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Big Blue View mailbag, 5/2: Draft, Leonard Williams, wide receivers, more

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The mail’s here

US-HEALTH-VIRUS Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

The NFL Draft is over, buyt the Big Blue View Mailbag is still overflowing with New York Giants questions. Let’s answer some right now.

Marcus Mewborn asks: Do you think that beside injuries, the recent head coaching changes the last few years has had some effect on Engram and Shepard, maybe even Gallman? How tough can that be on a player mentally having to go through that type of adversity?

Ed says: Marcus, I’m going to work my way into this one by answering the second part first.

In an ideal world, players would get recruited to college by a coach they love and stay with that person for four years. In the NFL, they would find a coach they respect who understands how to use them to the best of their ability and would spend their careers working for that coach.

We know, and players know, it simply doesn’t work that way.

I’m not buying the mental aspect of that challenge or calling it “adversity.” It’s part of the job. We’ve all had our bosses changed at some point. You just do your job and, as players always say, control what you can control. You just come to work. There are some things you can’t do anything about.

That said, there is no doubt players’ fortunes can change when coaching staffs or general managers do. Everything changes when the people who recruited or draft you are no longer in place. There are different personalities, different schemes, different views of your skill set or what is wanted at the position you play. In the NFL, you are also no longer protected by the allegiance of the people who brought you into an organization.

Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard are players with skill sets good enough that any coach with a clue will value them and find ways to utilize them, provided they remain healthy and productive.

A role player like Wayne Gallman, though, has undoubtedly been impacted by the changes at the top of the Giants’ organization. That is pretty typical. You have seen all of the changes in the organization the past few years. Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur brought in guys they wanted, sometimes quite honestly simply jettisoning guys because they were Jerry Reese-Ben McAdoo guys. Reality is, if guys are going to fail they want to go down with “their” players, not someone else’s players.

Gallman survived the purge over the past couple of years with a roster spot, but without a role. It was apparent for two years that the Shurmur coaching staff was not enamored with Gallman. The signing of Dion Lewis tells us the Joe Judge coaching staff probably has the same unimpressed opinion. Even though the Giants didn’t draft a back, Gallman is going to have to fight to stick around.


Jack MacMullen asks: I can somewhat understand the center issue, as Gates and Lemieux could be in play here. However, not picking a wide receiver in this class is befuddling. The Giants have a good group of WRs, but as a unit, it won’t keep any defensive coordinators up at night. Two of the WR free agents are ranked (6) and (8) per NFL.com and one of them was also on Kiper’s “Best Available” when the draft ended. This is still not really great news. What do you think their plans are moving forward?

Ed says: Jack, if you look at all of the mock drafts I did leading up to the real 2020 NFL Draft you should be able to see that I expected the Giants to snag a wide receiver at some point. That said, they set their priorities and stuck to them. Those priorities were, obviously, adding offensive line and defensive talent, especially at the linebacker and secondary levels.

Listen, I say over and over ... and over and over ... that you can never fill every need you might have in one draft. Or one offseason. You have a limited number of both draft picks and dollars to spend.

What are their plans moving forward? Well, to get the most they can out of the guys they have. I worry about the depth, but Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Darius Slayton are good players.

The Giants will hope to get a contribution from Corey Coleman as a receiver. I thought Cody Core was under-utilized as a receiver a year ago. They will look at their young players to see if anyone emerges — perhaps David Sills V or Reggie White Jr. They will likely watch to see who becomes available as teams pare their rosters from 90 to 55.

Long term, wide receiver probably becomes a position we are going to be talking incessantly when we begin discussing the 2021 NFL Draft.


John M. Scott asks: Leonard Williams - It concerned me at first that the Giants gave up draft capital without at least having the parameters for a long-term deal in place. It was even more concerning when they committed a whopping $16.1M to him after he registered only one half-sack in 2019. Then, I was blown away to hear just before the draft that he’s filed a grievance against the Giants, claiming he’s a DE rather than a DT, and that his franchise tag should actually be worth $17.8M (Really?! That expresses some egotism and ingratitude.) But what really upset me was seeing the names that were still on the board when the Jets were on the clock with the 68th pick (Zack Baun, Josh Jones, Terrell Lewis, Hennessy, Cushenberry, and several WRs).

My first question is this - Is the narrative true, that Leonard Williams is better than anyone they could’ve picked in the 3rd round? Especially when you consider the expense of retaining Williams vs. the low-cost of a rookie contract?

My second question - Now that Williams has signed the franchise tag (albeit with a filed grievance), do the Giants still have the right to rescind the tag if they decide they prefer to “eliminate a distraction” and use that money elsewhere? Or does Williams’ signing it mean the Giants are now legally bound to pay him whatever an arbitrator decides the tag is worth?

Ed says: John, I am resigned to the fact that Giants fans are never going to stop finding ways to complain about Dave Gettleman’s decision last season to trade a pair of draft picks to the New York Jets for Williams. So, I’ll just take a deep breath and do the best I can to answer both of your questions.

Before I get into my thoughts, though, I will point out that Gettleman was asked over the weekend what his thoughts were while watching the Jets make the 68th pick.

He laughed. For a looooooooong time. Then he said this:

“We made the decision last year on that, on the third round pick, and we’re fine.”

In other words, they made the decision, they like the player, they have moved on.

Now, for your questions. Is Williams better than any player the Giants could have selected at 68? Well, to issue a blanket “yes” to that question would be silly. There is no way to say absolutely that the Giants are right about that. There are always players from the 68th pick and later who succeed. Yannick Ngakoue was the 69th pick in 2016. Cooper Kupp was the 69th pick in 2017. Fred Warner was the 70th pick in 2018, when the Giants took Lorenzo Carter 66th and B.J. Hill 69th.

That said, look back at Jerry Reese’s history of useless third-round draft picks. Players drafted at that point are not guaranteed to be quality NFL players. I actually look at Carter and Hill as pretty representative of what an average pick at that point in the draft would be. I’m not convinced Carter is going to be anything more than he is now, and I’m not at all sure that Hill is anything more than a run-stuffing rotational defensive line piece. Williams is a good NFL player. Not a great one, a good one. He made the Giants’ defense better last year even though he didn’t pile up big-time statistics. He would probably help most NFL teams. I’ll admit I’m not crazy about what the Giants are paying him. They made their choice, though. Obsessing and complaining about it is pointless.

I will be honest. I was making a list as the third round unfolded of players the Giants could have taken with the 68th pick. That list included linebacker Zack Baun, center Matt Hennessy, edge Terrell Lewis, wide receiver Bryan Edwards, offensive tackle Josh Jones, edge Jabari Zuniga. We’ll see what happens with their careers.

The second question was about the franchise tag. Williams has signed it, so, no, the Giants can’t rescind it at this point. It’s done. They will pay him at least $16.1 million this season unless they reach a long-term deal that lowers the cap number.

As for his grievance, I am certainly not going to give him a hard time over that. Egotism and ingratitude? Please! Every last one of us would try to squeeze our employer for every penny possible if we were in a situation where we could do that. If Williams can get $17.8 million instead of $16.1 million good for him. Why shouldn’t he try? Last time I checked, $1.7 million could do a lot to help your family.

Thing is, there is a whole lot of gray area in positions these days. The fact that teams use 3-4 and 4-3 defenses and that players shuffle from end to tackle to linebacker or safety to slot corner or tight end to wide receiver makes it all complicated. Traditional position definitions often no longer apply. Unfortunately, those traditional definitions are what things like tag amounts are based on.

I guess I’m saying I would be trying to get the extra money, too, so I’m not going to give him grief about it.


Charles Scholer asks: What do you hear about Yannick Ngakoue? Once Washington came down to earth with [Trent] Williams could we structure a similar deal ? Next year’s 3 and 5. Or a combination also including B.J. Hill who seems to have fallen out of favor. Even better Leonard Williams and a next year 6 straight up. Your thoughts?

Ed says: Charles, I thought during the draft there was a chance the Giants might be able to structure an offer for Ngakoue that included a Day 2 pick. As far as I know, it’s been crickets around Ngakoue recently.

I honestly think the Giants are out of the Ngakoue market right now. The Giants have only six picks in the 2021 draft and GM Dave Gettleman has said he has no interest in giving up any of them. I think the UFA tender they placed on Markus Golden is their swing at adding an edge rusher.


BigBlu56 asks: Now that we’re post draft, it’s obvious we still have holes to fill, knowing it’s impossible to fill them all in one draft (WR, center, Edge). But can you shed some light/history on the 3rd way to add players to a football team ... AKA pre-season. Those surprise cuts and remaining free agents pop up every year, and I’m sure Gettleman and Judge will be on the lookout for good fits at positions of need. Plus, if we eventually sign Leonard Williams to a contract, we should open up additional cap space.

My point is I feel we still have players out there who aren’t on our opening day roster, but could very well end up here. Your opinion?

Ed says: Blu, of course there are players on other rosters or who may still be free agents right now who will end up on the Giants’ roster. Dave Gettleman always talks about roster-building being a 12-month process, and Joe Judge echoed that after the draft.

The Giants showed that during the week with the UFA tag on Markus Golden and the waiver claim on Montre Hartage. You see it every year. There are players claimed right up to Week 1 after teams make the final cuts, and sometimes even after Week 1 because of the way veteran contract work in the final — they are week to week if you sign a player in Week 2 rather thang guaranteed for the year if they sign prior to Week 1.

Gettleman and Judge will assess what they have when they finally get players on the field and, if they find anyone on the scrap heap they think can help them they will try to bring him in.


Jesse Sorel asks: I want your opinion on the Giants choice in the 6th round. The selection was Cam Brown. Do you think it would have been a better move to select Donovan People’s-Jones out Of Michigan.He went 4 picks later to the Browns. Jones tested well at the combine and has the size the Giants need out wide. He had bad luck with injuries and terrible QB play at Ann Arbor. The value and need was there to take chance, instead the Giants took a special teams or possible rotational LB.

Ed says: Jesse, I just can’t get all that worked up over a choice the Giants made in the sixth round. Look at it this way — Donovan Peoples-Jones got passed over 186 times in the draft before he was selected. How good do you think NFL teams really believe the guy is? The guy has some physical skills, but he wasn’t all that productive at Michigan. The NFL, obviously, has questions.

That said, I don’t know if Cam Brown was the right pick. No one does. What I know is he is a guy the Giants wanted. Here is what Joe Judge said after the selection:

“Physically, he’s got good length. He’s got a frame to fill out and play. He plays with good energy. He plays aggressive and downhill. He’s going to bring versatility on the edge as well as a little bit of stack backer value. He brings impact in the kicking game with us. Looking at the way our defense is pieced up and set, we need guys that are versatile, that we can move by game plan and by need. Cam definitely fits within that. Sean Spencer (defensive line coach) on the staff has spoken very highly of Cam since he got here. He’s also a guy that when you talk to other guys on Penn State and you hit them with who the leader on the defense is, without hesitation they all said Cam Brown. That stuck out to us. He’s been an alpha dog in the locker room and that brings the attitude we really look for on the field.”

The Giants had a plan on Day 3 of the draft. They wanted to add speed, versatility, and athleticism to their defense. They wanted players who had some proven special teams ability. Again, here is Judge:

“I think it says a lot more about how our defensive scheme fits together. That we are going to play with a lot of linebackers throughout the game. You build your defense to build two thirds of your team, that’s really your defense and your kicking game for covering kicks. These guys have a lot of impact across the board right there.”

Yes, the Giants could have done other things. They knew what they wanted to do, though, and they doubled down on it. We’ll see how it works out.


James Mangano asks: I am happy that the Giants are getting down to business and addressing the offensive line. Looking back at the roster that Dave Gettleman inherited you can see how bad that 2017 offensive line was.

I know they gave Ereck Flowers a fresh start and it didn’t work out. My question is why didn’t they try to salvage any other quality pieces from that roster on the offensive line, specifically Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg. Were they not big enough to be “hog mollies,” was it injuries or something else?

We keep hearing about how we have a hole at center and Richburg would look awful good there.

Ed says: James, reality is the Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg decisions were about money. Plain and simple, the Giants didn’t feel like Pugh and Richburg were worth nearly what they got on the open market, so they moved on.

Pugh signed a five-year, $44.775 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals that guaranteed him $15.75 million. That is way too much money to spend on an average guard who missed 13 games over the previous two seasons.

Richburg is a good player and I would have liked to see the Giants keep him. Again, though, the new GM and coaching staff did not feel he was worth a five-year, $47.5 million contract with $28.5 million guaranteed. To be honest, as much as I like the player, I agreed with them. I just don’t think the Giants ever adequately replaced him, but I don’t blame them for trying to find a cheaper alternative.


Bruce Frazer asks: If it is indeed possible to resume the NFL season for 2020 would a shortened training camp be “ in the cards” if virus restrictions continue into the late summer months?

Would the players association agree to less training given the possibility of player injury? At what point in time would the season be scrapped?

Ed says: Bruce, I don’t know the answer to that question. I have asked around some, and I honestly don’t think anybody does at this point. It seems pretty likely as of now that NFL teams are going to — at least — go without any on-field offseason work. Changes to training camp, preseason, a delayed regular season could all be in the cards. Right now, we just don’t have the answers to those questions. The other one is what happens to players’ paychecks and to accrued seasons — which go toward player pensions — if the season is shortened or canceled? It is something we will have to pay attention to, but it’s too early to have a concrete idea.