They say everybody has a plan — at least until they get hit in the mouth. Well, since nearly every New York Giants fan in the universe thinks they have a better plan for fixing the Giants than does GM Dave Gettleman, I thought I‘d put my GM hat on and offer mine.
This is more of a blueprint for areas I want to fix and how I would try than it is an “I’m absolutely signing this guy” plan. I’m telling you what I would try to do, with the full knowledge that there are 31 other teams out there who might not let me do it — who might hit me in the mouth when I try.
That’s life, and it’s why I’m in the big bucks GM chair. At least for today. As Gettleman says, I’ve got my big-boy pants on and I’m ready for the slings and arrows, so let’s go.
Daniel Jones is your starter/franchise quarterback/hope for the future. With Eli Manning having retired there is, of course, a backup role available. I’m offering Alex Tanney the opportunity to compete for a job, but I’m certainly gifting him one.
I’m also not using (wasting?) a mid-round pick on another young quarterback who will hopefully develop into a capable backup. I’m looking for a veteran free agent who understands the role and can fill in capably for a couple of games.
I’m guessing guys like Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater (if he leaves New Orleans) and maybe even Ryan Tannehill will be looking for places that at least offer the illusion of allowing them to compete for snaps.
I’m certainly not spending a big chunk of money, but I do want someone I’m comfortable with if he has to play. I’ve also asked Mark Schofield, who for all intents and purposes is our quarterback Pro Personnel Department, to come up with his list of potential backups. We’ll see who is on it and then perhaps I’ll revisit my own list.
Unrestricted free agents: Buck Allen
Here’s hoping Saquon Barkley stays healthy in 2020. Oh, and that Jason Garrett and Joe Judge have a better plan for using him than slamming him up the middle over and over and throwing him check downs.
My job here, though, isn’t to dissect Barkley usage or advise the Giants coaches. It’s to identify how I would supplement the position to get Barkley some help and to avoid the situation the Giants found themselves in last season when Barkley and Wayne Gallman were hurt, having to use a rookie practice squad running back (Jon Hilliman) as the primary ballcarrier.
Gallman will be back for the final year of his rookie contract. To be honest, I still haven’t figured out why the Pat Shurmur-coached Giants buried Gallman, barely using him and then leaving him inactive the final few games of last season. He’s isn’t an explosive play-maker, but he can run, catch and block. He would be part of my 2020 plan.
I said a few days ago that I would let Javorius ‘Buck’ Allen, an unrestricted free agent, go. If Judge wants him back to compete for a roster spot I’m OK with that — on a non-guaranteed veteran minimum deal.
Allen or no Allen I want more competition. Specifically, I’d love to add an inside power runner to complement Barkley. A.J. Dillon of Boston College, mocked here to the Giants in Round 7, is the type of pile mover I’m looking for. Whether he is the right choice I’m not sure, but among free agent running backs a guy like Peyton Barber fits that profile.
Unrestricted free agents: Scott Simonson
Potential cap cut: Rhett Ellison ($5 million cap savings, $2.188M dead money)
The first thing I’m doing here is moving on from Ellison. Kaden Smith is a better, younger, cheaper player and I’m not using nearly $7.2 million in cap space on a third tight end.
Now, let’s talk about Evan Engram. Yes, I‘m picking up Engram’s fifth-year option despite the frustration with his seemingly never-ending injuries. He’s too talented to just toss aside. Yes, I’m also willing to listen to trade offers for Engram. I am not, though, trying to trade him. Yet, as they say, everyone has a price. For Engram, mine is a second-round pick. To be honest, coming off the foot injury, I don’t think any team is coming close to offering that.
So, Engram and Kaden Smith is where I start with tight end. I suspect that my new coaching staff is going to place a high value on tight end so, while I’m moving on from Ellison I know I probably need more here. I really want this new staff to take a look at C.J. Conrad as I’m not sure where things went wrong for him a year ago.
I would be scouring the free-agent market for an added traditional tight end. The high end of the market might be Austin Hooper, who had more than 70 catches each of the past two seasons for the Atlanta Falcons. Over The Cap projects four year, $40.5 million with $21 million guaranteed for Hooper in free agency. That’s rich, but if Judge and Garrett tell me they want to use Engram more as a big slot receiver than inline I’d consider it.
In the draft, I’m probably looking at Day 3 options. Harrison Bryant (Florida Atlantic) is a small-school player who impressed at the Senior Bowl, though I’m still not sure about his inline blocking capability. Dayton’s Adam Trautman, who is a little bigger than Bryant, is another.
Unrestricted free agents: Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard, Corey Coleman, Cody Core
Wide receiver is a sneaky-big need for the 2020 Giants. The four players above can walk in free agency. The pair of concussions sustained by Sterling Shepard in 2019 make him a player you want to have protection for. Golden Tate? He will be 32 next season and can’t be counted on forever. Darius Slayton had a terrific rookie season, but the Giants need more here.
One thing I might do here is quietly market Tate. I’m happy to keep him and probably would, but I would be tempted by an offer that included a third- or fourth-round draft pick.
When it comes to the Giants free agents, the guy I absolutely want back is Core. That, though, is because of his special teams ability, not his work as a receiver. Coleman, because of the return potential, is also a possibility.
I am not spending big money in free agency on a wide receiver, so if I’m making the decisions Jason Garrett can just stay out of my office if he’s coming to plead for Amari Cooper.
The draft is said to include a deep wide receiver class, and I’m looking to add talent here. There should be lots of talent available on Day 2, maybe even into the early part of Day 3. I’m seriously considering receivers at those points in the draft.
Would I go off the reservation and take a wide receiver like CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma with the No. 4 overall pick? Or, perhaps trade down a few spots and select a wide receiver with my first selection? Perhaps, but only if — and it’s a huge if — the offensive line plan I’m about to divulge comes to fruition.
Unrestricted free agents: Mike Remmers
I know, I know. Dave Gettleman has tried twice to “fix” the offensive line. Version 1.0 was a mess. Version 2.0 was better, but still only middling and not as good as it needed to be.
Well, now it’s my turn.
I happen to be fully on board with the idea of not trying to build a team through free agency, not just trying to throw money at your problems. That said, the Giants do enter the offseason with considerable salary cap space, and where need meets opportunity for the right player then you have to try and capitalize.
That means that I’m going all-in to try and make right tackle a Giant — finally — if the Tennessee Titans are not able to keep him off the market. Conklin is one of the best right tackles in the league and he will only be 26 next season. Spotrac estimates a six-year, $90 million deal ($15 million annually) for Conklin that would put him the top three highest-paid right tackles. Over The Cap estimates five years, $70 million ($14 million per year) with $34 million guaranteed. I’m not flinching at those numbers.
If I can’t get Conklin, that makes tackle an even higher draft priority and likely means I’m using my first pick on an offensive tackle. The guys at the top of my list right now are Andrew Thomas of Georgia and Jedrick Wills of Alabama.
What about Nate Solder? Like it or not, he’s part of the 2020 plan. He can’t be cut — that would mean carrying $13 million in dead money while saving only $6.5 million. Besides, while I know he didn’t have a great 2019 and there are complaints about the money he makes, I still believe he’s a better player than many give him credit for. So, whether he’s the left or right tackle depending on what ultimately happens with Conklin and the draft Solder is part of the plan.
Now, would I still select a tackle at the top of Round 1 if I’m able to sign Conklin? I might, especially if I can trade down a couple of spots and add another pick in Round 1 or Round 2. Protecting Daniel Jones by nabbing a left tackle of the future like Andrew Thomas of Georgia, or using a later Round 1 or early Day 2 pick on a left tackle is definitely on the radar.
Now let’s talk about center. Love Jon Halapio, he’s a great guy and easily one of the most media-friendly players in the Giants’ locker room. He just can’t be their starting center any longer. Neither can Spencer Pulley.
In the draft, Cesar Ruiz of Michigan, Lloyd Cushenberry of LSU and Tyler Biadasz of Wisconsin are among Day possibilities. Scott Wright of Draft Countdown recently mentioned Temple’s Matt Hennessy as a Day or Day 3 center prospect he really likes. Depending on how the board falls all of these players would be on my radar screen.
I wonder, though, if the answer at center is right under the Giants’ nose. Nick Gates was impressive in his limited opportunity in 2019, and I concur with the notion that while he can play right tackle he is a better interior player. He spent some time learning the center position last season, and no matter what happens in the draft I would encourage Joe Judge and offensive line coach Marc Colombo to give him a full look at that spot.
I’m also looking at addressing the depth. I don’t want any more Eric Smith debacles. Remmers is a player I would consider as a depth signing because he does have considerable experience at guard. Another possibility? How about Daryl Williams of the Carolina Panthers? Williams was a right tackle target for the Giants in free agency a year ago. He had an awful year in Carolina, but he did play four positions (409 snaps at left guard, 169 at left tackle, 214 at right guard and 44 at right tackle). He has played 60 NFL games. I want that kind of experience and versatility on my bench.
Unrestricted free agent: Leonard Williams
Yes, I’m interested in re-signing Williams. Bottom line is the guy is a good player and the Giants’ defensive front is better with him than without him. Of course, price point is the issue.
Over The Cap is estimating a five-year, $75 million deal ($15 million per year) with $43 million guaranteed. That would put Williams among the top half-dozen or so annual salaries for defensive tackles. That’s too rich for me. I want the guy, but I’m not paying elite money to a player who doesn’t showcase elite production.
Spotrac estimates a more reasonable five-year, $41.3 million ($8.2 million per year) deal that would put Williams in the top 30 paid players at his position. That would be easier to live with.
If Williams is back in the fold I am happy with a quartet of Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill. I’d like competition, whether that comes in the form of a low-cost veteran or Day 3 draft pick, for RJ McIntosh and Chris Slayton. I’m not obsessing about it, though.
If Williams goes elsewhere, the need here changes. I’m not sure it changes enough to make me think about using the fourth overall pick on Auburn’s 6-foot-5, 318-pound Derrick Brown, the best interior defensive lineman in the draft, but adding talent to the front becomes a necessity.
Unrestricted free agent: Markus Golden
This discussion has to start with whether or not it’s a priority for me to bring back Golden. It’s not, despite the double-digit sack total. At least it’s not Plan A. Golden is not a guy who be a team’s No. 1 pass rusher. He was rarely double-teamed in 2019, showing that opponents just don’t see him as a dominant rusher. He is a really good No. 2.
Unfortunately, he’s probably about to get paid like a No. 1. Spotrac estimates a four-year, $54.19 million deal ($13.5 annually) that would make him the sixth-highest paid edge player. I’m making a big run at Yannick Ngakoue, who has 37.5 sacks over four seasons and will only be 25 next season. Over The Cap estimates he will command a four-year, $78 million deal ($19.5 million per year) with $57 million guaranteed. I’m all in for a guy Walter Football calls “a devastating pass rusher.”
Lorenzo Carter may never be the premier pass rusher the Giants hoped, though I’m not giving up on that just yet. The promise of second-year man Oshane Ximines is another reason, though, that I’m reluctant to spend big money unless it’s going toward Ngakoue.
If I can’t land Ngakoue, Kyle Van Noy of the New England Patriots has to be considered an option. He’s got familiarity with Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, should be a fit for the multiple defense Graham aims to run and is coming off his best pass-rushing season.
This is not a great edge class in the draft beyond Chase Young. If I can’t land Ngakoue or Van Noy, though, I would be looking for value on the second and third days of the draft.
Unrestricted free agent: David Mayo, Deone Bucannon
Potential cap cut: Alec Ogletree ($8.25 million cap savings, $3.5 million in dead money)
For me, I’m starting here by cutting ties with Ogletree. I’m not asking my new defensive coordinator to construct a defense starting with a signal-caller who can’t get assignments right despite being the guy giving the calls to his teammates, and is also a coverage liability. I will take the cap savings and move on.
I’m crossing my fingers here and hoping that Ryan Connelly, extremely impressive as a rookie, is the same player after suffering a torn ACL. I’m also looking to bring back David Mayo, though as depth and not as a planned starter.
Connelly and Mayo, though, aren’t enough.
Isaiah Simmons of Clemson is the apple of everyone’s eye as a linebacker who can move around, even occasionally aligning as a deep safety. He seems like a great fit for the type of defense Graham is planning to employ. For me, though, I’m intent on using that first to make sure I come away with one of the premium offensive tackles in this draft. I generally don’t like locking in on a position in the draft, but if I’m not able to land Conklin in free agency I will be, to use a Dave Gettleman phrase, “shopping hungry” for offensive line help in the draft.
Wisconsin’s Zack Baun might be a potential target on Day 2 to pair with his former Badger teammate Connelly.
In free agency, the big prize among inside linebackers is probably Cory Littleton of the St. Louis Rams. Jamie Collins of the Patriots, a guy who has had success in New England but flopped in Cleveland away from the New England scheme is a guy I would check in on. Spotrac estimates two year, $17.68 million ($8.8 million per year) for Collins. I could live with that.
Overall, I know the off-ball linebacker group needs help. It isn’t going to be easy to get.
Unrestricted free agent: Antonio Hamilton
If Jeffrey Okudah of Ohio State is still available to me in Round 1 it would give me pause, but if I’m making that call today and either Thomas or Wills is on the board I have to go with the tackle. Getting that position right is that important.
I’m scouring free agency for a veteran slot corner. I want Corey Ballentine competing for snaps on the outside, and maybe even as a deep safety with the speed and athleticism he possesses. He was lost in the slot last season. Grant Haley isn’t the answer there, either.
The best slot corner on the market should be Chris Harris of the Denver Broncos. At an estimated two years, $26 million per Over The Cap he might be attractive. That’s a short-term commitment. Darqueze Dennard, (Bengals), Mike Hilton (Steelers), Kevin Johnson (Bills) are other slot corners who could hit the market.
No matter what happens in free agency I’m looking for value on Days 2 and 3 of the draft to add talent and competition.
Unrestricted free agent: Michael Thomas
Potential cap cut: Antoine Bethea ($2.75 million cap savings, $125K dead money)
I’m moving on from Bethea, and I’m making sure Thomas is back with the Giants. He’s a good backup safety, outstanding special teams player and a tremendous veteran locker room presence. I want him around.
If Rutgers grad Devin McCourty wants to leave the New England Patriots and finish his career with the Giants, I’m happy to make that happen. Provided McCourty isn’t asking for big money.
Beyond that I’m looking at the draft to add versatility and talent here. Antoine Winfield (Minnesota), Kyle Dugger (Lenoir-Rhyne) and Antoine Brooks (Maryland) are among players I’m currently intrigued by.
I’m not making any changes at punter or kicker. Riley Dixon is coming off an outstanding season and I still believe in the talent of Aldrick Rosas despite an up and down 2019. I’m fine with Colin Holba as the long snapper, though no big deal to me if the Giants want to go in a different non-Zak DeOssie direction.
If it’s me, I’m making sure core special teams guys Michael Thomas, Cody Core and Antonio Hamilton are back. All can be unrestricted free agents. Matthew Slater, an eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro in 12 seasons with the New England Patriots, is a free agent. If Joe Judge wants one of his guys, maybe you see Slater instead of a guy like Hamilton. I’m good with that, too, especially as Judge implements his program.
The one thing I do want on special teams is clarity in the return game. The Giants have had a revolving door there in recent years. I don’t want to have to guess who the kickoff or punt returner is going to be, and I don’t want to see Jabrill Peppers or Golden Tate in those roles. I’m open to giving DaMari Scott and Corey Coleman opportunities, but I’m also combing through free agency and the draft process for guys with explosive return ability.
A word about the draft
If you’ve read Big Blue View for any length of time, you know that I am of the mind that trading down in the draft is generally better than trading up. More swings at the plate are better than less, especially if you aren’t moving down so far that you take yourself out of contention for a range of players you might be interested in.
That’s why this year is so intriguing for the Giants. At No, the Miami Dolphins (No. 5), LA Chargers (No. 6) and Carolina Panthers (No. 7) might all be willing to play ball with the Giants and move into that No. 4 spot. With as many as four offensive tackles considered top 10-worthy any of those spots is fine for the Giants. If Simmons or a wide receiver is their target, they could probably get that with the seventh overall pick, as well.
What is the Las Vegas Raiders (yeah, that’s weird) with the 12th pick, Indianapolis Colts with the 13th or Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 14th want to move up? Not sure I’d want to drop that far, but if I can get a 2020 Day 2 pick and a 2021 first-rounder? Yeah, I’m in. And I know I can still get a quality tackle like Josh Jones of Houston or Mekhi Becton of Louisville if that’s my ultimate direction.
There is still a long way to go. Maybe I won’t get the offers for the fourth pick that I’m hoping for. Maybe between now and draft day I’ll become convinced that one of these prospects is a must-have at No. 4.
Either way, the fourth spot feels like a good one to be in.