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Big Blue View mailbag, 2/13: Leonard Williams, draft, free agency

The mail’s here!

Offseason? What offseason? The New York Giants questions keep coming in, so let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag and see what we can try to answer this week.

Jim Moriarty asks: Thinking of the best way to handle the Williams scenario. Giants give him best and final offer before final franchise date. If he says no, we franchise him (having told him this already), then trade him early or midseason, potentially recouping something of value. If we haven’t been able to make a deal by then, it isn’t happening. I believe only real downside is that we have to keep his money in the cap, but we are doing that now anyway. Also, if he signs it late, we won’t get picks until next year. Still, it would be pretty ironic if Getty were able to get a 2nd round pick for Williams, after all the abuse he got for the 3 and 5.

Thoughts on this strategy?

Ed says: Jim, thanks for the question. To be honest, I hate this strategy. Let’s be realistic here for a minute. Leonard Williams made $16.126 million on the franchise tag in 2020. To tag him again would automatically mean a 20 percent raise that would go fully on the 2021 salary cap. That means roughly $19.4 million.

To pay Williams that with the cap going down to around $180 from $198.2 million in 2020 and then have a chance to chance to sign a top-tier wide receiver to help Daniel Jones you are almost certainly guaranteeing having zero shot at re-signing Dalvin Tomlinson. Truthfully, you may not have a chance to do that, anyway.

So, you are proposing losing Tomlinson and then tagging and trading Williams. Which means you are proposing tearing down the best part of the Giants’ 2020 defense for a couple of Day 2 or Day 3 draft picks.

Can’t do that.

If you sign Williams to a long-term deal before free agency you can backload the contract to keep the cap hit down in 2021, thus giving yourself some flexibility to do other things.


Sylvain Gauffre asks: “It is obvious the OL isn’t fixed. As much encouraging we want to see last year’s youth influx, or the new hiring of an “OL developer,” how many long-term starters may emerge from the 2020 mix is still worrisome: Thomas (LT) is a work in progress and should get there; Lemieux needs lots of work but could profile as only a valuable backup (which is fine); Peart’s potential remains to be uplifted, but his ceiling could be as swing tackle (also fine). Meanwhile, Gates played OC by default but with his versatility to play anywhere he profiles as a moveable core piece. Hernandez, now a depth piece at best – could be traded.

More critical, this unit still doesn’t have its “glue of the line” – this O’Hara-type player who commands and rally others with technique, physical stamina, attitude. Zeitler, in my view, has failed to be this guy and should dealt or cut. Maybe Gates have a shot to be this next guy, but anyhow this OL still needs to be upgraded with serious talent.

The good news is this 2021 draft class figures to be top-heavy at both OT/OG positions, with true versatile, solid fundamentals, high character/mean streak guys featured @ the Senior Bowl – think Landon Dickerson, Dillon Radunz, Josh Myers, Aaron Banks, Robert Hainsey – who could help cement the interior alongside Gates. With only 6 picks total, Giants’ brass would be wise seeking to secure 1/2 additional picks to grab one or more starting IOL in Day 2. One way would be to trade down in R1; another way by trading some players ahead of draft day. Thus, which current assets would you deem the more capable to grant a Day 2 pick in return? Zeitler? Hernandez? Engram? A package of sort? Also, what’s the salary cap impact of trading Zeitler vs simply cutting him? Thank you much!“

Ed says: Sylvain, thanks for the question. It is obvious you put a lot of thought into this. And, thanks for reading over there in France — love helping fans like you stay in touch with the Giants.

There is a lot to unpack in that question. Let me get to the major points.

First, you didn’t ask about him directly but I need to defend Nick Gates — to put my marker down, if you will. Our Chris Pflum is also beating the “the Giants can do better at center” than Gates drum. Maybe they can, but I don’t think they need to be trying. In my view, if the Giants are my toy and I’m making the decisions, Nick Gates is my center. Period.

You talk about a “glue” guy, and you reference Shaun O’Hara. Well, O’Hara didn’t even move to center until the Giants signed him as a free agent in the fifth year of his career. I think Gates is that guy for the Giants. He’s got the physical, nasty demeanor. He likes being in charge of the line. Plus, I think he’s a good center. Leave him alone. Don’t reinvent the wheel. The “glue guy” is already in place. Just let the glue dry.

Now, it’s obvious that the offensive line isn’t completely fixed. And I don’t think it will probably ever be fixed to the point where you don’t have to continue adding players to the mix. GM Dave Gettleman is a smart man, but I believe one of the reasons he got passed over for Giants GM years ago when it went to Jerry Reese is because of the public-facing parts of the job. Gettleman has a habit of saying things in an awkward way, or saying things he means to be funny but that come back to bite him.

A year ago he said the Giants drafted three offensive linemen with the idea of fixing the line “once and for all.” Well, that’s not possible. The mistake the Giants made years ago when they had the Diehl-Seubert-O’Hara-Snee-McKenzie line was not supplementing it so they had players ready when those guys inevitably declined. You always have to continue supplementing both lines. As much as the Giants have other needs, I’m never going to go ballistic in criticizing a decision to try and add to the offensive or defensive lines. I’m old-fashioned (probably because I’m old) but if you don’t have good line play, whatever else you do have really doesn’t matter.

As for trades, I don’t know if any of the players you mentioned is going to get the Giants a Day 2 pick. I seriously doubt it. Will Hernandez couldn’t crack the lineup at the end of the year. Zeitler is a guard, and you can find those without surrendering prime draft capital. Engram? Who’s giving up a second-round pick for a receiving tight end with a reputation for not catching the ball?

Finally, cut or trade Zeitler the cap impact is the same. It’s a $2.5 million cap hit with a $12 million cap savings.

If the Giants think Zeitler can be a good player for a couple more years, the wise move is to give him a contract extension and lower his 2021 cap hit.


JH asks: Aside from dealing with our top free agents, I think Gettleman’s defining challenge in 2021 will be to to bring in a #1 Pass Rusher, a #2 CB and a #1/2 WR. He’ll have to find the right combination of resources.

I think the trickiest part is leveraging free agency. For example, he can “patch up” one or two critical positions in free agency (e.g. Fackrell & Fleming 2020), and hope to land “the right one” at the right time in the draft. Or, he can go hard at one position in free agency (e.g. Bradberry 2020), which could dictate drafting a weaker position.

Very tricky for a GM. It’s almost as if the league draft should be before free agency, so teams can focus on drafting more quality — and then address free agency needs. What do you think?

Ed says: JH, thanks for the question. The whole “draft should come before free agency” debate is one you hear every so often. There are some who feel strongly that the order should be reversed.

Quite honestly, it makes no difference to me. Reverse them and the offseason will be different. Not any better. Not any worse. Not any easier or harder for teams to navigate as they try to build their rosters. Just different.

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind seeing the draft earlier. Not because I think it should come before free agency, but because the whole “draft process’ is interminable. It’s paralysis by analysis. In my view, the NFL could hold the draft pretty much right on the heels of the Combine (in a normal year) and they would pretty much have all the same information they have about these players two months later. But, that is straying from your question.

To me, no matter in which order they come the best teams use free agency and the draft for different things. Free agency is about filling as many immediate needs as possible. The draft is not necessarily about the upcoming season. If you’re depending on a ton of rookies to play key roles, you’re not going to win a lot of games. It’s about setting your team up for long-term success. It’s about finding players who can be key parts of your team for several seasons to come. That’s why, while short-term need has to be considered in draft picks, it can’t be the most important factor.


Dave Kamens asks: I have some thoughts about all these NFL awards being handed out the night before the Super Bowl and would like yours please.

Reading NFL Yahoo Sports page this morning I was a little disappointed. The Super Bowl took precedence as it should today but to find these awards at the bottom of the page was somewhat disconcerting. Do you think there is a chance they could be moved to the same time that the Pro Bowl is played. This would give a lot more coverage to these very important (in my opinion) awards. And no one really cares about the Pro Bowl. Thanks! This also includes the Hall of Fame inductees which are lifetime selections.

Ed says: Dave, thanks for the question. I can see your point — the awards might get bigger play in the media if they were were given out the week before the Super Bowl. I understand why it’s done that way, though. The NFL Honors ceremony is held the night before the Super Bowl. It’s done that way because the Super Bowl is the event around which everyone gathers.

The Hall of Fame class gets a good amount of attention, and the enshrinement ceremony is really their time to have the spotlight. One which they fully deserve. One thing baseball does is announce postseason awards a couple at a time, which probably allows each to receive a little more spotlight. Perhaps the NFL could consider something like that, and still give the physical award at the NFL Honors ceremony.


Jeff Newman asks: I read an interesting article on nj.com: https://www.nj.com/giants/2021/02/should-giants-prioritize-wr-kenny-golladay-or-edge-yannick-ngakoue-in-free-agency-exploring-top-options-and-how-much-theyd-cost.html about whether the Giants should target a wide receiver or pass rusher in free agency (assuming we can only afford one). It listed the pros and cons for both, and going top tier versus second tier versus draft etc. I’d love to get your take on this.

Ed says: Jeff, booooooooooooo for reading non-BBV Giants sources. Seriously, though, everyone has an opinion how the Giants should approach free agency. As you said, there are pros and cons to both approaches. One thing, though. When we discuss these players we are talking pie in the sky as if you have your choice and can pluck whoever you want at whatever position you want. Obviously, you can’t.

These guys are free agents. The top guys can go where they want, and largely for however much they want. In a competitive market, someone will push the envelope and pay more than they should for a guy they think they have to have. Players may also choose based on geography, based on whether they think a team is ready to win, etc.

All of that said, my belief is that the main priority for the Giants has to be upgrading their offense. It just has to be. Two years ago they invested the No. 6 overall pick in a quarterback. They simply must do everything they can to give that quarterback a chance to succeed, and what they surrounded him with in 2020 wasn’t it. The surrounding cast around Daniel Jones needs to be better in 2021.

So, in my view you go to the free agent market and if Kenny Golladay or Allen Robinson is truly interested in becoming a Giant, you try to make that happen. If it isn’t going to happen you go to Plan B. Plan A, though, has got to be putting better players around Jones.


Douglas Mollin asks: With a $185 cap, I’d like to know if you think this is possible:

  • Sign Williams long-term, but with a low 2021 cap hit.
  • Let Tomlinson walk; play BJ Hill.
  • Rework Zeitler’s contract, sign Peppers to an extension, lower their cap hits for 2021.
  • Cut Solder, Tate, Toilolo.
  • Sign a premier FA WR (Robinson, Golladay, Godwin).
  • Sign a veteran tackle and guard for depth, insurance, competition.
  • Draft BPA throughout the 2021 draft: WR, OLB, Edge, OL, CB, DL. Trust Judge and Getty to run another solid draft.

We have to remove the impediments to evaluating DJ in 2021. If the OL is improved, Saquon is back, we have a relatively normal off season, the same HC/OC and we’ve added two new weapons on offense, we will certainly know if Danny is the future or not.

And if he’s not, we’ll have built a nice team for a veteran to come in a la Kurt Warner, Kerry Collins.

Ed says: Douglas, I’m on board. Sign me up. Oh, and send your resume to John Mara.

Honestly, I think that pretty closely resembled the plan of attack I would approach the offseason with — and that I think the Giants are approaching the offseason with.

Let’s see if it plays out anything like that.