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Joe Schoen: Giants need to close ‘talent gap’ with Eagles, other top teams

Takeaways from season-ending media availability for Schoen, Brian Daboll

NFL: JAN 21 NFC Divisional Playoffs - Giants at Eagles Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

New York Giants General Manager Joe Schoen said Monday that the book on the team’s 2022 season is “pretty much closed” as he and head coach Brian Daboll have already turned their attention to the 2023 season.

We have already discussed Schoen’s desire to bring both quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley back to the team — if possible — next season. Here are some other takeaways from the duo’s season-ending media availability.

‘Talent gap’

Asked if there was a talent gap between the Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles — and perhaps some other top teams — Schoen admitted the Giants aren’t talented enough.

“I would say yes. There’s a talent gap there that we need to close, and to me, it’s the NFC East. I mean, we were 1-5-1 against the NFC East. If you win the division, the rest takes care of itself,” Schoen said. “So, that’s always going to be a goal of ours: to close that gap and be NFC East champs. That’s the goal, and that’s what we’re going to work towards.”

Schoen was asked if finding a No. 1 wide receiver would be a priority. He said that wasn’t any more important than seeking upgrades across the roster.

“I think we want to continue to build the entire team. A No. 1 wide receiver can be important, but there are some No. 1 wide receivers that are home right now. A No. 1 receiver doesn’t guarantee you anything. I think it’s important that we continue to build the team and there’s multiple positions where we want to upgrade throughout the offseason.”

Schoen admitted he was hamstrung by salary cap limitations when it came to improving the 2022 roster.

“There were times in season where there were maybe some veteran players that we wanted to sign that would’ve helped us, but we just weren’t able to do it,” Schoen said. “That part stings throughout the season because we could’ve helped the roster, but just didn’t have the flexibility. Yeah, to have financial flexibility, nine draft picks, to be able to devise a plan where you have a little bit more flexibility and resources, I’m definitely excited about that.”

How quickly can that gap be closed? Schoen wouldn’t commit to a timeframe.

“We’re going to try to do the best we can. We’re always going to try to build a better roster, players, whatever it may be, whatever it is – resources around here,” he said. “Anything that we can do that’s in the best interest of the franchise that’s going to make us better, we’re going to do. You can’t put a timeframe on that, but we’re going to be relentless in the pursuit of building a championship team here.”

Taking care of their own

The Giants have 18 unrestricted free agents, including Sterling Shepard — who’s contract will void this offseason.

Schoen was clear on Monday that the Giants want to decide how many of those players they want to keep and make sure they can do that before diving into the pool of available free agents from other teams.

“We have guys that are good players to have,” Schoen said. “We’re in a unique situation that we have some players that are upcoming [for contracts] that were drafted here previously before we came here that played well. It just comes down to how we want to divvy it up, the money and the resources that we have along with the draft. We’re still trying to build this thing so we can sustain it.”

The GM pointed to the fact that teams have a better working knowledge of their own players than players from other organizations.

“The good thing about extending people in-house you know their work ethic, you know their durability, you know their injury history, you know how they train, you know how they practice,” Schoen said. “So, in terms of eliminating some of the margin for error it’s a known commodity.

“We’ve got some guys that are good players that are currently UFAs. These are known commodities in-house that we know intimately from being with them for a year. And we’ll see who we want to bring back throughout these meetings and what their market value is going to be based on our analysis. Again, if we can bring some of our own back, we will, mixed with guys outside the building. We’ll look at that. Ideally to me, the known commodities that are good football players that you know, that’s going to be our priority first. And then we’ll look outside the building, if we need to, to supplement the roster.”

One of those in-house players is Dexter Lawrence, the first-team NFLPA All-Pro defensive tackle who is scheduled to play 2023 on his fifth-year option.

“Yeah, I would say Dexter’s done enough [to get a new contract],” Schoen said before catching himself. “Dexter played well. We’ve got him under the fifth-year option and that’ll be part of our end-of-season review in terms of how we want to approach that. Dexter played really well. Great person, great teammate, happy he’s here.”

Every year is a new year

Schoen and Daboll were asked about taking the next step, going from making the playoffs to truly becoming a championship-contending team.

They both reminded that each season is different and that success one year does not guarantee success the following season.

“I think it’s year by year. Every team is different. Just because you won one year doesn’t guarantee you anything the next year relative to what players you have, what players you don’t have,” Daboll said. “You take a look at last year’s playoff (teams) – I think seven of them didn’t make the playoffs the following year. Two top seeds had losing records. I think our goal will always be just get better each day, try to put the best team we can together, work at it each day and not get too far ahead of ourselves.

“The offseason started the day after we lost, unfortunately. That’s where we’re at. We’ll do the best job we can of building up our team the best way we can, our organization, and then going out there and taking it day by day.”

Schoen agreed.

“Each year is different. Each team is different, the players that we lose, the players that we bring in,” he said. “Again, we like our process, whether it’s free agency, draft, waiver wire. In terms of improving the roster, we’re always going to look to do that. I’ve got a lot of confidence in our coaching staff and the personnel staff that we’ll continue to improve the roster any way we can. And again, every season is different.”

Thoughts on individual players

Schoen was asked for his take on several players on the 2022 roster.

On whether he wants Sterling Shepard back ...

“Love Shep. He’s awesome; juice guy all the time. He’s one of my favorites here. We’ll continue to monitor his rehab, coming off the ACL. He had the Achilles before. He’s been a tremendous resource around here for us. He’s a guy that we’ll talk about as well at the end of the week and continue to communicate with the training staff, (senior vice president, medical services/head athletic trainer) Ronnie Barnes and those guys, on where he is from that standpoint, when he’ll be healthy enough to play. Again, that’s something we may or may not entertain.”

On whether Xavier McKinney’s midseason accident changed his status in the organization ...

“Not for us. He’s a young man that made a mistake. To me, really initially, it wasn’t about football. It was more about his wellbeing as a young man. And we’ve got younger kids. Dabs has some older than mine. But we all make mistakes. And we’ve got to learn from it. For us, it was just about supporting Xavier through that. He fought to get back. Football was secondary when we got the call. I’m just glad that he was able to play again. He’s a great kid that we look forward to working with.”

On Julian Love, who can be a free agent ...

“Again, we’d like to have a lot of these guys back. It’s just as we go through this and we talk to the representatives, he’s a guy – I know he mentioned it yesterday – that we talked to in the bye week. And we weren’t able to get something done with Julian. Julian knows how we feel about him. We had a good exit interview with him yesterday. Again, as we start to get into the offseason planning, we’ll talk to the coaches. We’ll see where he fits in. And if we can get something done, that’ll be good.”