Anyone who had paid attention to what was going on with the New York Giants during the past month knew that GM Dave Gettleman would be turning over every rock to try and find help for a struggling offensive line stung by injuries and retirements during training camp.
The Giants hope they found at least some of the help they are seeking with the acquisition of center/guard Billy Price from the Cincinnati Bengals in exchange for defensive tackle B.J. Hill and a conditional 2022 seventh-round pick.
Why Price? How will the Giants use him? Why were the Giants willing to part with Hill? Why were the Bengals, with offensive line issues of their own, willing to part with Price? What are the roster implications for the Giants?
Let’s see if we an answer some of those questions.
Well, I will start off my answer to that question with a question of my own.
Price isn’t some aging player trying to hang on to his NFL career by squeezing out one last season as an emergency backup. In other words, he isn’t Ted Larsen or Kenny Wiggins.
Price is a 26-year-old 2018 first-round pick (21st overall) who has suffered pectoral and foot injuries, has not played to the potential that made him the second center taking in the 2018 Draft, and had lost his place in the Bengals’ lineup due to those injuries and lackluster performance.
There is still upside with Price as a relatively young player. Still a chance that, given a fresh start, he can be a good NFL offensive lineman.
Reading a variety of takes on the Monday afternoon trade, it is apparent that NFL insiders agree that Price was a desired commodity with teams around the league looking for offensive line help.
How will the Giants use Price?
That’s a good question. We won’t have a clear picture of that for the time being. Head coach Joe Judge was not willing to discuss Price with media on Monday as the trade had not been officially announced.
Price, though, gives the Giants options.
In 42 NFL games, Price has 11 starts at center, seven at left guard and one at right guard. In terms of snaps played, per Pro Football Focus, Price has played 698 NFL snaps at center, 478 at left guard and 177 at right guard.
As it happens, the Giants currently have an issue at left guard. 2020 fifth-round pick Shane Lemieux is the expected starter, but Lemieux is still dealing with a knee injury suffered early in training camp. He has practiced some, but did not play in any preseason games and was left behind for treatment last week when the Giants traveled to Foxborough, Mass. for joint practices with the New England Patriots.
Both Wiggins and Larsen, journeymen backups at this point in their careers, have been less than inspiring in Lemieux’s sted.
If Lemieux cannot answer the bell for the Giants Week 1 game against the Denver Broncos, perhaps Price emerges as the starting left guard.
Or ... the Giants could consider playing him at center and moving Nick Gates to Lemieux’s spot at left guard. From this vantage point, that seems unlikely but not impossible. It would move Price to the spot he was drafted to play, but would seem like a permanent move resulting in Lemieux becoming a backup player.
Perhaps the answer is none of the above and Price simply becomes first man off the bench at any of the three inside offensive line positions.
Why were the Giants willing to part with Hill?
A 2018 third-round pick, Hill’s best statistical season came during his rookie year. He had career highs in sacks (5.5) and tackles (48). Truth is, though, those numbers were a mirage and Hill never came close to repeating them.
Three of Hill’s 2018 sacks came in one game against the Chicago Bears. He has had two sacks in the past two seasons, and saw his playing time dwindle once the Giants acquired Leonard Williams.
The Giants saw an opportunity with Hill to acquire a useful asset (Price) for a player they were not going to give a second contract after this season when Hill’s rookie deal expired. So, they made an evaluation and moved on.
What are the roster implications?
Since Price is an offensive player and Hill a defensive one, there implications on both sides of the ball.
As I said above, Price can play all three interior offensive line spots. That puts, Wiggins, Larsen and Jonotthan Harrison all in jeopardy of losing a spot on the 53-man roster.
The caveat is that we do not know Lemieux’s status. It is concerning that he is missing time once again after having returned briefly to practice. Could his situation be serious enough to warrant a short-term stay on IR, which could give one of the veteran linemen a reprieve? We will find out by Tuesday afternoon.
Hill’s release clears the way for the Giants to keep either David Moa, who was on their practice squad last season, or undrafted free agent Raymond Johnson III. Both could make the final roster if Danny Shelton’s injury is serious to warrant him either being released or placed on IR.
Why did the Bengals part with Price?
That’s a legitimate question, considering that a porous Cincinnati offensive line got prized rookie quarterback Joe Burrow hurt last season, and the Bengals haven’t exactly fixed that issue. Maybe the answer is simply that sometimes a player — and a team — just need to go their separate ways. Perhaps that’s the case with Price and the Bengals.
Cincinnati drafted Price to be their long-term center. When injuries sidelined Price, Trey Hopkins earned that job.
Here is something from The Athletic regarding the trade of Price:
It’s actually stunning it took this long to deal Price. The 2018 first-round pick never lived up to his lofty draft spot, but still can be a starting-level center in this league. He never got the chance to really play when Trey Hopkins beat him out in 2019 and the club invested in a long-term deal with him.
Instead, Price tried to transition to guard and was playing for an offensive line coach [Frank Pollack] he didn’t mesh with. Neither went well. Given a chance to focus on center in a new spot is an opportunity to prove he has value in a league thirsting for offensive line help.
Our friends at SB Nations Bengals web site, Cincy Jungle, called the trade of Price “quite surprising” since Price was “having a decent camp and preseason while getting extended reps at center with Trey Hopkins working his way back from an ACL tear.”