We can only live in the past for so long, but for the Giants, the past could haunt them for the foreseeable future. By passing on a quarterback at no. 2 last year, New York not only didn’t give themselves a chance to compete in 2018, but they also put the entire city’s eyes on Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen. If one of them becomes a stud starter in the NFL, it will be hard for Giants’ fans to move forward.
Until they find a new franchise quarterback, however. One of the few teams in the NFL in desperate need of a new signal caller, the Giants are entering a draft that may be without a great one, at least, compared to last year’s class.
So how do the Giants rebuild their once proud franchise? Full transparency…not selecting a quarterback in last year’s class has made this extremely difficult, but we’re gonna give it a whirl.
Identify the cornerstones
Offensively, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley is as talented as any skill group in the league. They just need a straw to stir the drink. The left side of the offensive line is in place with Nate Solder and Will Hernandez, but the right side needs almost completely rebuilt.
On defense, well, you tell me. Contractually you’re tied to Olivier Vernon and Alec Ogletree for the forseeable future, despite the fact the former has been disappointing and the latter a disaster. There might be a way out of Vernon’s contract…details below.
Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill are likely your starting defensive tackles next season, but neither provide much interior pass rush. Oh, never mind, James Bettcher doesn’t believe in interior pass rush. As you were.
Lorenzo Carter desperately needs to be a hit for this team, and Landon Collins needs to be re-signed. So just a handful of starters are in place for next year’s defense, and only Collins is an impact player. It’s not ideal.
Create cap space
The Giants made the mistake of believing they could compete in 2018, which was a gross overestimation of their roster. That mistake can’t happen again in 2019. They need to rebuild the roster, and that starts with trimming the fat.
Currently, the Giants are projected to have the 19th-most cap space in the NFL, which is ok, but can be increased by getting rid of several players who aren’t producing anywhere close to what their cap hit suggests.
Eli Manning is a 23.2 million dollar cap hit next season, or a 6.2 million dollar dead cap hit. It’s the last year of his contract, which is going to make it tough to keep him. But you can’t go into next year with Manning as your starter, right? Will he accept a backup role for a season? Ask to be traded?
Last year might have been the window to trade him. It’s possible a team will take on his massive cap hit for just one season, and if so, get what you can from that suitor and be done with him. Thanks for the memories, but it’s time to move on.
Olivier Vernon has one sack in six games. He had 6.5 in 12 games last year. His production and overall impact have declined for three straight years now. Vernon is what he is: a good run defender and an average pass rusher. He’s a nice guy to have on your team, but not for almost 20 million each of the next two years. The Giants might not get anything huge for him on the market because his contract is so awful, but clearing that cap space and grabbing a mid-round pick is worth it. Not like Vernon is making a big impact on the field anyway.
The Janoris Jenkins contract is terrible. He’s still locked up for two more years, the same length of time he’s already been declining. At 30 years old coming off the worst season of his career, who is going to want to take on his cap hit of 14.75 million each of the next two years? 7 million in dead cap isn’t ideal, but it’s better than the alternative.
Those are the three highest paid players on the Giants right now. Manning and Jenkins are two of the biggest concerns on the field, and Vernon is a non-factor. Alec Ogletree is the 7th-highest paid player on the team and he’s one of the worst linebackers in the NFL. I’d suggest cutting him loose too, but I can’t see that happening after one season.
This is how not to build an NFL team. It’s time to reverse the trend and trim the fat.
Draft a quarterback or suck
There are only two options for the New York Giants this offseason in my opinion: draft a quarterback in Round 1, or don’t acquire one at all and suck next season to put yourself in position to draft one in 2020.
Bringing in Derek Carr or Ryan Fitzpatrick is a neutral move at best. A new-looking problem doesn’t make it any less of a problem. Tyrod Taylor is worse. I’m not ready to talk about Teddy Bridgewater seriously. The Saints didn’t trade a third round pick for him to let him leave a few months later. They’re gonna pay for him.
And even if they don’t, you want to give a big money contract to a quarterback who is coming off major injury, hasn’t completed a pass in the NFL since 2015 and wasn’t more than a solid starter before that? Why? Because he looked good in three preseason games? Come on.
None of those quarterbacks are the answer for the Giants, and neither is anyone outside of Round 1. The percentage chance of a non-first round quarterback becoming a franchise-caliber starter for an NFL team is extremely low. You take one early or you don’t take one at all.
What will their options be early in Round 1? It sounds like Justin Herbert could be heading back to Oregon, and Dwayne Haskins could be declaring for the draft. He’ll probably be my QB1, but he’s a ways off from being pro-ready and needs significant development. The other Round 1 options aren’t close to worth a top five pick in my opinion, even when factoring in positional value.
Like it or not, as much as I believe the Giants should move on from Eli Manning, it is difficult for me to see a viable upgrade for him in free agency, via trade or in the upcoming draft. Haskins and others certainly have more upside, but throwing them to the wolves too early could be damning. The Giants put themselves in this situation, and now they may have to live with the consequences until 2020.
Trust me, Giants fans, you would rather endure another losing season in 2019 with a chance to draft high and take a better quarterback prospect in 2020, then trade for someone like Carr or draft a day two quarterback who won’t start until year 2 and is average enough to keep you in the middle of the draft order for the next two years. No band-aids for bullet holes and trust me, the Giants quarterback situation is a bullet hole.
Target these free agents
1. Daryl Williams, OT, Carolina Panthers
It remains to be seen if Carolina attempts to bring Williams back, but if not, the Giants should look into acquiring the fourth-year tackle. Williams is coming off a right knee injury suffered at the beginning of last season, and if all is healthy he should be a coveted free agent given his play over the season-and-a-half before this one. He isn’t a lockdown tackle by any means, but he is one of the best options that has a chance to be available to New York.
Miami’s Ja’Wuan James is another good option if the Dolphins let him walk.
2. Morris Claiborne, CB, New York Jets
If Sam Beal is going to be prepped to start on one side of the defense and Grant Haley in the slot next year, finding a veteran to place with that duo will be imperative. The Giants should poke around on trade options, but for now, Claiborne looks like one of the better options for James Bettcher’s man coverage scheme. He’s played good football when healthy the past few years, and should come at a fairly affordable rate.
3. Matt Paradis, C, Denver Broncos
If the Broncos are smart they won’t let Paradis leave, but for now he’s slated to be available and makes a ton of sense for the Giants in free agency. The team needs to upgrade their talent on the offensive line through free agency and the draft, but the 2019 class doesn’t appear to be a deep one on the interior offensive line, and Paradis is one of the better starters in the NFL.
The 2019 draft class looks loaded on defense, especially at edge rusher and defensive tackle. Cornerback is improving quickly as well. That is where the Giants should address their top concerns in rebuilding their defense.
Odds aren’t good that the Giants win another game this season, so the no. 5 spot in the draft order seems promising. I’ll be surprised if they are lower than six. Finding a pass rusher is imperative, especially if the team moves on from Vernon.
If they believe Haskins is the guy, they probably have to pull the trigger early in Round 1. So much is to be determined in this quarterback class still, as we still don’t know if Herbert or Haskins are even declaring. If one does, the Giants will probably shoot their shot.
If they don’t, or the Giants don’t love either, here are their best options: draft the top edge defender on the board, Jonah Williams (if they don’t land a tackle in free agency) or trade back. I’m not sure any cornerback will be worth a top six pick, and nobody in this interior offensive line class is, so addressing either tackle or pass rusher makes sense.
When you look at James Bettcher’s defense, the top three edge options on the board seem to be Kentucky’s Josh Allen, Florida’s Jachai Polite and Florida State’s Brian Burns. Burns is my top-rated rusher of the trio, but concerns about his weight could push him down the board. Allen is a little raw, but an ascending prospect, while Polite is all speed and bend with the occasional inside counter.
If I’m guessing, Allen will be the Giants top option by a mile, and it wouldn’t be surprising to me at all if they move down a few spots to grab him. The Giants desperately need more draft picks, and moving down to stockpile ammunition if they don’t love one of the quarterbacks should be a high priority.
Let’s say the offseason unfolds in such a way that edge pass rush and tackle aren’t major concerns. Two more luxury type picks for the Giants: Alabama free safety Deionte Thompson and Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson. Thompson is the perfect singe-high defender to pair with Landon Collins’s versatility closer to the line of scrimmage, while Wilson would be the three-down, cover linebacker they have been lacking for years.
In the early second round, interior offensive line could be the target depending on what happens in free agency. Two options to keep an eye on: Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom and Kansas State’s Dalton Risner.
Like it or not, I wouldn’t rule out someone like Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the Giants early second round pick. He seems like a Pat Shurmur type of quarterback, even if I think his ceiling is pretty mediocre.
1. Most of the weaponry and half the offensive line is in place. Your offense awaits a right tackle, a center or guard and a quarterback. Defensively, re-sign Landon Collins, develop Lorenzo Carter and B.J. Hill and get ready to go to work in the draft.
2. Trim the fat. Two of Eli, Vernon and Jenkins gotta go, at least. Trade them and get what you can or cut them and eat the dead money.
3. Take a quarterback with your first pick or don’t take one at all. Don’t get stuck in quarterback purgatory by settling for a player with no chance of being great.
4. Gotta find at least one starter on the offensive line in free agency. Preferably two. The Giants only have two top 100 picks, and one might need to be used on a quarterback. If so, the other has to be used on defense. An offensive line of Solder-Hernandez-Paradis-Halapio-Daryl Williams in 2019 doesn’t sounds so bad, now does it Giants fans?
5. Draft defense. The only way you deviate from that plan is if you fall in love with a quarterback, or you can trade back and stockpile other picks to use on your defense while grabbing Jonah Williams.
New York Giants fans, you are welcome.