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Is G James Daniels the perfect free agent fit for the New York Giants?

Well, yes, until you realize how much it will cost to sign him

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Cincinnati Bengals v Chicago Bears
James Daniels
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

There are two things you should understand about the New York Giants by now — they desperately need offensive line help, and they have little to no money to spend to try and find it in free agency this offseason.

Still, it is the middle of February. That makes it speculation season. We speculate about the NFL Draft. We speculate about players who could be cut for cap purposes, or which unrestricted free agents should be kept or dumped. We speculate about free agency, too.

Which brings us back to the Giants’ offensive line.

If new GM Joe Schoen can scrape together enough of John Mara’s pennies to make a play for one moderately high-priced player in free agency, doesn’t that player have to be an offensive lineman? An interior player or a plug-and-play right tackle?

We have reached that point where every outlet under the sun is going to be make “top xx free agents” lists and making suggestions for which free agents should sign where.

ESPN [subscriber only] is suggesting that the best fit for young Chicago Bears guard, James Daniels, their 28th-ranked free agent, is the Giants.

Why it makes sense: The Giants need several new pieces along the offensive line, and Daniels would instantly upgrade the Giants' mobility in the interior. It's possible the Bears don't let Daniels leave their building without an attractive contract offer. -- [Jeremy] Fowler

Scheme fit: In Brian Daboll's zone run game, the Giants need interior movers who can cut off defenders and climb to the second level. That's Daniels, a young, athletic guard who would step in to upgrade this offensive front in New York. -- [Matt] Bowen

Daniels was a second-round pick by the Chicago Bears in 2018. He has experience at center and both guard spots, and had his best season in 2021 playing full time at right guard for the first time.

Daniels has started 48 of 54 NFL games he has played in, and will turn 25 in September. A young, successful, versatile offensive lineman with a healthy amount of starting experience in the league?

Pro Football Focus ranks Daniels No. 40 on its list of the top 200 free agents this offseason.

PFF writes:

Daniels earned a career-high 71.0 grade in 2021, with the Chicago Bears finally putting him at one position – right guard – and leaving him there to improve over the year. Daniels was one of the youngest draft picks in 2018 and will be just 24 years old in Week 1 of 2022. The combination of youth and the fact Daniels kept getting moved around the interior of the offensive line suggests he could have even more untapped potential playing full-time at right guard.

From Week 4 through the end of the season, Daniels’ 75.8 overall grade ranked 12th among guards. His 71.8 pass-blocking grade ranked 27th among players at the position, and his 76.3 run-blocking grade ranked 17th.

Bottom Line: Since 2018, Daniels has been productive at both guard positions. He also has experience at center and will turn 25 just after opening day in 2022. Daniels is an excellent fit for a zone-blocking scheme and has been one of the best pass-blocking guards in the league over the last two seasons. His best football may still be ahead of him.

What’s not to want?

Problem is, a quick search on Twitter reveals that just about every other offensive line-needy team (and there are a lot) is going to be interested in Daniels. He is going to have choices, and he won’t come cheap.

Spotrac conservatively estimates Daniels worth at four years, $29.452 million in free agency, an average of $7.3 million per year. PFF estimates Daniels to be worth five years, $50 million ($10 million per year) on the open market.

There are some who believe Daniels could be worth even more.

If those kind of numbers are what it would take, I suspect the Giants won’t be participating in a bidding war for Daniels.