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Big Blue View mailbag: Combine edition

The mail’s here!

It’s been a busy week at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, but I still found time to dip into the Big Blue View Mailbag for some questions. Let’s get to it.

Christopher Benfer asks: I’ve been running a lot of mock drafts, mostly on PFF, and one pick I keep talking myself into is Matt Araiza (P) out of SDSU. He seems to be a rare talent at punter, and the G-men need one. I often find myself taking the Giants sixth rounder and trading down toward the end of the round, then taking him if he’s still available. While I normally don’t want to spend picks on specialists, at some point getting a starter out of the sixth round versus a borderline roster spot guy has to count for something, right? Am I crazy? How high of a pick would you spend on a punter?

Ed says: Christopher, I don’t think you’re crazy. I’m not sure I would select a punter in this draft if I was the Giants. I believe the Giants have to move on from Riley Dixon, certainly, but at least as I think about it now a punter feels like a luxury pick. Maybe I’d take the Round 6 shot if I really like the kid, but not earlier than that.

Scott Petrone asks: We all know what Evan Ingram is, but I do have one question. Why didn’t the Giant’s change him into a wide receiver?

We know he can’t block as a tight end he does have some speed. It seems like that would have been the natural progression.

What are your thoughts?

Ed says: Scott, there was the report this week from Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post that there is at least one team interested in using Engram as a slot receiver. There is a difference between slot receiver and true wide receiver. That being that you don’t face the same press coverage, and from the slot you always have a two-way go — toward the middle or the sideline.

How were the Giants going to make Engram a slot receiver? They were paying Sterling Shepard good money to do that job. They paid Golden Tate good money and he was primarily a slot guy. Kadarius Toney is primarily a slot guy. You can’t have a full team of slot receivers.

As for a true wide receiver spot outside against the league’s best cornerbacks, where is the evidence that Engram has the footwork or shiftiness to get off the press and beat those guys. He has advantages over safeties and linebackers, even smallish slot cornerbacks, but that all goes out the window against quality cornerbacks.

Don Bucc asks: Here’s a hypothetical draft question - curious about your philosophy. Assume the Giants have top 10 (or higher) grades on Neal, Ekonwu, and Cross. Neal is off the board but they draft Ekonwu at 5 and are able to trade down from pick 7 to a mid-round first (let’s say pick 18) while acquiring at least an additional 2023 first round pick. When it’s the Giants turn to pick at 18, Cross is the only top 10 guy on their board still available and the top edge, corners, and other OL (Linderbaum/Green) are gone. Given the state of the Giants offensive line, do you 1) take Cross knowing that you now have to play Cross or Ekonwu at guard, 2) try to trade down further, or 3) take a player with a clearly lower grade?

Ed says: Don, that’s a difficult question to answer. First, I don’t think Cross gets close to 18. I think I would hope for Linderbaum or Green there if I wanted offensive line, but in your scenario they aren’t available. I would probably pass on Cross here because I don’t want to take Ekwonu at 5 and then shove him inside without giving him a chance at tackle.

Douglas asks: Do you agree with the conventional wisdom that 5 or 7 overall is too high to take a center? I long criticized Gettleman for taking an RB at 2 overall, but I think the positional value of a good center is higher than the conventional wisdom suggests. Tyler Linderbaum may well be the BPA when the Giants draft and I think having a good center for the next decade is a force multiplier. It will shore up a position on the offensive line with a really good player. But then I read all of the stuff about not taking centers that high. What is your opinion?

Ed says: Douglas, this is a tricky question. It’s one you hear that gets debated in league circles. What is the value of a center in the draft?

Here’s what I think I think. The fifth pick is too high. The Giants are uniquely positioned because they also have the seventh pick, and you could argue that makes it easier for them to justify using the No. 7 pick on a center.

There are so many reasons not to take the center, though. If you look at edge, offensive tackle and cornerback, most of your premier guys are first-round picks. If you look at the center position, you can find and develop really good ones in the middle to late rounds. Do you pass up a premium edge rusher (like David Ojabo if he’s your guy) or a potential No. 1 cornerback (like Sauce Gardner or Derek Stingley Jr.) for a center? That’s hard for me.

Rather than selecting Linderbaum at No. 7, I think I would be happier if the Giants traded down.

ctscanlon asks: Man, do I love the off-season. So many interesting things to talk about! Anyway, wanted to chime in on the Barclay trade chatter and see what you thought.

Let me start by saying that the day Gettleman drafted Barkley was the day that I fell out of love with Gettleman. Short romance... That said, Barclays fifth year is 20% of the value of that first round pic that we spent to get him. and I don’t think we’re in a position to let assets go without maximizing our return.

If we trade him now, it will be for pennies on the dollar and I think there is reason to believe that he could realize his potential with a decent offensive line. He was never going to be a 4 yards and a cloud of dust runner. His utility was always going to be taking it to the house after having been sprung. We never found the right guys to maximize his skill set and so he danced around in the backfield. He’s not great at making something out of nothing, but I feel like given a decent hole, he’ll likely do more with it than most .

Considering our presumed investment in the line this season, couldn’t this be his year? If he turns out to be the game-breaker we hoped, we are in better cap situation next year and maybe we do invest. Even if we can’t afford him, if he has a good season, we can maximize our return with a decent comp pick. Maybe we tag and trade him… This is to say nothing of being competitive this year. We are losing Engram and shepherd and need to keep around as much talent as possible.

And what do we balance all that potential upside against? $7 million and a seventh round pick? I know we are cash strapped, but if Barclay does round into form, as I kind of think he will A year out from the surgery and with an O-line, there’s no 7 million Dollar free agent that’s gonna give you that kind of “generational player” bang for your buck. I’m also aware of the potential for another injury, but if you recall, Matthew Stafford had some injury concerns early in his career as well. I don’t know that you can really make reasonable predictions about his durability based on what amounts to two unrelated injuries.

So, what do you think, did I change your mind? Is GM Ed shopping my man around or is he doing what is obviously the right thing and hanging in there one more year?

Ed says: Nope, you didn’t change my mind. Go listen to the podcast Dan Duggan and I did together on Friday. The Joe Schoen regime is unlikely to pay big money to a running back on a second contract, which means his time in New York is running out. That means you get something for him now, even if it’s pennies on the dollar, and live with it in the short team if he makes you look bad in 2022. The Giants probably aren’t going to be very good, anyway, and that’s what is best for the long-term future of the franchise.

Jeff Newman asks: Ed, you’ve made a case for why the Giants should trade Saquon Barkley this off season and I agree with you 100%. My question pertains to what would happen if they don’t. I understand they could trade him at the trade deadline provided he still healthy and playing well. But if they don’t and he has a great year there would be pressure to keep him. However, he would then command top dollar and devoting that kind of money to the running back position is historically not a good way to build a team. He’ll be a free agent next year and if they let him walk they get nothing and I understand if they franchise tag him he probably won’t play on the tag. Does that mean they also cannot tag him and trade him? I can’t imagine that they would sign him and trade him because the amount of money it would take to sign him would prohibit most teams from trading for him and they might not like the contract. So other than a comp pick, how could they keep him this year and still get something for him?

Ed says: Jeff, I think I’ve made my case that I don’t believe this regime wants to pay big money for a running back. The only way you really get something for Barkley by holding onto him now is by moving him at the trade deadline. Of course, if he gets injured again you get left holding the bag.

As for tag and trade, you’ve got to find someone willing to spend big dollars to take him off your hands. Who is that going to be?

Kölnerbigblue asks: With the news of the Shepard renegotiation and the specter of cutting Martinez, what is the impact of injuries on the cap? Does the CBA require an injury settlement before a veteran is cut? Does that settlement count as dead-cap in the fiscal year of the cut?

Ed says: Injury settlements only occur in preseason when a team releases player. That works like this:

“An Injury Settlement is usually based on the amount of time that the team and player agree the player will be unable to play. So, for example, if the player is only expected to miss the first month of the season, the team and player will usually agree to a settlement of 4/17ths of the player’s scheduled base salary. The team then receives a Salary Cap credit of 13/17th of that salary. An Injury Settlement is attractive to both the team and player because it allows the team to create additional Salary Cap space and allows the player an opportunity to catch on with another team and not have to sit out the entire season on IR.”

If the Giants were to release Sterling Shepard or Blake Martinez there would be no additional injury settlement. The dead money cap hits would be whatever the numbers are in their existing contracts.

The Giants have Shepard in a bad spot. He has two years left on his deal, carries an $8.475 million base salary and $12.495 million cap hit in 2022. If the Giants release him he is going to have a difficult time finding a deal with his availability uncertain coming off his torn Achilles and with his injury history. His best option might be to tear up his existing contract, take a one-year incentive-laden deal with a salary at or close to the minimum, then try to go into free agency in a year.