Yet again, the New York Giants are spiraling into the abyss as December commences. The once-proud franchise can’t seem to get out of their own way. Joe Judge’s longevity with the team is undetermined, and general manager Dave Gettleman is more than likely out the door, as the Giants feebly stand at 4-8 through Wk 13.
The last wildcard spot in the NFC will more than likely be occupied by a team that’s .500 or less, so the Giants aren’t completely out of the playoff picture, but the thought of this Giants’ team in the playoffs is almost comical.
Many Giants fans have already turned to the 2022 NFL Draft, where Big Blue will more than likely possess two top twelve picks. However, free agency is before the draft, and after a big 2020 spending spree, the Giants may find it difficult to sign any notable free agents.
According to Over The Cap, the Giants are projected to have just north of $3 million in cap space at the start of 2022. There are ways to maneuver the cap: extend players, backload contracts, release players, etc. As much as I love Sterling Shepard, he could be a cap casualty at the end of the season. If he is a pre-June 1 cut, it frees up about $5 million in space. It could be unrealistic to expect the Giants to land any of these five free agents - they would have to get really creative.
There is a ton to sort out over the next few months, but an early look at free agency may give us an idea of players to look at over the next few weeks. These players might re-sign with their respective teams - it’s too early to tell. Pro Football Focus recently ranked its’ top 75 potential free agents. Here’s a list of players from that group who would fit with this current coaching staff — if it is still employed by the Giants next season.
OC, Ryan Jensen
The current Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ center is one of the meanest players in the NFL. The Giants have sorely missed a dominating veteran presence on their offensive line. Although young, Nick Gates displayed a respectable temperament on the offensive line that isn’t provided consistently. Will Hernandez brings a mean demeanor, but his play is marginal and wildly inconsistent.
Jensen would be the veteran to set the desired tone. The 2022 offensive coordinator is yet to be determined, but Jensen can play zone or power/gap. If Gates can return to health, he could replace Hernandez at right guard or play left guard, with Jensen handling the center duties. Jensen is 30 years old, and it will be hard to pry him away from Tampa Bay, but one can hope.
PFF Contract Projection: Three years, $30 million ($10M per year, $15 million total guaranteed)
2). OT, Charles Leno Jr.
The longtime Bears tackle signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Washington Football Team, and he’s proven to be a huge value. According to Pro Football Focus, the 30-year-old is the 18th-ranked tackle in overall offense and is No. 5 as a pass protector. However, he’s allowed 28 pressures and five sacks.
Leno isn’t the meanest in terms of being a run blocker, but he has smooth feet, good length, and handles counter moves well. He would be a considerable upgrade over Nate Solder. However, Leno has played the majority of his snaps at left tackle and will more than likely be looking for an opportunity on the left side. Leno would have to play right tackle if he signed with the Giants.
PFF Contract Projection: Two years, $20 million ($10M per year, $12.5 million total guaranteed)
QB, Marcus Mariota
In this scenario, Daniel Jones would still be the starting quarterback, but adding a player like Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, or even Jameis Winston, provided he’s healthy, is wise. Mike Glennon signed a one-year, $1.375 million contract last off-season to backup Daniel Jones; the contract signed by any of these three - but preferably Mariota - would have to be in that ballpark which is probably a bit unrealistic.
Nevertheless, finding a true competent backup to Jones has to be necessary for a few reasons. Firstly, Jones is injured every season. Secondly, Jones hasn’t earned the right to not have someone relieve him if he struggles. I believe Jones possesses skills that are consistent with a starting NFL quarterback, but I don’t believe they are always on display, nor do I feel Jones has the unique ability to put the team on his back. These other three options may not possess that ability, either, but the Giants should give themselves legitimate options.
Mariota is the best of the three options listed because of his athletic ability. We just witnessed the Giants offense with Glennon - a statute - instead of the athletic Daniel Jones. If Mariota was the backup, the drop-off in athletic ability wouldn’t be noticeable, and the Giants could continue utilizing the zone read and RPOs. Some teams will out-spend the Giants for Mariota. If it is feasible to sign him, it’s a quality option to an unproven and unhealthy quarterback situation in New York.
PFF Contract Projection: One-year, $8 million fully guaranteed
OG, Laken Tomlinson
The 29-year-old current 49ers left guard does a solid job in Kyle Shanahan’s predominate zone running offense. He’s an above-average pass protector that does a good job in the run game with his 6-foot-3, 312-pound frame. He hasn’t allowed a sack this season and only surrendered 15 pressures on 421 drop backs.
New York will struggle to land a big-money-free agent in this cycle with its current cap situation. Tomlinson won’t likely land “big money,” but his contract may be out of the Giants’ range. Overall, he’s slightly above average, making him far better than Hernandez and Skura. In 6,861 pass-blocking snaps, Tomlinson has allowed 199 pressures, 137 hurries, and 21 sacks. Tomlinson would significantly upgrade this line.
PFF Contract Projection: Three years, $27 million ($9M per year, $16.5 million total guaranteed)
LB, Josey Jewell
The 26-year-old former Hawkeye doesn’t wow anyone with measurable or athletic ability, but he is consistently in position and is one of the better processing players at the second level. Jewell will be at a discount after he suffered a pectoral injury that cost him the 2021 season just two games into the year.
Jewell had 42 STOPS last year in the middle of a hurt Broncos’ defense. His presence is currently missed upfront. Trusting Jewell and Martinez to both return to full health isn’t a certainty. However, the combination of Martinez and Jewell in the middle of the defense would be fun to see, especially when defending the run. This would also allow Tae Crowder to play as the third linebacker.
Contract Projection: One-year, $6 million, $4.5 million guaranteed.