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Big Blue View mailbag: Joe Schoen, Saquon Barkley’s future, more questions

The mail’s here!

It is a bye week, but you need to talk about New York Giants football. So, let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag and do that.

Jacob Willett asks: Schoen said in his presser that contract extensions would be discussed during the bye week. With Saquon and Jones being UFAs at the conclusion of the season it made sense that the questions were primarily about them but is Dexter Lawrence not the most obvious candidate to receive an extension this week? I understand his fifth-year option was picked up but wouldn’t it make sense to get ahead of the market by extending him now? If so, what do you think his comps would be contract wise? He’s playing more NT this year but he also has been producing in the pass rushing department.

Ed says: Jacob, I absolutely believe that Dexter Lawrence should be on the list of players the Giants try to keep on a second contract. GM Joe Schoen agrees. Will that happen before Monday, Schoen’s self-imposed deadline before players get back to work? Will any extensions happen before Monday?

It sounds like a deal with Julian Love might happen. The rest? I don’t know. I wouldn’t be expecting a whole bunch of deals to get done in the next couple of days.

Is Lawrence the ‘most obvious’ candidate? I can’t say that. What about Andrew Thomas, who might be the best left tackle in the league? What about Xavier McKinney, the leader of the defense?

They are all on the list. Deals don’t often come together overnight. I just think it’s good that the Giants have a core of young players who deserve second contracts, and that they have a GM who wants to make that happen with as many of those guys as possible.

Alex Kalb asks: Love the site, first time I’ve felt really compelled to ask a question. Looking at the press around the Giants’ surprising 2022 success, including Peter King’s midseason analysis, Joe Schoen is getting a lot of credit for the current state of the Giants. I think Daboll’s influence is pretty clear, and BBV has revisited Gettleman’s contributions, but I’m of the opinion that it’s too early to tell how Schoen is doing. He hired Daboll, which looks great so far, but didn’t have a lot of space to make decisions in free agency and his draft class is very much in its developmental stages. By the time you use this, if you do, the trade deadline will have passed with (understandably) little activity. Can we really see Schoen’s fingerprints on the team already and is it reasonable to feel positive about his work or is he benefitting from the halo around an unexpected 6-2 team?

Ed says: Alex, there might be a little bit of a ‘halo’ effect or a honeymoon period going on — and deservedly so at 6-2. Still, I absolutely think you can see Schoen’s impact on the roster and across the organization.

Brian Daboll was clearly Schoen’s choice as head coach. This was Schoen’s draft class. I have listened to him tell the story of getting to know Kayvon Thibodeaux enough to be pretty certain it was Schoen who stuck his neck out, ignored the chatter about off-field interests and whether or not Thibodeaux really was committed to playing hard, and made the call to draft him at No. 5.

Schoen listened to what his coaches wanted and maneuvered for Wan’Dale Robinson.

Schoen made the tough call to swallow the money and let Logan Ryan go. He navigated free agency and found the Giants some helpful, if not great, players with very little money to spend.

People like Assistant GM Brandon Brown, Director of Pro Scouting Chris Rossetti, and Assistant Director of Player Personnel Dennis Hickey joined the organization because of Schoen. I wrote Thursday about all of the under-the-radar veteran players that group has unearthed for the Giants this season.

Moreover, Schoen and Daboll have brought a whole different energy to the organization, a different attitude. If you want to call it a different culture you could do that. You hear words like “real,” or “genuine,” or “authentic” whenever you talk to anyone about them.

I can tell you that dealing with them, and being around the building and getting a chance to talk to people who deal with them more than I do, the Giants live in a much different — and better — world than they did before Schoen and Daboll arrived.

Now, can Schoen continue to build this roster? Can Daboll continue to push the right buttons, and can he handle it when a few losses pile up? There will be personnel misses. There will be decisions we disagree with. That stuff in inevitable.

We’ll see what the long term brings. In terms of Schoen, though, you see his fingerprints both on and off the field.

Matt Totaro asks: If the season ended today and you were the GM ED, would you tag, sign or let Jones and/or Barkley walk? Giants are projected to have $61 million in cap space per over the cap, what is the max you would be willing to pay if you resign them? Next move as GM would you cut the following players to free up even more money to potentially help upgrade the team: Golladay, save $6.7 pre 6/1 or $13.5 million post, Leonard Williams, save $12 million pre 6/1 or $18 million post and Adoree’ Jackson, pre 6/1 $9 million or $12 million post.

Ed says: Matt, obviously much can change over the final nine games. Right now, though, here is how I would approach it if I was Joe Schoen.

  • Daniel Jones — I would hope to sign Jones to a two-year deal for somewhere around $35 million total. I have not done a deep study into quarterbacks in the draft class yet, but right now I’m not trading all sorts of draft capital to go up and get any of them. I think there is a ceiling with Jones, but I don’t want to go backwards and I can build with him for a little while until I’m in better position to go get a young quarterback.
  • Saquon Barkley — Franchise tag.
  • Kenny Golladay — Of course I’m moving on.
  • Leonard Williams and Adoree’ Jackson — Both good players who are not yet on the back sides of their careers. What would I cut them for? I’m not facing a James Bradberry situation, where I have no choice because the salary cap doesn’t work any other way. Players that good are hard to come by, and I’m not in the business of intentionally making my team worse.

Joe McHugh asks: For the last decade the Giants haven’t had a consistent safety tandem. Aside from Antrel Rolle, Landon Collins, and Jabrill Peppers, think about all those guys that were cycled in and out: Stevie Brown, Will Hill, Quentin Demps, Brandon Merriweather and the list goes on and on. With Julian Love in year 4 and Xavier McKinney in year 3 , are they the long term solutions ? I think they’ve both played very well this year, making impact plays and getting their guys fired up. Dane Belton would still be the 3rd safety but would certainly still play a lot. Love, McKinney, and Belton for the long haul?

Ed says: Joe, what is long-term in the NFL, anyway? Things change so rapidly all any team can do is what they think is the best thing right now.

Anyway, yes, I would like to see the Giants lock up McKinney and Love with second contracts. It is important to have a core of your own players, and it has been too long since the Giants have had players deserving of being second-contract guys. McKinney and Love are both in that category.

I am optimistic that Belton will eventually be a second-contract guy, as well, but he has a long way to go to prove that.

Lawrence Kenney asks: If Saquon Barkley continues to play as well through the rest of the year do you think a 4-year deal between $40-45 would work for both parties?

Ed says: Lawrence, let me try to look at that from both perspectives. This is purely my off-the-cuff reaction. I would like to, and probably eventually will, talk to some people to see what fair market value for Barkley might be. I haven’t done that yet. But here goes, based on your suggestion of four years and $40-45M.

  • From the Giants’ perspective — Absolutely, I think I would do this from the Giants’ perspective. BUT, and this is a big BUT, there is no chance this is a fully-guaranteed contract. I would guarantee MAYBE $25 million, and the deal would have to be front-loaded so that all of that guaranteed money is paid in the first two years. Then, I can get out of the deal after 2024 if I want/need to.
  • From Barkley’s perspective — I am not taking that deal. Right now, by Average Annual Salary, the $7.798M I am making on the fifth-year option has me at No. 9 among running backs. If I sign for four years and $45 million, I am STILL No. 9. I have made no progress, and I’m not doing that. Especially if the Giants want to front load all that money and cut me in two years. I can make $12.6 million on the franchise tag next year, so really that number doesn’t get me anywhere.

Honestly, I think I’m a better player than Alvin Kamara or Ezekiel Elliott. When I’m healthy, I think I always have been. They make $15 million per year. For me, that’s my starting number.

ctscan asks: I listen to a podcast that Nick and another guy do where they break down the X’s and O’s using All-22 film for every play on either side of the ball. It’s very informative. You really get to hear how all of the pertinent players on each play fulfill or fail to execute their likely assignments and how this contributes to the ultimate outcome of the play. There are a number of players whose names you constantly hear just making plays. There are also a few players who, at least according to Nick and his partner, have regular difficulty keeping up.

Then there is Xavier McKinney. He’s made an important play here or there, but he is rarely, rarely mentioned. It doesn’t seem to be that he’s so good they’re not throwing at him. He just doesn’t seem to be very involved. I looked up his PFF grade. Not great. I think we were all expecting a big step forward from McKinney this year. What do you think is going on?First year in a new defense? Not a good fit for the system? Undisclosed injury? Not as good as we thought he was going to be? What gives?

Ed says: CT, I don’t know exactly what gives, but it is an interesting question. Perhaps I will ask Nick to dive in and look specifically at a few games of McKinney film.

I always caution people not to overreact to Pro Football Focus grades. They are an informational tool and not gospel. NFL teams use a much different grading system that we are not privy to. Still, McKinney’s PFF grades is noticeably lower than it was a year ago — 56.3 in eight 2022 games compared to 75.4 a year ago.

McKinney is being used differently by Wink Martindale than he was by Patrick Graham. He is blitzing a fair amount, and has his only career sack and seven hurries. He had only three hurries over his first two seasons. McKinney has rushed the passer 36 times this season. He did that only four times all of last year.

Here is the breakdown of how McKinney has primarily been used:

Box — 22.7 percent (2022); 13 percent (2021)
Slot — 8.9 percent (2022); 11.9 percent (2021)
Free safety — 55.9 percent (2022); 71.6 percent (2021)

So, McKinney is being used closer to the line of scrimmage more often this season.

The Giants are also running far more man-to-man coverage than they did a year ago. In fact, more man coverage than any team in the league.

Pro Football Focus

In 2020 under Graham, the Giants used man coverage just 23 percent of the time, per Sports Info Solutions.

I don’t have exact stats from 2021, but this chart from NFL Operations shows about the same breakdown maybe two-thirds of the way through last season.

Maybe that’s part of it. McKinney did a great job last season sitting in centerfield, reading what was happening, and showing up in time to make plays. He isn’t being asked to do that as much this season.

He also has a lot on his plate as a young player calling defensive signals at the NFL level for the first time.

All of that said, I have no worries about McKinney. He is an excellent player, and I think the Giants would be smart to lock him up for a number of years to come.