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Big Blue View mailbag: Memorial Day Weekend edition

The mail’s here!

Before you head off to enjoy whatever family festivities you have going on this Memorial Day Weekend, let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag and answer some New York Giants questions.

Douglas Mollin asks: PFF grades seem to be a lightning rod here at BBV. Opinions range from useless to the bible and everything in between.

My question — are PFF grades simply a snapshot in time, backward looking? Or do they have some predictive value for future performance?

Andrew Thomas’s grade for 2020 was not good (second-to-last in pass-blocking). But it improved over time. And most expect his play to improve in 2021. PFF themselves highlighted Thomas as one of six 2020 rookies to break out in 2021.

So, is there any point at all in looking at his 62.4 PFF grade for 2020?

Ed says: Douglas, I have tried to remind people for years that Pro Football Focus grades are not the ultimate measuring stick as to whether a player is good or bad. They are a piece of information — one which those of us outside NFL organizations probably rely on too heavily for the simple reason that they are the only real understandable and easy to digest measuring stick we have access to. Player A is not “better” than Player B simply because his PFF grade is two or three points higher.

Now, on to Thomas. Quite honestly, I don’t look at or care about the overall grade. I look at the “indicators” beyond the grade. He was a rookie, so I’m searching for things that tell me he was better at the end than at the beginning — because that’s what you’re looking for.

The biggest indicator is his pass blocking numbers. He gave up 57 overall pressures — way too many. Only 18 of those came over the final eight games. Thirty-six pressures allowed over a full season would still have been more than ideal, but far more palatable for a rookie left tackle.

Thomas also had three games in 2020 where he had pass-blocking efficiency grades of 100.00, giving up no pressures. All came in the second half of the season.

Another way to use the grades. Twice in the first four weeks of the season, Thomas graded in the 40s in run blocking. He graded at 50.0 or above is 10 of the final 12 games, grading 40.0 in one game and 49.1 in another. Another sign that he got better as the season went along.

As I said, while you will find me referencing the overall PFF grade it’s not all that important to me. It’s somewhat subjective and many things factor into it. To me, it’s the other pieces of data offered by PFF that really tell the story.

ctscan123 asks: Not a ton to talk about right now, but I do have some thing that’s been rattling around the back of my brain for sometime. I am a bit confused by the fall from grace of Sam Beal. The consensus everywhere is that he is definitely on the bubble and is likely to go the way of the Condor.

I know about the shoulder, I know about the hamstring and I know about the opt out. That said, the Giants had a second-round grade on him when they picked him in the supplemental draft. His height hasn’t changed, his weight hasn’t changed, you’d imagine that his speed hasn’t changed much with very little tread taken off the tires… did he forget how to press or locate the ball in the air?

Why would we count out a guy who we thought was a very good football player with no obvious reason to believe that his football playing skills have degraded. I know he is not one of Judge’s guys, but no one has really seen the kid play. why wouldn’t you just think of him as a rookie second or third round pick?

Ed says: CT, I don’t consider where Sam Beal finds himself right now — which, in my opinion is fighting for his NFL career — to be a fall from grace. If you’re going to fall you have to fall from somewhere. In my view, Beal has never climbed high enough to have “fallen” from anywhere.

Whatever “round” grade the Giants had on Beal four years ago no longer matters. That was four seasons ago. He has given them six games, 289 defensive snaps, and one measly pass defensed in all that time.

Yes, the Giants thought he was a very good football player in college. I’m not blaming a guy for getting injured or for opting out. The fact remains, though, that four seasons removed when he was drafted he has given the Giants nothing. To be a “good football player,” you first have to be a football player. Beal has rarely been that as a Giant.

Do we know if Beal can press on the outside? Locate the ball in the air? Stick with receivers in man coverage? Handle the communication in Patrick Graham’s zone schemes? Haven’t got a clue.

Beal isn’t being counted out. We honestly don’t know what his football skills are. We haven’t seen them. He’s on the roster. He’s being given a chance. The Giants still want to find out if there is something there. Reality is, though, that the Giants have several more proven, reliable options. They also have two talented players they drafted — a third if you count second-year man Darnay Holmes — who fit what Graham and Joe Judge want. Judge and Graham did not draft Beal. they have zero allegiance to him or investment in him.

Pb Dorfman asks: My question is if the Giants finish the 2021 season with a record of 8 and 9 does Mara and Tisch make wholesale changes starting at the GM on down or does Mara and Tisch make the same excuses they have been using for the last 10 season about losing.

After Mara’s ultimatum about winning now and all the money spent in free agency how can they possibly defend their management staff with another losing season and will the reporters covering the Giants hold them to their word about fixing this team.

Ed says: PB, I can’t put a hard number on it — I can’t say “if the Giants don’t win at least X number of games” heads will roll.

That said, I absolutely believe co-owner John Mara when he says he is “tired of losing” and tired of having to explain what went wrong at the end of disappointing season after disappointing season.

If things go badly for the Giants there will have to be changes. I don’t know if ‘badly’ will be defined by a losing record, missing the playoffs or what. Lots of unexpected things happen every year, so let’s see how it plays out.

Still, I would think a poor season would have the Giants looking for a new general manager. Dave Gettleman appears to have had a couple of good offseasons back-to-back, but the results need to show up on the field. If Gettleman goes, there will be other changes to the front office and the scouting staff, which is normal when there is a new top guy.

Depending on how things go, the Giants could be in the market for a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback.

I am actually optimistic that things aren’t going to reach that “blow it up and start over again” point. We’ll see.

Nick Harlow asks: I’m always puzzled as to why some first round draft choices take so long to sign a contract. I thought the NFL pretty much set the salaries for the early picks, so what’s left to negotiate?

Personally, if I was getting out of college and someone dangled a multi-million dollar contract in front of me, I’d sign two minutes after I was drafted.

Ed says: Nick, the dollar values are set by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. When first-round pick Kadarius Toney, the only Giant draft pick still unsigned, does sign his four-year deal it will be worth $13.794 million and will include a $7.337 million signing bonus pro-rated over the life of the deal.

So, why hasn’t Toney signed yet since everyone knows exactly how much money he will make? Well, because there are things to negotiate other than the exact dollar amounts. Sports agent Leigh Steinberg did a great piece for Touchdown Wire explaining what room there is for negotiation. Here is part of it:

Creativity and structural advantages can still come into rookie cap negotiations in a variety of ways. Payment of the signing bonus is one area of negotiability. Teams want to spread payments out over several years to retain use of cash. Owners also prefer to make bonus payments at times when revenue comes to them.

Players would rather have the fastest payout. My business partner, Chris Cabott, has been aggressive in trying to create timely payouts for clients. The tax rate in the state where a player resides may be lower than the one where he plays his home games. California has a maximum state tax rate of 13.3% while states such as Texas, Washington, Florida and Nevada have no state income tax. Bonuses paid in the current year to a resident of a state without income tax do not have state tax taken from them. Bonus money paid in the following years would be taxed if the team plays in a state with income tax.

Money paid as salary is subject to a variety of fines and discipline. The part of a contract which takes part of the salary and pays it as a reporting or roster bonus is not subject to a fine or discipline. Another issue, one that dramatically played out in Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa’s 2016 contract negotiations, is offset language. Some first-round contracts are totally guaranteed for skill and injury over the first four years. If a player with a guaranteed contract is cut in his fourth year, for example, the team is still obligated to pay the salary to him. What teams often propose is language that would deduct money the player receives in the same year from another team from the total the original team is obligated to pay. They assert that such a player is being paid twice for the same service, and the issue has been settled in a variety of ways.