Giants' core?

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T15D23
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Giants' core?

Postby T15D23 » Sun Nov 24, 2019 12:08 pm

How much of the Giants’ core is in place? A player by player look at 2020 and beyond
Dan Duggan

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One of the sad realities of another Giants season being over before Thanksgiving is that it’s never too early to look ahead to next year.

General manager Dave Gettleman predictably failed in his attempt to win while rebuilding. So now everything is geared toward the future for a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game in eight years.

This will be a pivotal offseason for the Giants. They’re on track for a top draft pick for the third consecutive year and they’re projected to have around $70 million in cap space. While those assets will help with the rebuild, the additions this offseason will only supplement the pieces already in place.

So here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the pieces in place for the future (last year of contract in parenthesis):

QUARTERBACKS: 2

• Daniel Jones (2022): Jones obviously isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The Giants hope the next big decision regarding Jones’ future comes after the 2021 season when he’ll be eligible for an extension. The Giants will gladly fork over a nine-figure contract if Jones develops into a franchise quarterback.

• Alex Tanney (2020): The Giants have kept Tanney around for the past two seasons against all odds, so there’s no reason to expect them to cut ties this offseason. The Giants need to exercise the second year of Tanney’s contract by the end of the 2019 league year. If they do so, Tanney will earn a $950,000 salary in 2020. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Tanney returns as Jones’ backup.

• Free agent: Eli Manning. Manning’s time as a Giant will surely come to an end after the season. The big question is if the 38-year-old will try to latch on elsewhere. The Giants could pursue a more established veteran backup if they aren’t comfortable with Tanney. Otherwise, acquiring a young quarterback to groom as Jones’ long-term backup could be an option.

RUNNING BACKS: 2

• Saquon Barkley (2021): An ankle injury has resulted in a mostly disappointing second season for Barkley. Regardless, he’s still viewed as a core piece of the future. He’ll be eligible for an extension after next season, so the Giants are going to need to set aside some money for that.

• Wayne Gallman (2020): Gallman will be stuck in Barkley’s shadow for another year. He’s a quality backup option for the Giants, but the 25-year-old likely has his sights set on a bigger opportunity when he hits free agency after next season.

• Free agents: Buck Allen, Eli Penny (RFA)*, Jon Hilliman (PS)*. Penny is a bargain with a $645,000 cap hit this season. That number would jump to roughly $2.1 million next year if he’s given the lowest restricted free agent tender. That’s steep for a fullback who only plays 16 percent of the offensive snaps, so look for the Giants to try to re-sign him at a lower price tag. The Giants will need to fortify their running depth with a late-round pick or undrafted free agent signings.

*RFA: Restricted free agent. RFAs must be tendered as first round, second round or original round.
*PS: Practice squad: Players on the practice squad are on one-year contracts and typically are signed to one-year minimum futures contracts after the season.

TIGHT ENDS: 3

• Kaden Smith (2022): The Giants claimed Smith off waivers from the 49ers in Week 3. He’s had limited playing time this season, but he’ll be given an opportunity to grow into a bigger role in the future.

• Evan Engram (2020): The Giants have until May 5 to pick up Engram’s fifth-year option for 2021. Although injuries and inconsistency have plagued Engram, exercising the option seems like a no-brainer. Engram has a dynamic skill set as a receiver that adds a dimension to the offense. The Giants weren’t interested in dealing Engram at the October trade deadline, but expect teams to continue to make inquiries about the 25-year-old’s availability.

• Rhett Ellison (2020): Ellison is a reliable professional and a favorite of coach Pat Shurmur, but the 31-year-old’s contract makes him a prime candidate to become a cap casualty. The Giants would create $5 million in cap savings and eat $2.2 million in dead money by cutting Ellison in the offseason. Perhaps a pay cut is the best option for both sides.

• Free agents: Scott Simonson, Isaiah Searight (ERFA)*, Garrett Dickerson (PS). The Giants need to find a complete tight end to complement Engram, who is essentially a big slot receiver. None of their free agent tight ends move the needle.

*ERFA: Exclusive Rights Free Agent. A free agent with two years of NFL experience is an ERFA. A team can retain the player by offering a one-year, non-guaranteed minimum contract.

WIDE RECEIVERS: 3

• Sterling Shepard (2023): The Giants extended Shepard early, locking up a core piece who fits their culture. He was off to a strong start to his first year as the No. 1 receiver, but concussions have derailed this season. Two concussions have caused Shepard to miss six games and led some to wonder if early retirement could be a possibility. But Shepard has insisted that he has no plans to walk away anytime soon.

• Darius Slayton (2022): Slayton has quickly morphed from fifth-round afterthought to a core piece. He has shown the potential to be a No. 2 receiver at a bargain price, which should enable the Giants to spend to fill holes elsewhere.

• Golden Tate (2022): The Giants gained a potential out when Tate’s four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs automatically voided the guarantees in his $7.975 million base salary for 2020. Therefore, the Giants could cut Tate after the season and be left with $7.5 million in dead money. But that would only create about $3 million in cap savings. Tate has been effective since his return, so it would be highly surprising for the Giants to cut ties one year into his four-year, $37.5 million contract. The Giants will likely keep Tate around as a reliable option for Jones, while maintaining the ability to get out of his contract after each of the next two seasons at minimal cost.

• Free agents: Bennie Fowler, Cody Latimer, Cody Core, Corey Coleman, Russell Shepard, Amba Etta-Tawo (ERFA), David Sills (PS), Alex Bachman (PS), Da’Mari Scott (PS). Coleman was due to have an opportunity to claim the No. 3 receiver job, but he tore his ACL in the first practice of training camp. Both sides will likely have interest in staying together. Fowler, Latimer and Russell Shepard have filled roles as veteran depth receivers over the past two seasons. The Giants will likely seek upgrades, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if some of those players are brought back to compete for spots. Core has stood out in kick coverage and the Giants have proven to value special teams contributors.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: 6

• George Asafo-Adjei (2022): Asafo-Adjei was an intriguing seventh-round pick this year, as he received a few first-team reps at tackle early in training camp. But he suffered a concussion in the third practice of the summer and never returned. He was placed on injured reserve at the end of the preseason and spent the first two months of the season in Kentucky recovering and training. Asafo-Adjei returned to the team this week and will work out alongside his teammates for the rest of the season. He’ll be in position to compete for a roster spot in the offseason.

• Nate Solder (2021): As disappointing as Solder has been in his first two seasons with the Giants, it won’t be easy to move on from the 31-year-old. The Giants would eat $13 million in dead money and create only $6.5 million in cap savings if they cut Solder in the offseason. That seems unlikely for a team that has no viable tackle options on the roster and isn’t going to be desperate for cap space this offseason.

• Will Hernandez (2021): Hernandez hasn’t taken the leap many expected in Year 2, but he’s still a solid left guard. He’s the lone young member of the offensive line, so he should be a piece the Giants try to build around.

• Kevin Zeitler (2021): The Giants traded linebacker Olivier Vernon for Zeitler in the offseason to secure a core piece of their offensive line. Zeitler’s performance has been in line with his performance in his first seven seasons: Solid but not elite. That’s a level of play unmatched on the Giants’ offensive line in recent years, so the 29-year-old figures to remain a key piece of the unit for at least the next two seasons.

• Spencer Pulley (2021): The Giants gave Pulley a three-year extension in the offseason, but the contract included no guaranteed money beyond 2019, so they can cut ties him after this season and carry no dead money. Going that route is possible since Pulley never threatened Halapio for the starting center job this year. Pulley is due to carry a $2.75 million cap hit in 2020. That won’t break the bank, but it may be more than the Giants want to devote to a backup.

• Nick Gates (2020): Gates earned a roster spot with a strong offseason and has emerged as the top backup option at guard and tackle. He’ll return as a cheap backup with the potential to push for a starting job in 2020.

• Free agents: Mike Remmers, Jon Halapio (RFA), Chad Slade (ERFA), Eric Smith (ERFA), Evan Brown (PS). Even if the Giants try to make an upgrade at center, it would make sense to re-sign Halapio (either as a low-tender RFA or to an extension similar to the one Pulley signed). Remmers was a stopgap signing, so it would be surprising if the Giants bring him back. Slade, Smith and Brown will be cheap to bring back to compete for backup jobs.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: 4

• Dexter Lawrence (2022): Lawrence is a piece of the defensive foundation. He’s made an immediate impact as a rookie and the Giants will count on him to develop into a more disruptive force in the future.

• B.J. Hill (2021): Hill’s future got clouded by the trade for Leonard Williams. Hill has played 26 percent of the defensive snaps in the two games since the trade after playing 57 percent of the snaps in the first eight games of the season. If Williams is signed long-term, Hill figures to remain as part of the defensive line rotation since he’s cheap and talented. But he could be a trade chip if the Giants don’t see a big role in the future.

• R.J. McIntosh (2021): There was some excitement about the 2018 fifth-round pick’s potential, but McIntosh has been a non-factor in his first two seasons. McIntosh will likely have to fight just to earn a roster spot next year.

• Dalvin Tomlinson (2020): Tomlinson has carved out a role as a steady presence in the middle of the defensive line. He’s solid against the run and has added 2.5 sacks this season, which is tied for the team-lead among defensive linemen. Tomlinson is eligible for an extension this offseason, which may be worth pursuing if the Giants can lock up the 25-year-old at an affordable rate before he hits free agency.

Free agents: Leonard Williams, Chris Slayton (PS). Re-signing Williams will be a top priority this offseason. Gettleman has no choice after giving up a third-round pick in 2020 and another mid-round pick in 2021 in the trade with the Jets for the impending free agent. The Giants have the option of using the franchise tag on Williams, which is projected at $19.3 million for defensive ends or $15.5 million at defensive tackle (the transition tag amounts at those positions are $16.3 million and $12.4 million, respectively). That’s a last resort since Gettleman has expressed reservations about using the tag and the 25-year-old Williams is viewed as a long-term piece of the defense.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: 5

• Oshane Ximines (2022): The Giants took Ximines in the third round of this year’s draft in the hopes that the Old Dominion product will grow into a pass-rushing force. It’s too early to make a judgment on Ximines’ potential, but he figures to be a fixture in the edge rushing rotation throughout his rookie contract, at least.

• Lorenzo Carter (2021): The Giants expected a big jump this year, but like the rest of the 2018 draft class, Carter hasn’t taken the next step after showing promise as a rookie. The Giants will need to devote resources to upgrading their pass rush this offseason, which could reduce Carter’s role going forward. Still, he should at least remain a big piece of the rotation.

• Chris Peace (2021): The Giants have held onto Peace since claiming him off waivers in Week 5. He’s been a healthy scratch for three games and hasn’t logged a snap on defense, but the Giants clearly like the rookie because he’s maintained his spot despite constant shuffling at the back end of the roster. He’ll compete for a role next year after having a full offseason with the team.

• Nate Harvey (2021): Harvey is a complete unknown after suffering a season-ending knee injury in rookie minicamp. He has spent the entire season on injured reserve and figures to compete for a roster spot next year.

• Kareem Martin (2020): Martin’s days could be numbered as he enters the final year of the three-year, $15 million contract he signed in 2018. The Giants would eat $1.2 million in dead money and create $4.8 million in cap savings if they cut Martin this offseason. Martin was put on IR after suffering a knee injury in the season opener. It would be tough to justify a $6 million cap hit in 2020 on an outside linebacker who adds nothing to the pass rush.

• Free agents Markus Golden. Golden signed a one-year, $3.75 million prove-it deal with the Giants in the offseason. With a team-high 6.5 sacks in 10 games, Golden has proven that’s past the torn ACL that derailed his past two seasons. Golden will be looking for a more lucrative contract this offseason. The Giants surely would like to retain the hard-working, low-maintenance player. But the Giants may choose to spend their edge rusher dollars elsewhere, especially if they choose to shop at the top of the market.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS: 4

• Ryan Connelly (2022): Connelly provided a glimmer of hope before suffering a torn ACL in the fourth game of his rookie season. The Giants will hope a healthy Connelly can step into a starting inside linebacker spot next season.

• Alec Ogletree (2021): The Giants would eat $3.5 million in dead money and create $8.25 million in cap savings if they cut Ogletree in the offseason. That seems like a no-brainer considering the 28-year-old’s underwhelming performance since being acquired in a trade with the Rams last offseason. But the Giants don’t have any obvious replacements on the roster and Ogletree is a captain, so a return can’t be ruled out.

• Mark McLaurin (2021): There was some intrigue in McLaurin as the undrafted free agent transitioned from safety to inside linebacker in the spring. But he suffered a season-ending foot injury in the first week of training camp, so his opportunities were limited. While the Giants need to add reinforcements at inside linebacker in the offseason, McLaurin should have a chance to compete for a roster spot once healthy.

• Josiah Tauaefa (2020): Tauaefa was a tackling machine in the preseason. The undrafted rookie started the season on the practice squad, but got promoted to the active roster in Week 5. Tauaefa has been a core special teamer and figures to return in a similar role next season.

• Free agents: Deone Bucannon, David Mayo, Devante Downs (ERFA). Bucannon and Mayo were in-season signings necessitated by the lack of depth at inside linebacker. It’s possible each could be back on minimum contracts, but the Giants need to make a serious investment to upgrade the position. The Giants liked Downs enough to promote him to the active roster in Week 8, so he’ll probably be in the mix with Tauaefa to compete for a backup linebacker/special teams role.

CORNERBACKS: 4

• DeAndre Baker (2022): Baker’s rookie season has been a disappointment, but the Giants are relying on the first-rounder to be a big piece of their future. It’s not uncommon for cornerbacks to take time to adjust to the NFL, but the Giants need to see the light turn on for Baker sooner than later.

• Corey Ballentine (2022): Another rookie, Ballentine recently claimed the starting nickel corner job. He’s already providing good value as a sixth-round pick and has a chance to grow into a bigger role in the future.

• Sam Beal (2021): The Giants took Beal in the third round of the 2018 supplemental draft and he missed the first year and a half of his career with shoulder and hamstring injuries before he finally made his debut in Week 10. It’s too early to know what the Giants have in Beal, but they figure to be patient with the 23-year-old if he can remain healthy.

• Janoris Jenkins (2020): The Giants would eat $3.5 million in dead money and create $11.25 million in cap savings if they cut Jenkins this offseason. The cap implications make this seem like an easy decision, but the fact that the Giants didn’t trade Jenkins at the deadline keeps the door open for a return in 2020. The decision will likely come down to the team’s comfort level with the young cornerbacks waiting in the wings.

• Free agents: Grant Haley (ERFA), Antonio Hamilton. Haley recently lost his starting nickel job, but he should be back since the cost will be so low. Hamilton is a core special teamer who figures to return if the price is right.

SAFETIES: 3

• Julian Love (2022): Love is the lone 2019 draft pick on the active roster who hasn’t carved out a role on offense or defense. That could change down the stretch, but the Giants have taken things slow with the fourth-round pick’s conversion from cornerback to safety. Ideally, Love would be the long-term answer at free safety. But even if that’s not the case, he should be a quality backup at multiple spots in the secondary.

• Jabrill Peppers (2020): Like with Engram, the Giants have until May 5 to pick up Peppers’ fifth-year option. The cost will be around $6.5 million, so it should be a lock for the Giants to exercise the option for one of the return pieces in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. The 24-year-old Peppers has been an economical replacement for Landon Collins. It will be interesting to see if Gettleman adopts the same hardline approach when Peppers wants to get paid in two years.

• Antoine Bethea (2020): Bethea’s two-year contract includes an option for the second season. The Giants can cut ties with Bethea by the end of the 2019 league year and incur no dead money for 2020. If the Giants pick up Bethea’s option, the 35-year-old will have a $2.9 million cap hit in 2020. It seems like an easy decision to move on from the veteran to find a younger upgrade.

• Free agents: Michael Thomas, Sean Chandler (PS). Thomas has been one of Gettleman’s best free agent signings. He has provided leadership, strong special teams play and reliable safety depth since signing a two-year, $4 million contract in 2018. Another reasonable contract for the 30-year-old captain seems like an obvious resolution this offseason.

SPECIALISTS: 0

• Free agents: P Riley Dixon, LS Zak DeOssie, K Aldrick Rosas (RFA), LS Colin Holba (PS). Despite Rosas’ shaky third season, it would be stunning for the Giants not to re-sign the 24-year-old. But they may be more inclined to give him a one-year RFA tender rather than making a long-term commitment. Re-signing the 26-year-old Dixon also figures to be a priority. This could be the final season of DeOssie’s 13-year run with the Giants. The 25-year-old Holba will enter the offseason with the inside track to take over as the long snapper.

OVERVIEW

The Giants have 36 players currently under contract for 2020. That number will jump when 10 or so young players are signed to futures contracts immediately after the season and the Giants are slated to have 10 draft picks when compensatory picks are awarded. They don’t have many players set to hit free agency who will command significant money aside from Williams and Golden. They’ll also undoubtedly open a few roster spots by cutting ties with some high-priced veterans.

The Giants have some young pieces to build around, led by Jones, Barkley and Lawrence. But the strength of the core won’t be known until the last two draft classes get further into their development. Fortifying the offensive line, linebacker corps and secondary with top-line talent will be the priority with their draft picks and cap space this offseason.
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