The question probably shouldn’t be whether or not the New York Giants should pursue right tackle Jack Conklin in free agency. They absolutely should. Rather, the question should be how deep into ownership’s pockets should the Giants be willing to dig in order to get him to sign?
Conklin will almost certainly be the most hotly sought-after offensive lineman on the NFL free agent market in a few weeks. Why wouldn’t he be? He will only be 26 in August. He is a former All-Pro coming off an excellent 2019 season. He is a right tackle, and there are s great many blocking-challenged teams in the league who could use him.
Over the Cap projects Conklin will receive a five-year deal worth $70 million ($43 million guaranteed) in free agency. Spotrac projects a six-year, $90 million deal for Conklin. Either of those deals would make him the third-highest paid right tackle in football annually behind Lane Johnson ($18 million) and Trent Brown ($16.5 million) per year.
The Giants are currently estimated to have $61.28 million in cap space, and could create more by cutting veteran players like Alec Ogletree, Kareem Martin and Rhett Ellison.
Age: 26 during 2020 season
Height: 6-foot-6 | Weight: 308
Position: Right tackle
Experience: 4 seasons
2019 stats: Games played: 16 | Snaps: 933
2019 base salary: $2.617 million | Cap hit: $5.058 million
Pro Football Focus: Overall grade: 78.0 | Pass blocking (72.4) | Pass-blocking efficiency (96.6) | Run blocking: 80.5
Jimmy Morris of SB Nation’s Music City Miracles told me this about Conklin:
“I think the chances that Conklin hits the market are pretty high. The Titans already have a ton of money tied up in their offensive line. They cannot afford to give him the money he stands to make on the open market, especially when you consider the money they are going to have to spend on Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. Conklin has been everything from All-Pro to really bad in his time with the Titans. To be fair to him, it does appear that the really bad year (2018) was because he wasn’t fully healed from the ACL injury he suffered in the Divisional Round of the playoffs the year before. It was after that year the team decided not to pick up his 5th-year option. They probably regret that decision at this point.
“My guess is that he hits the open market. Someone is going to get a young player who is a really good run blocker and definitely good enough as a pass blocker in free agency.”
Conklin (80.5 Pro Football Focus grade) had the best run-blocking season of his career in 2019. In pass protection, he gave up four sacks, 30 total pressures and had a 96.6 pass blocking efficiency score. Giants’ right tackle Mike Remmers, who is headed to free agency, gave up three sacks and 40 pressures in 31 more pass-blocking snaps than Conklin played. Remmers (64.3 grade) was a far inferior run blocker.
Conklin is the best right tackle on the market, and he’s coming off a regular season which he finished 12th overall among tackles in PFF grade (78.3) and fifth in run-blocking grade (81.0). Conklin has some issues in pass protection, as his pass-blocking grade ranks just 49th on true pass sets over the last two seasons, and he’s on the higher end among offensive tackles receiving help (double teams, chip blocks, etc). Still, Conklin is a versatile run blocker who finished with the No. 6 grade on zone runs and the No. 14 mark on gap runs. He’s been one of the better right tackles in the league since being drafted in the first round in 2016.
In 2019, Conklin recorded the highest run-block grade of his career, the fifth-highest among right tackles. Overall, he was among the 10 best offensive tackles in PFF grade. His pass-protection wasn’t the best as he sat right at the 50th percentile among offensive tackles in PFF grade on true pass sets, but Conklin constantly made holes for [Derrick] Henry and the Titans running game. His positively graded run-block percentage was at the 91st percentile and his zone-blocking grade was at the 94th.
The view here is that, if the Giants are going to spend big money on any offensive player, it should be Conklin. A deal with an average annual value of $14-$15 million, maybe even slight higher for a 26-year-old Conklin is a far better contract than the four-year, $62 million deal ($15.5 million average annual value) the Giants gave Nate Solder entering his age 30 season.
Some will argue that the Giants could upgrade at tackle by using the No. 4 overall pick on the position, with Jedrick Wills of Alabama and Andrew Thomas of Georgia being the most popular tackles given to the Giants in current mock drafts.
That is true. Yet, one of the things that lightning-rod general manager Dave Gettleman likes to say and that I agree with is that you don’t like to head into the draft shopping hungry.
If the Giants were able to sign Conklin, or perhaps a less expensive right tackle they feel would upgrade the position, it would put them in a good position entering the draft. They could use their first pick on a top defensive player like Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, or on a wide receiver like CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma or Jerry Jeudy of Alabama, and perhaps find a left tackle of the future like Austin Jackson of USC pr Prince Tega Wanogho of Auburn.
Your thoughts, Giants fans?