The New York Giants may have a new head coach in 2016. Whether that is the case or not, the reality is that the results we have seen the past three seasons aren't really going to change a whole lot unless the roster gets an infusion of talent. Let's look at five key spots GM Jerry Reese -- provided he keeps his job -- and the Giants have to address in order to get the Giants back to being a playoff-caliber team.
Roster -- Odell Beckham Jr., Rueben Randle, Dwayne Harris, Hakeem Nicks, Myles White, Ben Edwards, Geremy Davis. IR -- Victor Cruz, Marcus Harris
Reese talked incessantly during the last offseason about having a plan in the event Victor Cruz didn't make it back from his torn patellar tendon. When Cruz's season went up in smoke thanks to a training camp quad injury that stubbornly refused to heal it was apparent that whatever the plan was it didn't work.
Rueben Randle didn't give the Giants what they needed. He is a free agent and between his mystifying inconsistency and the hard to shake the perception that the 2012 second-round pick is simply cashing a paycheck the Giants have to move on from him.
That leaves them with Odell Beckham Jr., Dwayne Harris and pretty much nothing else.
Cruz will be entering the third year of a five-year, $43 million deal. He will be due $8.125 million next season and almost certainly won't see any of that. The Giants will either cut him and bring him back on a low-cost incentive laden deal or at the very least renegotiate his deal. Either way, they certainly can't go into 2016 considering him a primary weapon.
Nicks is a shell of what he used to be, White is just a guy, Edwards is an unknown and all of those guys have bypassed Davis on the depth chart.
Free-agent-to-be Alshon Jeffery sure would look good as a replacement for Randle, wouldn't he?
Roster -- Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry, Marshall Newhouse, Bobby Hart, Dallas Reynolds, Emmett Cleary, Adam Gettis. IR -- Geoff Schwartz, Will Beatty, Brett Jones
The Giants have three of the five positions set with Ereck Flowers at left tackle, Justin Pugh at left guard and Weston Richburg at center. Unfortunately, an offensive line needs five players and two or three capable backups. Hart, the rookie seventh-round pick can play guard and right tackle, and could well end up competing for a starting guard spot next season. That still leaves the Giants with issues.
Two years of John Jerry has been two years too many. One year of Marshall Newhouse was one year too many. Will Beatty almost certainly won't be back. Word is that Beatty wants to play left tackle and that isn't going to happen with Flowers there. The Giants can save more than $4 million against the cap by cutting him and letting him go seek left tackle money on the open market. Schwartz is a good player, but how much does he have left after breaking his ankle and leg in successive years? The guaranteed money on his four-year, $16.8 million deal has been paid. Best guess is the Giants let him go as well, especially since they can save roughly $4 million against the cap by making him a post-June 1 cut.
What I expect: I think the Giants give Hart a chance to win a job. I also think, though, that they will look to the draft for depth, sift through free agency to see if they can find a young-ish right tackle (Mitchell Schwartz, anyone?) and perhaps see if Brett Jones can compete for a guard spot.
Let's look at the defensive end and defensive tackle spots separately.
Roster -- Jason Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers, Kerry Wynn, George Selvie, Brad Bars, Stansley Maponga. IR -- Owamagbe Odighizuwa
The only defensive end under contract for 2016 is Odighizuwa, who suffered through an injury-plagued rookie season. He appears to have talent, but the fact that he also has a lengthy collegiate injury history is not encouraging. Wynn is a try-hard guy without much real ability. Selvie is a placeholder, and Maponga and Bars are practice squad guys filling end-of-season roster spots. The decisions the Giants have to make revolve around Ayers and Pierre-Paul.
Let's talk about Ayers first. The 30-year-old free-agent-to-be is finishing up the best statistical season of his career with a team-leading eight sacks. The Giants would most likely want to bring him back, but how far beyond the two-year, $3.75 million deal he is completing will they have to go? Considering how badly the Giants need playmakers on defense, re-signing seems like it should be a priority.
Now for Pierre-Paul. This is a tremendously difficult decision for the Giants. Pierre-Paul is still disruptive despite the limitations caused by his damaged, clubbed hand. Problem is that while disruptive he often can't finish plays because he can't tackle or use that right hand to drag quarterbacks down. What's unknown is whether or not that situation will get any better with time, or if what you see now is what you get with JPP long-term?
Do the Giants give him a long-term deal? Try to convince him to take an incentive-laden deal with limited base salary? Use the franchise tag on him again?
What I think will happen: I think that someone will be willing to gamble and outbid the Giants for Pierre-Paul, and that might be the best thing for everybody. Many think the Giants will use an early pick on a defensive end, which makes sense. A dip into the free agent market for someone like Vinny Curry of the Philadelphia Eagles might also make sense.
Roster -- Jay Bromley, Cullen Jenkins, Barry Cofield, Montori Hughes. IR -- Johnathan Hankins, Markus Kuhn
Jenkins is 34 and almost certain to retire. Kuhn has likely played his last down as a Giant. Hughes is a replaceable part who started the year on the practice squad. Maybe Cofield can replace Jenkins next season as a veteran presence. Hankins is a really good player, and Bromley is still a work in progress.
The Giants need at least one more player here. Considering all of their other needs, though, I'm not sure it's a place where they invest either a high draft choice or gobs of free agent money.
Roster -- Jasper Brinkley, J.T. Thomas III, Jonathan Casillas, Mark Herzlich, Uani 'Unga. IR -- Jon Beason, Devon Kennard, James Morris
Yeesh! Kennard is a good player who can't stay healthy. Beason's career is likely done. The rest of these guys are really just taking up space. After Kennard, there really isn't a guy on the entire list you would actually want as a starter.
I have no idea how the Giants rebuild or revamp this position. Please Lord, though, somebody please wake Reese up to the fact that a good defense actually requires good, athletic, playmaking linebackers!
The Giants are about to finish a season where the give up more passing yards than any team in NFL history. Enough said. Let's look at both the cornerback and safety spots.
Roster -- Prince Amukamara, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Trevin Wade, Jayron Hosley, Trumaine McBride, Tramain Jacobs
Amukamara is headed to free agency. All of Rodgers-Cromartie's guaranteed money will have been paid after this season. Per Spotrac, the Giants would incur only a $2 million cap hit if they were to make DRC a post-June 1 cut. Hosley, McBride, and Jacobs are replaceable. Wade has done OK, but he is also a replaceable part.
The biggest decision involves Amukamara. He's a nice player, but hardly a great one, And he never plays a full season. It's entirely possible someone overpays him and he moves on. As for DRC, he will be 30 next season, relies on his speed and has been going in and out of games with a variety of ailments for two years.
The dilemma here is that even with Amukamara and Rodgers-Cromartie the position needs an upgrade. Without both of them? Yikes!!!
What I think will happen: I think the Giants bring DRC back for one more year, let someone overpay Amukamara, bring back Wade and use the draft and free agency to rebuild this position.
Roster -- Landon Collins, Craig Dahl, Brandon Meriweather, Cooper Taylor. IR -- Nat Berhe, Bennett Jackson, Myykele Thompson, Justin Currie
Landon Collins is part of the future for the Giants. Let's stop the "move Collins to linebacker" silliness right now. The Giants still have a safety puzzle to solve, and the rookie from Alabama is part of that. As a box safety, or a hybrid in a 4-2-5 look with Nat Berhe and a true free safety. Maybe Bennett Jackson becomes a player. Maybe the Giants turn to free agency for a younger free safety like Tashaun Gipson or Eric Berry, if one of them reaches the open market. The Craig Dahl/Brandon Meriweather combo is embarrassing, though, and needs to be upgraded.
Yes, if you were paying attention I basically just said the Giants need to address every position on the defense. Because that's the truth. They don't have enough talent anywhere on the defense. They don't have a single difference-maker, and my belief is that a one-handed Pierre-Paul is never again going to be that guy. They don't have anyone in the front seven who changes games. They don't have anyone at corner or safety that other teams plan around or try to avoid. They have a few useful pieces, and that's about it.
On offense, I mentioned wide receiver and offensive line. You can easily make an argument that running back and perhaps tight end should be on the list. I wouldn't disagree. The Giants have Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr., and well ... they have Manning and Beckham. They need more playmakers, no matter what position they play.
I have been repeating the mantra that the Giants need talent everywhere. Between now and the beginning of next season it is one I am going to continue to repeat. Unless the Giants find more difference-makers on both sides of the ball it won't matter who the coach is. Unless, of course, he is a miracle worker.