As I write this, NFL free agency isn’t even technically 24 hours old. Yet, in many ways it feels like the major portion of it is already over. Let’s take a couple of minutes to assess where things stand with your New York Giants right now.
Offensive line rebuild
GM Dave Gettleman promised us they were coming, and they have begun to arrive. The signings of left tackle Nate Solder and guard Patrick Omameh, and the departures of Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg and D.J. Fluker, will give the Giants’ line a much different look in 2018.
Gettleman says that you don’t want to shop hungry in the draft. I fully expect that the Giants will add to their offensive line group in the upcoming draft, but the GM’s moves have assured that they won’t be hungry. They have options at every spot.
Solder is a solid left tackle. You have watched him for years with the New England Patriots. He might not be an All-Pro, but he is a quality player.
Omameh? Many of you probably didn’t know who Omameh was until the Giants signed him. I didn’t until about five minutes before news of the signing broke, when someone I trust mentioned him to me as a possible target for the Giants.
He is a capable player at either guard spot. Offensive line performance consultant Duke Manyweather said he is a “lunch pail worker. Solid.” Scout Brandon Thorn said Omameh “Had the best year of his career in 2017, although wasn’t really good before that. Good competitive toughness and play strength. Still can improve. Not a high ceiling but can be functional.”
Some combination of John Jerry/Jon Halapio/John Greco can play opposite Omameh. Brett Jones is, at the least, a capable center. Halapio and Greco can be backups at that spot. Ereck Flowers and Chad Wheeler could conceivably compete for the right tackle job.
It’s not a perfect rebuild, but the Giants probably aren’t finished yet.
Hog mollies! Hooray!
Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg
Free agency has thus far been a vastly different experience for the two former Giants offensive linemen. Richburg quickly signed a five-year, $47 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers that included $16.5 million fully guaranteed. His 2019 and 2012 salaries (totaling $12 million) are guaranteed for injury and become fully guaranteed April 1 of each season. So, he could end up with $28.5 million in guaranteed money. Pugh is reportedly meeting with the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday, but until word of that filtered out there hadn’t been a peep in free agency about the Giants’ 2013 first-round pick.
Richburg first. In trying to improve their offensive line, why weren’t the Giants interested in keeping Richburg? Brett Jones is a good player, though the truth is he probably isn’t as good as Richburg. Jones, though, will play the 2018 season on a $2.9 million restricted free agency tender. That’s roughly $26 million less than the guaranteed money Richburg will receive.
In a salary cap world, sometimes you have to make compromises. It looks like that’s what the Giants did here. Sign Richburg, Nate Solder probably isn’t a Giant. Or, maybe they don’t have the cap space for Alec Ogletree.
As for Pugh, his case is curious. It’s apparent the Giants have decided to move on from him — the signings of Solder and Patrick Omameh make that abundantly clear. He is a good, versatile player, though injury prone. It is surprising that in a league where many teams are looking for offensive line help, and paying a premium for it, that Pugh hasn’t generated more interest thus far.
What’s wrong with trying to win?
There has been some consternation, mainly in other corners of the media, over what Gettleman’s plan is for the Giants. Is he building for the long term? Or, is he actually trying to win? In 2018?
Well, why can’t he do both? The NFL is a year-to-year league, things change quickly and drastically. Didn’t we see a team that went 3-13 in 2016 go 10-6 and reach the AFC Championship Game last season? Yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars did that. The Philadelphia Eagles went 7-9 the two season prior to winning the Super Bowl.
Expecting a Super Bowl title in 2018 isn’t living in reality. Believing that the Giants can be a competitive, playoff-caliber team? While also putting pieces in place that can help them long-term? I think that is entirely realistic.
Sure, they traded draft picks (an astonishing concept!) for Alec Ogletree. But, Ogletree will only be 27 next season. Odds are he is a better player than anyone the Giants could select in the fourth or sixth rounds.
Yes, signing 31-year-old running backs is generally not a good idea. But, the Giants have a culture to create and Stewart will help them do that.
Yes, Solder turns 30 next month. He is probably a short-term solution at left tackle. In a thin market (free agency and draft) for plug and play guys at that spot, he buys them time to perhaps draft and develop one.
Yes, it was a bit curious to hear Gettleman and Pat Shurmur say they believe Eli Manning has “years” left. That doesn’t, however, mean there won’t be a clear succession plan in place when the 2018 season begins.
I may not agree with every move, but I’m not confused by what I have seen from the Giants thus far this offseason. I’m heartened by it
Salary cap stuff
I’m probably whistling in the wind here, but I’m going to remind you again not to obsess about salary cap stuff. It’s easy to do, I know, but fretting over every dollar and worrying about how the Giants will have room to get anything else done is usually an exercise in futility.
As Pat Traina always reminds, the cap is fluid. No matter what Over The Cap or any other resource shows, we probably never know the exact dollar figure the Giants have available. Besides, no matter what that figure is there are always ways to massage the cap to make room for players you want to acquire. Cuts, re-structures, using bonuses to lower cap hits. Assistant GM Kevin Abrams has been managing the Giants’ cap for nearly two decades. He is good at it.
For what it’s worth — because I know you need to know — Over The Cap shows the Giants with $8.315 million in cap space of as Thursday morning. That includes the contracts Nate Solder (which Pat delved into Wednesday night) and Alec Ogletree. It does not include the contracts of Jonathan Stewart, Teddy Williams, Kareem Martin or Patrick Omameh.
Obviously, the Giants have some maneuvering to do.
Another note. Ogletree currently counts $10 million against the cap. There has been talk that the Giants would convert his signing bonus to pro-rate it over four years, lowering the 2018 cap figure to $4.75 million. Maybe they will, but Over The Cap’s records show they have not done that yet.