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2018 NFL free agency: G Andrew Norwell at center of Giants’ plans?

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Could Panthers’ guard be the biggest piece of an offensive line rebuild?

Carolina Panthers vs  New York Jets
Andrew Norwell
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Andrew Norwell. For a New York Giants’ team desperate to finally put a quality offensive line in front of Eli Manning, the Carolina Panthers guard is the big fish in a fairly shallow 2018 NFL free agency pond. It would surprise no one if the Giants bait a massive hook, maybe the biggest ever for a guard, and try to reel him in.

In his plan to fix the Giants’ offensive line, Geoff Schwartz said it “sounds like” the Giants will pursue Norwell at the expense of Justin Pugh. I am on board with that as long as the Giants can leave themselves cap room to do some other things. To be honest, I would rather see the Giants use their available salary cap resources to fix the offensive line and perhaps add some other defensive pieces than give Odell Beckham Jr. the mega-contract he wants. If they can do all of that great, but the offensive line has to finally be made a priority.

In case you aren’t familiar with Norwell, there is an obvious connection between the 26-year-old and Giants’ General Manager Dave Gettleman. The Carolina Panthers, with the “hog-mollie” loving Gettleman as GM, signed Norwell as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He became a starter midway through his rookie season, and was voted All-Pro in 2017.

From Pro Football Focus, here are Norwell’s grades throughout his career:

2014: 82.8 (13th among Gs)
2015: 84.6 (10th)
2016: 84.2 (12th)
2017: 88.8 (3rd)

The Panthers, obviously, would not like to lose a player of Norwell’s ability. Carolina, though, has only an estimated $14.8 million to spend under the anticipated $178 million salary cap. After signing offensive linemen Matt Kalil (five years, $55.5 million) and Trai Turner (four years, $45 million) last offseason the Panthers might not have the money for a third big expense on the offensive line.

Kevin Zeitler got a five-year, $60 million deal from the Cleveland Browns a year ago, making him the game’s highest-paid guard. Spotrac estimates Norwell’s market value at five years, $58.9 million, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Norwell’s free-agent deal surpasses Zeitler’s.

Norwell wouldn’t solve the Giants’ problem at tackle. He would, however, be the best offensive lineman they have had since Chris Snee, an All-Pro in 2008 and a four-time Pro Bowler.

Would you like to see Norwell in a Giants’ uniform, even if takes making him the game’s highest-paid guard?