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Think big — did Giants GM Dave Gettleman drop a draft hint on Monday?

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Takeaways as Gettleman, assistant GM Kevin Abrams speak to media

NFL Combine - Day 2

New York Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman and assistant GM Kevin Abrams held a conference call on Monday ostensibly to discuss what the Giants did in free agency and how they have been functioning operationally during the COVID-19 induced league shut down.

While discussing all of those topics, though, Gettleman might have dropped a huge hint about the Giants’ focus in the upcoming draft. Proponents of the Giants selecting Isaiah Simmons with the fourth overall pick aren’t going to like it.

Gettleman was asked why the Giants, who signed only veteran swing tackle Cameron Fleming in free agency to bolster the offensive line, hadn’t made a bigger splash with that group.

He lauded the potential of Nick Gates, saying “last year he made a lot of progress. We’re excited about him.”

He also acknowledged that veteran left tackle Nate Solder didn’t play well in 2019, though he seemed to indicate the Giants are hoping for a bounce-back year.

“Nate had a rough year last year. Nobody’s denying it,” Gettleman said. “Certainly he is not. … he had a tough year. No doubt about it.”

The money quote, though, when Gettleman was talking about offensive tackles was this:

“Part of the unrestricted free agency piece is we’re also looking at the draft. You know what I’m saying? You kind of marry the two. We just felt with the depth of the tackle class in the draft we just felt like this was the best way for us to go.”

Now, depending on which side of the glass you want to look at there are two ways to see that remark. One is that the Giants might feel they can wait and still get a quality tackle early on Day 2. My read, though, is that the Giants are planning on selecting one of the Big 4 offensive tackles in this draft class with their first pick.

Either way, it’s apparent that offensive tackle is a high priority in the draft.

Here are more takeaways from the remarks by Gettleman and Abrams.

Center is a priority, too

Gettleman said that the organization won’t know about the health of Jon Halapio until June. The GM expressed confidence in veteran Spencer Pulley and added that Gates “would be a consideration” at center. It was apparent, though, that drafting a center is a distinct possibility.

“We’re working that group over pretty good in the draft,” Gettleman said.

The GM is still answering Leonard Williams questions

Gettleman was asked why the Giants chose the franchise tag for Williams rather than the transition tag, which would have saved them roughly $3 million vs. the salary cap.

“We felt very good about our cap space and we felt for what Leonard brings to the table and for our team it was more prudent to put the franchise tag on him,” he said.

A year ago, Gettleman was reticent to use the franchise tag on Landon Collins. Part of that was because he said he disliked using the tag as players hit with it were often unhappy and became distractions. So, why was he willing to use it on Williams?

“I think we’ll be OK … one of the biggest responsibilities I have is to eliminate distractions. Let the coaches coach and players play,” Gettleman said. “You can’t guarantee anything in this life, but we’ve gotten to know Leonard really well and I feel really comfortable with the decision.”

On signing familiar free agents

Gettleman drafted James Bradberry. Joe Judge coached Nate Ebner and Cameron Fleming. Fleming also played for Jason Garrett and Marc Colombo. Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell played for Patrick Graham with Green Bay. Dion Lewis played for Judge in New England. Austin Johnson played for defensive line coach Sean Spencer at Penn State.

Why did the Giants lean on signing so many players familiar to them? The answer Gettleman gave may also have told us why they have not signed free-agent pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney.

“For us, a big concern was the medical piece. What happens if you sign a high-dollar guy and he doesn’t pass his physical? Now where are you?,” Gettleman said. “You’ve spent free agency, now the draft and you think you have your team set and you put together what you feel is a good roster and all of a sudden a guy doesn’t pass his physical. You’re rolling the bones a little bit.

“The guys we signed we felt we got good value, and we’re very pleased with the group.”

On not finding a premier edge rusher

Gettleman knows there is an obsession in the fan base with the Giants not finding a big-time pass rusher.

“A lot of people were raised with the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl teams where we could consistently apply pressure with four. That is the goal, that’s what you want. You can’t manufacture it and you can’t overpay for it. What it really comes down to is it doesn’t matter who gets the sacks, it’s about how many sacks you actually get. It really is about how much pressure you apply. Some of this is going to have to come through scheme. Obviously, we haven’t gone through the draft yet. With where we’re at, would I not want two defensive ends that are 25 sacks a year guys? Who doesn’t? We are not in that position right now, so we will just keep building it.”

Business as usual?

Everybody knows there is no such thing right now, but the Giants are doing what they can to keep things as normal as possible.

“We’ve done our best to mimic business as usual. Obviously, it’s not. But without going into details about what technologies we’re using, I don’t think our IT department would appreciate that, we’ve tried to mimic how our meetings typically operate, both for the coaches and for our scouting meetings right now,” Abrams said. “The fact that it’s all been virtual is obviously the biggest difference. But the dialogue, the conversation, the agenda, the itineraries for the meetings go as always. I don’t think we’ve missed a beat.”

Gettleman added this:

“As Kevin said, we’re really making it work. One of the exciting things for me as an old man working with these young guys and the technology, they’re really thoughtful and intentional about it. Really, Chris Pettit has done a great job, our Director of College Scouting, in terms of coordinating all this, working with Ty [Siam] and Ed Triggs and Justin Warren, has just done yeoman’s work with us. We’re moving along. Listen, there are people in a lot worse situations than us. We’re thankful and we’re moving along. We’re going to get this right.”

Virtual meetings are “OK”

One of the changes this offseason, of course, is that there are no in-person visits with prospects or Pro Days. Meetings with prospective draft picks are done via FaceTime.

“They’ve been pretty beneficial because again, it is FaceTiming, so thank God, you can see the guys. I’m a city kid and a big believer in body language and all this and that. It’s okay. It’s not great, it’s not perfect, it’s okay,” Gettleman said. “For me, what we miss is watching them interact, the 30 visit guys, watching them in your facility. That’s what you miss out on. By not having pro days, you also miss that personal contact. Watching guys among their peers and how they operate, how they’re received. That tells a lot when you just watch a kid in those circumstances.

“Obviously, when we would go to workouts, a lot of times the night before, our coach and scout that would be at the pro day would take one, two or three of the players out to dinner and have some conversation that way. We’re losing the personal touch points. We have the visual touchpoint, but we’re really missing out on the personal touch point, when you can smell or feel a guy.”