daryl Williams of the Panthers, but don’t’ rule out Jonah Williams as a possibility if the Giants feel they can get their pass rusher in Round 2 of the draft.

Panthers OT Daryl Williams could be a Giants free agency target this year. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)Getty

Other needs include a solid free safety to pair with strong safety Landon Collins; another linebacker, and, as previously noted, some more cornerbacks.

The Giants could also use a tall  third receiver to put an end to what was an unsuccessful rotation by committee last year, but they might look to bring back guys like Russell Shepard and Cody Latimer to compete for that role.

Speaking of Landon Collins, is he a lock for the franchise tag?

Collins is certainly the only one of the Giants pending unrestricted free agents who is franchise tag worthy, but as outlined in this analysis, it might make more sense to use the transition tag on him instead.

To be clear, it would be a longshot if Collins is on another team next year—he wants to return to the Giants and the thinking is that the team wants him back for 2019 and beyond.

Given the Giants’ limited cap funds (even despite initial projections and contract terminations), if they can arrive at a long-term deal  by using the cheaper transition tag, that would probably be more ideal. Likewise, if another team blows them out of the water with an offer they can’t match, they can always remove the transition tag which would then yield a high-round compensatory pick for 2020.

What does the Giants’ full free-agent picture look like and who will they bring back?

Let’s start with the exclusive rights free agents, who are FB Eli Penny, C/G Jon Halapio, DT Kristjan Sokoli, LB Jordan Williams, and K Aldrick Rosas.

Of those, a safe assumption is that Rosas, Penny, and Halapio will all be back. It will be interesting to see if the Giants lock Rosas up on a multiyear deal or if they continue to tender him 1-year deals, which they can do again next year.

The restricted free agents include QB Alex Tanney, WR Corey Coleman, C/G Spencer Pulley, and CB Antonio Hamilton. Of that group, it’s unlikely any will receive anything higher than the lowest tender which means that since all are undrafted by the Giants, they’d get no compensation if those guys were to walk.

Of that group, the most likely to receive tender include Pulley, who will compete for the starting center spot in 2019 and Hamilton, who was an absolute dynamo on special teams this year, and Coleman, who showed enough intrigue to see if he can build on what he brought to the team last year once he has a full offseason, spring and training camp with the team.

The unrestricted free agents include tight end Scott Simonson; receivers Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, and Russell Shepard; offensive linemen Jamon Brown and John Greco; defensive linemen John Jenkins, Mario Edwards, Kerry Wynn, and Josh Mauro; linebacker Nate Stupar; cornerbacks B.W. Webb and Tony Lippett; safeties Landon Collins and Curtis Riley; and long snapper  Zak DeOssie.

Landon Collins is believed to be the Giants main free-agent priority. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)Getty

Collins has already been mentioned as one player the Giants are likely to bring back. Others who could be back at reasonable rates include Edwards, who played well in limited snaps and could make for a nice rotational piece on that defensive line; Simonson; Brown; Wynn, who had his best season as a pro; and DeOssie, assuming he doesn’t retire.

But keep this in mind when trying to forecast which Giants free agents return and which do not: Gettleman is likely going to be looking to load up on draft capital which means that he’s not about to break the bank to re-sign any of his players.

What about the draft?

The Giants will draft sixth overall in this year’s draft, the fourth time in the last five years they landed a top-10 draft pick. According to Over the Cap, the Giants are projected to receive two comp picks later this year for use in the 2019 draft (comp picks can be traded).

That would give New York a total of 11 picks, matching their total in 2003, a class in which David Diehl and Osi Umenyiora were among the picks. This would also be the second time since the seven-round draft format was introduced that the Giants have had 11 picks.

As for what the Giants will do in the draft, it’s too soon to say, but there are some early clues. First, it would be surprising if the Giants spend the No. 6 overall pick on a quarterback this year, even with Haskins having declared. Gettleman has said that the minute a team starts locking itself into having to take a player at a certain position is when they end up screwing things up.

Could Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins be the Giants first round pick this spring? (Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)Getty

Given that the Giants defense was the bigger issue, it would make more sense for the Giants to draft from the deeper talent pool and then take their chances in 2020 to find their quarterback of the future. They could also add an offensive tackle such as Alabama’s Jonah Williams if they don’t find an offensive lineman in free agency.

And speaking of the future, it also doesn’t make sense to send Manning packing and replace him with a “cheaper” veteran option who, like a rookie quarterback, would have to learn the Giants offensive system from scratch.

Lastly, with the Raiders and the Bucs, two teams that could potentially want new quarterbacks to draft fourth and fifth overall, there’s no guarantee of Haskins making it down to the Giants anyway.

Three things the Giants MUST do this offseason

  1. Shore up the offensive line. The unit worked a lot better once Brown was inserted into the lineup, but what shouldn’t be ignored is that the Giants ran 12-personnel (1 back, 2 tight ends) on 24% of their offensive plays, ranking them sixth among NFL offenses that ran 12 personnel last year. At the very minimum, the Giants need to add depth at tackle moving forward.
  2. Get a free safety. The Giants tried to help Curtis Riley convert from cornerback to safety, but it just didn’t work. Riley took some weird angles that saw him eating the opponent’s dust, and although he finished with four interceptions (two of which were gimmes), he only managed 1 pass breakup per Pro Football Focus and finished with a team-leading 23 missed tackles.
  3. Add pass rushers. The Giants defensive secondary managed just nine interceptions last year, a stat that one can attribute in part to the lack of a pass rush up front. In fact, the Giants have finished near the very bottom of the NFL in sacks, totalling 57 sacks over their last two seasons. If the Giants ever hope to win a Super Bowl again, they must find a trio of solid pass rushers like what they had in 2007 and 2011.


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