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Two Giants soon to be among NFL’s most coveted free agents

Which position should Big Blue prioritize?

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NFL: Preseason-New York Giants at New York Jets William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 season has come and gone for New York Giants’ players but the hard work is just beginning for the team’s front office. One of general manager Jerry Reese’s toughest decisions this offseason will be what to do with pending free agents Jason Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins. Both men are on John Clayton’s list of the top 50 free agents in the NFL and will no doubt draw plenty of interest on the open market.

It’s no secret JPP is looking for a top-loaded, long-term deal and Hankins is due for a significant bump in pay, having played out his rookie contract. It appears unlikely the Giants would be able to retain both and make much-needed upgrades to other parts of the roster.

Let’s look at players on Clayton’s list who might be of interest to the Giants. Their place on the list is in parenthesis.

One of those groups in dire need of an upgrade is the offensive line. According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants “may have fielded the worst pair of tackles” in football last season. The offense was certainly worse for it as numbers were down for Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and everyone else. Ereck Flowers has underwhelmed and now Marshall Newhouse is set to become a free agent. This could and should be the year the Giants prioritize improving the offensive line.

Potential free agents: Ricky Wagner, RT (19); Andrew Whitworth, LT (22)

Speaking of OBJ, the Giants may be in the market for pass-catchers at both wide receiver and tight end. In some of Manning’s most productive years, he had at least one big target (Plaxico Burress, Jeremy Shockey, Hakeem Nicks, Kevin Boss, etc.) to throw to. Of the Giants current receiving trio, only Victor Cruz stands at least 6-feet and he probably won’t be back — at least not at his projected $9.4 million cap hit in 2017.

Potential free agents: Alshon Jeffery, WR (9); Martellus Bennett, TE; Terrelle Pryor, WR (22)

Paul Perkins emerged at running back toward the end of last season, but the Giants could still look to add depth. Especially if they were to cut Rashad Jennings post-June 1. There are a couple of solid names who may be on the market if Reese decides to go that route. Le’Veon Bell is technically one, but there’s little doubt the Pittsburgh Steelers will tag him before working out a long-term deal.

Potential free agents: Latavius Murray, RB (34); Eddie Lacy, RB (37)

Inside linebacker is another position Big Blue could stand to improve. Kelvin Sheppard and Keenan Robinson were solid in 2016 but both are set to become free agents in March. The talent on defense also helped to mask some of their deficiencies, particularly running with tight ends in pass coverage.

Potential free agents: Zach Brown, ILB (38); Kevin Minter, ILB (41)