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Big Blue View mailbag: Regrets, contracts, Jason Garrett, more

The mail’s here!

An early Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. Let’s see if we can help you enjoy your weekend by opening the Big Blue View Mailbag and seeing what questions we can answer.

Douglas Mollin asks: Thursday this week, you had a story from Bleacher Report with the “biggest regret” of the offseason — which they thought was Toney. Not many BBVers agree. If you had chosen, what would you pick as a regret for the Giants offseason?

  • Not trading Engram? Possibly for a 2022 pick.
  • Signing Booker for too much money?
  • Not getting a better backup than Glennon?
  • Not finding a way to resign Tomlinson?
  • Not bringing in a better veteran guard?

There’s honestly no huge blunder this offseason that I can see. The Giants seem to have hit on all the important issues. In 3-4 years, we’ll know if anything actually did turn into a blunder. But I’m not sure I can find a clear significant blunder right now.

Ed says: Oooooh, this is an interesting question to ponder. Let’s take the items you mentioned one at a time.

  • I have zero problem with not trading Engram. The Giants already have 10 picks in 2022. Is a Day 3 pick, which is what they probably would have had to settle for, close to equal value? Probably not. Engram had a rough 2020, no doubt. Still, he has at times been a really good player for the Giants. Project his 2019 stats over a full season and he was on pace for 88 receptions. He still offers a skill set not a lot of tight ends can match. Let’s see if the Giants can get better production from him going forward.
  • The Booker signing might be the answer to your question. The Giants feel he is a three-down back. I’m not sure I agree. I’m also not sure there was a need to rush out and sign a backup running back, although in reality $2 million in fully guaranteed money is really not all that much. It’s just that backup running backs aren’t hard to find for even less than that.
  • I have no problem with the Mike Glennon signing. The common belief is the Giants want to get the ball downfield more often in the passing game, and Glennon can do that better than Colt McCoy. The Giants were never going to sign a supposedly better backup who was going to come in expecting to threaten Daniel Jones.
  • I would have liked to have seen the Giants re-sign Dalvin Tomlinson, but the choice was always going to be Leonard Williams rather than Tomlinson. If you bring Tomlinson back, maybe you can’t go get Adoree’ Jackson, Kyle Rudolph or maybe even Kenny Golladay. Tomlinson’s primary value is as a run-stopper and he is a good one. Run-stopping defensive tackles are a bit like backup running backs, though. You can always find them without having to pay them extraordinary amounts of money. Witness the signing of Danny Shelton for a lot less money that Tomlinson got from the Minnesota Vikings.
  • I don’t have a huge problem with the Zach Fulton signing. Yes, he’s a downgrade from Kevin Zeitler. Thing is, the Giants couldn’t afford to keep Zeitler with the salary cap going down. They still believe in Will Hernandez. Fulton had an awful season for the Houston Texans last year, but he’s been a decent player for a number of years. He’s fine as a veteran backup.

In all, I guess the rush to sign Booker was the head-scratcher for me. Would I call it a “regret”? Not really. The Giants wanted to be absolutely sure they were protected if Saquon Barkley isn’t ready or gets hurt again. Some combination of Booker, Ryquell Armstead, Corey Clement and Gary Brightwell offer that protection.

Brian Misdom asks: We’ve spent a good portion of this offseason talking about how the offense - namely Jones, the offensive line and Jason Garrett - need to step it up this year for the team to meet budding expectations.

We’ve discussed how Jones needs a better supporting cast, the OL needs consistency in coaching and Garrett needs to be more creative.

Both QB and OL seem to have an out if things don’t go well. The offensive scheme held Jones back, the OL was young and unproven, etc. But Garrett seems to be in a tough spot. Either the offense improves and credit is given to the players or it doesn’t and Garrett is likely on the chopping block.

I’m indifferent to Garrett as OC but do you see any circumstance under which he returns despite falling short of expectations? I can see scenarios for keeping both QB and the OL despite underwhelming but not him.

Appears he finds himself in a lose-lose situation. Unless the offense is truly prolific, his best case scenario appears to be remaining OC with Kitchens and the fan base waiting for a slip-up to be replaced. I don’t see how he returns if noticeable gains aren’t made.

Your thoughts?

Ed says: Brian, this is another really good question.

I do think Garrett is in a tricky spot. Joe Judge moved Freddie Kitchens to a “senior offensive assistant” role, and Judge has said Kitchens will focus heavily on the offensive line. That might be the case, but Judge and Kitchens have a long working relationship and Judge believes in Kitchens. Let’s call a spade a spade and acknowledge that Kitchens’ role really appears to be “offensive coordinator in waiting” should Garrett fail to get better production from the offense in 2021.

The Giants were the second-worst offense in football last year (thank you, Jets!). With the upgrades in talent and the return of Barkley I can’t see how that’s possible in 2021. The midpoint for scoring in the NFL last season was 24.75 points per game, about 7 points more than the Giants scored. If the Giants reach 24 or 25 points per game in 2021, it’s easy to argue that’s significant improvement and they are going in the right direction. In which case, there’s an easy argument for Garrett to stay if he doesn’t get another head-coaching opportunity.

If the Giants fail on offense, of course changes will be made. And, of course, Garrett will almost certainly be one of those changes.

Bob Donnelly asks: With the offseason additions to the roster, do you think the Giants have a legitimate shot at being one of the top 5 defenses in 2021?

Ed says: Bob, sure they have a chance. The Giants finished ninth overall in points allowed a season ago, and on paper the personnel looks better than it was a season ago.

They are better and deeper at both cornerback and safety. They have more options at both inside linebacker and edge rusher. They had an offseason and will have a real training camp/preseason for Patrick Graham to figure out what some of his new players can do.

That said, there are questions. Health is always one of them in the NFL. A couple of key injuries changes everything. Can Leonard Williams have the same type of impact he did a year ago? Can the Giants adequately fill the hole left by the departure of Dalvin Tomlinson? Can any of the edge rushers step forward and become a true impact player?

We will see what happens, but there are lots of reasons to be optimistic about that group heading into the season.

ctscan123 asks: Hey Ed, I recently read a column about Adoree Jackson‘s contract being a head scratcher and it got me thinking of Dave Gettleman in general. In previous mail bag questions I have asserted that I am frequently annoyed by Dave Gettleman‘s tendency to go against the grain. If there is a consensus view on a transaction, you can bet that good old Dave will do the opposite. It’s almost as though he has an oppositional defiance disorder Or an inferiority complex that causes him to try to demonstrate That he is the smartest guy in the room and knows better than everyone else. This manifests in a lot of ways, but in this case I am interested in free agent contracts. From overpaying for players that no one else seems to particularly value like Jonathan Stewart or Levine Toilolo, or bidding against themselves for stars like Kenny G, There’s been a ton of skepticism regarding the contracts that he hands out. I understand that we are not privy to the negotiations, but there are quite a lot of data points in this pattern. It seems like he is consistently and unnecessarily overpaying for players that he probably could’ve gotten cheaper. How transparent is the bidding process? Would an agent lie to a GM about other offers? Is he getting fleeced? Is he just a generous guy? Is it simple FOMO? How does this keep happening?

Ed says: CT, one of the places where we diverge in our opinions about Dave Gettleman is that I love the fact that he thinks for himself. That he does what he and the people around him believe is the right thing. Not what the writers, talking heads, or fan base thinks he should do. I absolutely respect him for having the courage of his convictions, and for succeeding or failing on his terms.

Is he always right? Of course not. I’m not always right. You’re not always right. If anyone out there thinks they have never been wrong about anything, they’re wrong about that.

The Jonathan Stewart contract was a mistake. Gettleman put too much stock in the player Stewart had been, not what he was at the time. Gettleman has admitted, though, that his 2018 offseason approach was flawed. To me, the last couple of offseasons have been excellent.

Now, to the crux of the question. Do the Gettleman-led Giants have a tendency to pay more than they need to for some players?

There are a couple of contracts on the roster that I really don’t understand. I discussed Booker above, and the reality of that deal is it isn’t as bad as it initially sounded. It’s really a one-year deal for $2.5 million with a $1 million dead cap hit next year if the Giants cut Booker. Maybe more than I would have paid, but not awful. In my view, Levine Toilolo is a veteran minimum kind of player, but he actually only has a $650,000 guarantee for 2021 and a contract worth $1.6 million, so that’s not exactly a cap-killer. We’re arguing about a few hundred thousand dollars for a player with his experience.

If you look at the James Bradberry, Blake Martinez and Logan Ryan contracts from a year ago all were for three years at reasonable prices in terms of market value. Bradberry is the seventh highest-paid cornerback in terms of average annual value, Martinez the 10th highest-paid inside linebacker, and Ryan (really a safety) is listed by Spotrac as the 16th highest-paid cornerback. I’d say those are all in line with, or below, where they should be based on ability.

Now, the Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson contracts.

Golladay got more than I thought he would (four years, $72 million, $40 million guaranteed) in a year when the salary cap went down for the first time since it was instituted in the 1990s. His $18 million average annual salary is sixth among wide receivers.

It’s not true that the Giants were bidding against themselves for Golladay. He reportedly had one-year offers from the Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears. He was also reportedly drawing interest from the Baltimore Ravens before signing with the Giants.

Now, could the Giants have gotten Golladay for a bit less? Perhaps, but this is what happens in free agency. The Giants had to have Golladay. They knew that. Golladay knew that. Golladay’s agent knew that, too. Maybe they could have gotten Golladay on a three-year deal, but do you really want to risk alienating and losing a guy you need by playing hardball? The fourth year of the deal includes an out for the Giants that would save them nearly $15 million against the cap while they would incur a $6.8 million cap hit should they cut Golladay.

Jackson’s three-year, $13 million deal is 12th in terms of annual average value for cornerbacks, again pretty much in line with what many believe to be his talent level despite having been cut by the Tennessee Titans.

William Jackson got three years and $40.5 million from the Washington Football Team. Shaquill Griffin got three years and $40 million from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Look at those deals and you could argue that Adoree’ Jackson’s deal is right at the market rate.

It is absolutely fair to wonder about some of the contracts the Giants have given out on Gettleman’s watch. What I think everyone needs to remember, though, is that contracts are never what they seem at first blush — or never what a player’s agent would like you to think they are. it is important to look at the guaranteed money and the structure, plus where it fits in the market. Those things tell you the real story of a contract.