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Big Blue View mailbag: Penei Sewell, Jason Garrett, salary cap, more

The mail’s here!

With the New York Giants free agency splurge pretty much at its end, let’s open up the Big Blue View Mailbag and see what questions we can answer.

Jonas Estrada asks: I was messing around with PFN’s mock draft and in one of my drafts, Penei Sewell fell to me at 11. The top four pass catchers were gone, along with Parsons, Slater and Farley and Surtain. The situation made me think about how the Giants value Sewell. By most accounts he’s the top OL in the draft but do the Giants take another tackle with their top pick considering they have other more pressing needs?

I know you’re high on Slater in large part because of his versatility as both tackle and guard. Does Sewell have similar value?

I highly doubt that Sewell will reach the Giants, but if he does, do you feel that he would be a wise pick? What if Smith or Waddle are available? I guess ultimately I’m asking where you feel Sewell ranks on the Giants draft board.

Ed says: Jonas, I can’t tell you how the Giants have Sewell ranked. They’re not going to share their draft board, and they will never address anything about how they have guys ranked. They keep it very generic, which is both understandable the correct thing to do.

Listen, I don’t think Sewell gets past the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 5. If they’re serious about protecting Joe Burrow and not letting him get beaten into an early retirement like the Indianapolis Colts did with Andrew Luck, Cincinnati’s pick at No. 5 has to be the best offensive lineman on the board. The thing about the Giants drafting Sewell would be that they would be more or less throwing away the third-round pick they used on Matt Peart a year ago. If he is somehow there and they believe he is good enough to warrant that, fine. Ideally, if I’m picking an offensive lineman my preference would be someone like Rashawn Slater or even Alijah Vera-Tucker of USC because of the ability to kick inside, where I believe the Giants have the bigger need.

Marc Winter: The Giants have a lot of pieces that could light up a scoreboard if we hit on upside players. Besides Golladay, there’s 1st round pedigree speedy WR’s Ross and Pettis. Slayton in Year 3, Barkley returning, Engram and Rudolph adding weapons at TE. Judge is all about maximizing a player’s talent, so in the right system our O looks like it can be explosive. Do you think Jason Garrett is the right OC to put this team in a position to score from anywhere, anytime? It seems like the playmakers masked his average system in Dallas.

Ed says: Marc, before we get into Garrett let’s not overvalue John Ross or Dante Pettis. Ross never should have been a first-round pick. After four years in the league we know he is, at best, a complementary piece who has a hard time staying healthy. Dante Pettis is a former second-round pick who failed with Kyle Shanahan calling the plays, so that’s on Pettis. They’re both good depth, and you hope they make a few plays that help the Giants along the way. Nothing more.

Now, let’s talk about Garrett. I had Mark Schofield and quarterback trainer Tony Racioppi on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast early in the offseason, and we all agree that the Giants are correct to bring Garrett back for a second season.

I know the Giants were 31st in offense a year ago. I know there are things about the scheme the Giants ran a year ago that bothered people, myself included. I also know I’m not convinced that Freddie Kitchens, who I’m relatively certain would have become offensive coordinator if the Giants had moved on, could do better. Where’s the evidence of that?

I believe the Giants are right to see if Garrett and Daniel Jones can grow the offense together. Did you really want Jones to have to learn a fourth offense in four years going back to his senior season at Duke? That can’t help a young quarterback.

The Giants are doing everything they can to give Jones, and by extension Garrett, what they need to make the offense successful.

If it doesn’t work, I think the Giants have to take a good, hard look at both their quarterback and their offensive coordinator AFTER the 2021 season.

Jacob Willett asks: With Tomlinson’s departure should we expect to see Dexter Lawrence line up more at NT or does he still project as a DT in the base 3-4 defense?

Ed says: Jacob, that’s an interesting question. I know that the Giants see Lawrence as more than a nose tackle. Last season, in fact, only 76 of the 655 snaps he played (11.6 percent) were as a nose tackle, according to Pro Football Focus snap count data.

It’s easy to assume Lawrence would move to the nose, but I’m not sure about that. Austin Johnson played 84 of his 231 snaps (36.4 percent) at nose tackle last season, and his $3 million contract tells you the Giants expect him to play more in 2021. B.J. Hill was also drafted as a nose tackle. Could he play some snaps there?

I think the remainder of the offseason will tell us a lot about the answer to that question. Do the Giants add another veteran nose tackle in free agency? Do they draft a nose tackle like Alim McNeill of North Carolina State or Tyler Shelvin of LSU?

We don’t currently have any scheduled offseason practices where we might catch a glimpse of how the Giants might be planning to align various players. We’re going to have to wait and see.

Walker Joyce asks: In the wake of the Jackson signing, along with the Washington LB, Getty has just racked up his 2nd, consecutive Free Agent bonanza.

But how did they manage to ink all these new guys, ON TOP of landing Golladay and tying up Leo Williams, when they were supposedly just barely under the cap?

They went from one of most impoverished teams to one with the most new impact players. How did they do it?

Ed says: Walker, I keep trying to tell fans to go out, enjoy their lives and stop obsessing about salary cap space. To be honest, it really doesn’t matter what the cap space is, teams can always find ways to get done what they want/need to get done.

I’m not going to. get into all the exact numbers, but I will try to summarize. The Giants saved $12 million by cutting Kevin Zeitler. They saved more than $8 million in 2021 cap space when they got Leonard Williams to sign his three-year deal. They saved money by cutting Golden Tate, which was the right move cap or no cap. They saved about $7 million restructuring Nate Solder’s contract. They saved a few million more restructuring Levine Toilolo, James Bradberry and Blake Martinez.

Usually, when teams restructure contracts they just convert salary into signing bonus, which can then be pro-rated over a number of years. That lowers the payment for the current year and bumps up future cap hits — when the cap is likely to go up significantly.

Even when teams sign players like Kenny Golladay the deal are often back-loaded. Golladay’s contract will cost the Giants $4.65 million against the cap in 2021, but $21.15 million in 2022 and $21.4 million in 2023. Leonard Williams’ deal is an $11 million cap hit this year, but a $26.5 million one next season.

Teams can also use voidable years to, for accounting purposes, push money into the future. There are always ways. As for the Giants, just trust that assistant GM Kevin Abrams, who handles the cap stuff, is really good at his job.

Scanlon Christopher asks: Hi Ed, I have a riddle for you! What do all of these players have in common? Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, Reggie Ragland, Adoree Jackson, Leonard Williams, assorted additional edge defenders and corners who will receive significant playing time, Kyle Rudolph, and last but not least, Kenny Golladay?

While I loved the aggressiveness of our free agency this year, what does it say about our GM that we needed it so desperately? I know you think that Gettleman receives a bit more criticism than is warranted, but how do you reconcile that list with the notion of successful teens building through the draft? ESPECIALLY in that we’ve been picking at the top of the order since Gettleman has been here?

Ed says: Well, Scanlon it might be a little bit snotty but I’m going to riddle you back. Which one of those players is not like the other? The answer — Jabrill Peppers. He was part of the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. While I’m at it, the Giants didn’t sign Leonard Williams as a free agent — they traded assets for him. I would make the case Williams is likely a better player than the third- and fifth-round picks the Giants gave up, so I’d say that has worked out just fine.

Now, yes you build the core of your team through the draft. That IS what the Giants are trying to do. Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, Dexter Lawrence, Xavier McKinney, Andrew Thomas, Darius Slayton are all core players that were drafted by Gettleman. Do they need more? Certainly, but realistically you are generally only going to come out of each draft with two or three of those guys.

There is no team in the NFL that has a 53-man roster comprised solely of its own draft picks. That just isn’t possible. You need free agents, waiver acquisitions, trades, undrafted free agents, etc.

The idea in free agency is to fill needs, to target specific positions and players. To spend wisely. I would argue that it looks like the Giants have done that the past two offseasons. James Bradberry, Logan Ryan and Blake Martinez on defense last year. Kenny Golladay and Adoree Jackson at positions of obvious need this year. That’s not spending just to spend — that’s targeted spending that helps your team and gives you more options in the draft.

Now, you don’t want to be in the position of having to chase free agents and spend gobs of money each year. The better you draft, the less often you have to chase expensive free agents.

If you want to rip Dave Gettleman for his 2018 free agent work, fine. Over the past two offseasons, though, I have no qualms with the overall work in free agency. I think Gettleman and the Giants have used it the way teams should use free agency.

Gino Phillips asks: How does the money remaining under the cap for the Giants account for the signing of 2021 draft picks? Given their draft positions, how much money should be allotted for those picks, assuming no trades?

Ed says: Gino, per Over The Cap the Giants rookie pool is $8.063 million. The cap space required will be $4.103 million.

Why the difference? Over The Cap says;

The Rookie Pool is the total cost in cap dollars that a team needs to sign its rookies in the summer. The cap space required to do this is less than the rookie pool. This is because every draft pick signed will replace a player already counting against the cap.

For what it’s worth, the Giants are currently shown with $6.474 million in cap space.