As a way of assessing what the New York Giants have done thus far in 2022 NFL free agency, we have been keeping a running update of what the team’s unofficial depth chart looks like.
Let’s update once again after Monday’s flurry of activity, with the Giants announcing the low-cost signings of running back Matt Brieda and defensive end Jihad Ward.
Give New York Giants rookie GM Joe Schoen some credit. He appears to have thus far made a lot out of a little in NFL free agency despite the Giants being in a precarious salary cap situation.
This is a what a “very calculated” approach aimed at trying to be competitive in 2022 while doing what’s best for the long-term future of the franchise looks like.
Schoen cut tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Kaden Smith, running back Devontae Booker and punter Riley Dixon, saving the Giants about $12.5 million against the cap.
The new GM, rather than cut veterans Sterling Shepard and Blake Martinez, got each to accept steep pay cuts on incentive-laden deals that saved the Giants roughly another $12 million against the cap. He re-structured the contract of placekicker Graham Gano to save a bit more room.
Together, that’s about $25 million in savings against the cap, maybe a touch more. That got the Giants below the $208.2 million cap, but not by much. It’s still not the $40 million Schoen said he wants to trim, and truthfully needs to trim.
What has he done with the money? He added the following players:
QB Tyrod Taylor
OL Mark Glowinski
OL Jon Feliciano
OL Matt Gono
TE Ricky Seals-Jones
WR Robert Foster
RB Matt Breida
OL Jamil Douglas
DE Jihad Ward
That is three competent players who would start on the offensive line if there was a game to play this Sunday. A competent veteran tight end who immediately ascends to No. 1 on the team’s depth chart. A quality backup quarterback who could give them representative play should the Giants need to turn to him this year or next. A wide receiver who had his best NFL season playing for Brian Daboll in Buffalo. A defensive end who played well in Baltimore for Wink Martindale.
To make those moves with little wiggle room, Schoen has taken full advantage of the NFL’s top 51 rule. That rule establishes that from the start of the league season in March until the regular season begins in September, only the 51 most expensive contracts count against the salary cap.
Thus, each time the Giants sign a player, one player on their 90-man roster drops below the 51-man cutoff.
Schoen still has the James Bradberry card to play, which could be a cap savings of $12.1-$13.5 million based on whether moving Bradberry — which he almost certainly still has to do — becomes a pre-June 1 or post-June 1 transaction.
To Schoen’s credit, he is holding on to Bradberry and trying to get something — anything — in return before having to cut him.
Schoen also could save $7.2 million by trading Saquon Barkley, though it doesn’t seem that is a road the Giants are headed down. Wide receiver Darius Slayton ($2.54M cap savings), defensive back Julian Love ($2.54M cap savings) and center Nick Gates ($2.125M cap savings) are other players who could be in jeopardy.
Let’s look at the depth chart as of now. Free agent signings are in bold.
Quarterback: Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor, Davis Webb, Brian Lewerke
Running back: Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Antonio Williams
Wide receiver: Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney, Darius Slayton, Collin Johnson, Robert Foster, C.J. Board, Alex Bachman, David Sills, Travis Toivonen, Austin Proehl
Tight end: Ricky Seals-Jones, Chris Myarick, Jake Hausmann, Rysen John
Offensive line: Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, Ben Bredeson, Jon Feliciano, Mark Glowinski, Matt Gono, Korey Cunningham, Nick Gates, Matt Peart, Wes Martin, Devery Hamilton
A few thoughts
If the 2022 NFL Draft works out in optimal fashion, one or both of offensive tackles Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu will be available to the Giants in Round 1. If not, they could take Charles Cross or Trevor Penning, though the wisdom of taking either in the top 10 splits the draft community.
If the Giants have to address the right tackle spot later in the draft, the presence of Matt Gono should mean a Day 2 or Day 3 tackle selection wouldn’t be forced to play before he is ready. Really, that’s the same at the interior spots. GM Joe Schoen has bought himself time to develop longer-term solutions along the line.
Brieda should provide serviceable backup running back snaps at a lower cost than the released Devontae Booker.
Defensive line: Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, Jihad Ward, Raymond Johnson III, David Moa, Niko Lalos
Edge: Azeez Ojulari, Quincy Roche, Elerson Smith, Cam Brown, Trent Harris, Oshane Ximines, Omari Cobb
Linebacker: Blake Martinez, Tae Crowder, Carter Coughlin, T.J. Brunson, Justin Hilliard
Cornerback: James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, Darnay Holmes, Rodarius Williams, Aaron Robinson, Jarren Williams
Safety: Xavier McKinney, Julian Love
A few thoughts
The only things the Giants have done here thus far are to cut Logan Ryan, bring back Jarren Williams and add Ward.
Depending how the draft plays out, the Giants could make a Round 1 play for an edge defender or cornerback. I still believe the Giants are going to have a difficult time letting cornerback Sauce Gardner go by, especially if they move on from Bradberry.
Placekicker: Graham Gano
Punter: Jamie Gillan
Long-snapper: Casey Kreiter