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Giants free agency preview: A ‘very calculated’ offseason is commencing

Giants have to be careful with their money, and specific in the moves they make

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New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

The New York Giants have squeezed under the salary cap with 2022 NFL free agency just hours away. Now, how can new general manager Joe Schoen go about trying to fill out his roster with limited — make that very limited — resources to work with.

What has already happened?

Cuts — Tight end Kyle Rudolph, running back Devontae Booker and punter Riley Dixon have been cut. Tight end Kaden Smith was waived (failed physical).

Pay cuts — Wide receiver Sterling Shepard and linebacker Blake Martinez each accepted steep pay cuts.

Signings — The Giants signed former Atlanta Falcons offensive tackle Matt Gono. They also added quarterback Davis Webb, running back Antonio Williams and wide receiver Austin Proehl on reserve/futures contracts.

Keeping their own?

Here are the Giants’ free agents:

Unrestricted free agents: OT Nate Solder; DL Austin Johnson; C Billy Price; TE Evan Engram; S Jabrill Peppers; WR John Ross; G Will Hernandez; TE Levine Toilolo; QB Mike Glennon; S Nate Ebner; DL Danny Shelton; OLB Lorenzo Carter; LB Reggie Ragland; FB Elijhaa Penny; LS Casey Kreiter; LB Benardrick McKinney; LB Jaylon Smith; OL Matt Skura; OT Korey Cunningham; WR Dante Pettis; WR C.J. Board; DB Keion Crossen

Restricted free agents: FB Cullen Gillaspia; S Joshua Kalu; S Steven Parker

Exclusive rights free agents: S J.R. Reed; QB Jake Fromm; G Kyle Murphy; WR David Sills; CB Jarren Williams

We know that few of these players will return in 2022. We know Elijhaa Penny won’t be back. Forget Nate Solder, too. Evan Engram is going to end up with a bigger contract than the Giants can afford, and there isn’t really much indication they want him back, anyway.

The Giants face an interesting decision on edge defender Lorenzo Carter. Was his end-of-season surge, the best play of his career, worth paying something for? Or, do the Giants want to move on and add help in a deep edge draft class? I think he goes.

I think special teams coach Thomas McGaughey will push to bring C.J. Board back as a returner/coverage player/backup wide receiver. A minimum deal probably gets that done. There’s no reason to replace long-snapper Casey Kreiter.

I would be tempted to bring Price back on a low-cost deal, but I doubt the Giants will.

Other than that, I will be surprised to see any of these guys back with the Giants in 2022.

Mitchell Trubisky?

Do you really believe the Giants are going to spend $10 million they don’t really on a middle-of-the-road quarterback to create a controversy around their other so far middling, unproven quarterback?

I don’t.

If they can get Trubisky for backup money, less than $5 million per season, AS A BACKUP for Daniel Jones, then maybe it happens. I do believe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll would love to have Trubisky in New York after their experience with him in Buffalo.

At $10 million, though? One source I asked about that number responded “Hell, no” when I asked if he though Trubisky would get that kind of money. Another suggested that number is agent driven and not real.

Former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum told me the Giants should try one more time with Jones, making sure they “exhaust improvement from within” before going outside for a new solution.

Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic has written a 10-step guide to avoiding a disastrous offseason. One of his rules is “Don’t use significant resources for competency at QB.” Trubisky has been no better than competent in his career, and using significant resources for competency is exactly what the Giants would be doing by giving him a big deal.

Some will argue that is what Dave Gettleman did with Jones — overdraft competency. I’m not in favor of going back down that road.

So, what is the plan?

Schoen said the plan is to be “very calculated.”

He admitted at the Combine that the biggest issue is how to get the team’s cap situation straightened while still fielding a competitive team in 2022 is “the big question.”

Expect low-cost moves with high-upside players, like the signing of Gono. Targeted short-term signings of second-tier free agents to supplement needs, perhaps like recently released former Buffalo Bills guard Jon Feliciano.

Nothing splashy. Nothing overly expensive. Nothing long-term.

We have seen a lot of this before. Let’s just hope Schoen and Co. are better at it than their predecessors.

“We want to be competitive today and also build for tomorrow,” Schoen said. “I think if we’re able to do this the right way, I think there’s a real possibility that we’re going to be able to do that.

Schoen also pointed to ways to fill out the roster without spending wildly.

“The roster’s not set in August. We’ve still got the fifth in the claiming order so that final cut down is going to be an important time. College free agency. We’ll do what we can in free agency, even if it’s one-year prove-it deals, we can do those. Then you’ve got the draft.

“There’s going to be ways to fill holes in the roster.”