Despite the disappointing end to the season, as a Giants fan, I couldn't be more excited about what's ahead! Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll inspire such confidence and belief that they'll make sound decisions and build this team the right way.
With so many unrestricted free agents, it's going to be a busy offseason. Here's my view of the top five biggest priorities of the 2023 offseason:
1. Resigning Daniel Jones
This one is obvious.
Schoen made no equivocations about the desire to have Jones back in his postseason presser. As Dan Duggan pointed out, contract negotiations are all about comps. People may feel that Daniel Jones is about a $25 million quarterback right now, but no quarterback makes an annual salary in that range -- it's a dead zone. His agent surely will be looking for a deal in the 35/m range, but IMO that is high for Jones.
Schoen has spoken about setting a value for players and not stretching far beyond that value -- I don't think they believe Jones is north of a $30/m quarterback, so one of the tags could become the best option. But, if they do tag him, that reduces the resources that would be available for other needs. If they sign him to a multi-year deal, they can make the year one cap hit smaller (15-20/m), and give themselves more flexibility for other needs. The contract negotiations will be fascinating.
2. Resigning Dexter Lawrence
We know locking up some of their core young players is the first order of business, and after Jones, Dexy is the top priority.
Lawrence's breakout year was so fun to watch. He became a truly unique, one of one type player creating pressure as a nose tackle.
Even though they have him on the 5th year option at around ten million, Schoen wants to lock him up and put some long-term pillars in the ground for this team. Also, the market for interior linemen is exploding. Get ready for something in the four-year, $80 million range, at least. Dex is worth every penny.
3. Inside Linebacker
We all know the Giants weren't fielding NFL caliber linebackers this season. They were abysmal fitting the run and lost in space dropping into coverage. Jarrad Davis starting in the playoffs three weeks removed from the Lions practice squad tells us all we need to know.
The Giants benefited from opponents straying from the running game (Washington game) but the Eagles lined up and bludgeoned the ball down our throat twice this season; it was the type of domination you more often see at the college level.
Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds is a name that comes up often because of the Buffalo connection -- he's also probably the best free agent that will hit the market at the position. Spotrac estimated his market value to be in $11 million range.
Schoen repeatedly referred to "known commodities" in his press conference. We know resigning in-house players that they are intimately familiar with will be the priority - familiarity with the player and person is paramount for Schoen. That's why there were so many former Bills on this years roster and why Edmunds makes a lot of sense.
4. Defensive Line
For many of the same reasons they need linebackers, the Giants desperately need defensive line depth.
They can't march out anybody like Justin Ellis, Ryder Anderson, or Henry Mondeaux next year. Schoen acknowledged there were players they wanted to sign during the season but couldn't because they were up against the cap. Beyond any doubt, they wanted to sign a defensive lineman.
I'm expecting the Giants to take multiple defensive lineman in the draft. It's notable that the Bills have pounded the defensive line with their top draft picks over the last few season (to mixed success); while Schoen was in Buffalo, the Bills took a defensive lineman with their 1st round pick in 2019,2020, and 2021. Also, remember that beyond this season Leonard Williams status with the team is in doubt. Long-term, the only defensive lineman currently on the roster who will undoubtedly be here is Dexter Lawrence.
5. Wide Receiver
While the Slayton, Hodgins, James group was surprisingly productive down the stretch, we know they need to rebuild the receiver room. Hopefully, Wan'Dale Robinson can return healthy early in the season next year. Likewise, hopefully Collin Johnson can also return healthy.
Hodgins was a revelation this year -- probably the best move of the Schoen regime so far. Expect him to be back, possibly on a multi-year deal. Outside of Robiinson and Hodgins, everyone else is uncertain to return.
Both Slayton and Richie James are unrestricted free agents. I can see James returning if the deal is modest. As for Slayton, my gut feeling is he won't be back, given the number of UFA's the team has and the thin free agent market for wide receivers. Slayton could get more than the Giants are willing to pay on the open market, and he doesn't owe the team anything after taking a pay cut. I would expect them to prioritize a guy like Julian Love over Slayton, look for bargain receiver options in free agency, and for them address the position early in the draft. I also wouldn't rule out a trade.
Zay Jones got $3/24 million last year from the Jaguars. They paid a premium to get him to Jacksonville, but a similar deal for Slayton isn't out of the question.
The Saquon Question
Resigning Saquon Barkley is not one of the five most important priorities for the Giants this offseason. I love the guy and would love to have him back, but I could never pay a running back $15 million annually, and nor will the Giants.
Schoen understands positional value and he's not going to stretch to pay a premium to bring Barkley back out of sentiment. In an ideal world, you're paying a running back a rookie scale contract -- a new crop of serviceable running backs is available every year. Having said that, the Giants don't have so many core players under contract that they couldn't afford to give Barkley a fair deal.
Nick Chubb got a $3/36 million deal from the Browns. Saquon isn't as good as Nick Chubb and running backs are far more valuable to the Stefanski Browns than they are to the Daboll Giants. I
would be willing to pay Barkley $3/33 million with all guarantees in the first two years. Given his injury history and a fair evaluation of his actual production, I would let him go if he demands a deal in excess of that.
I didn't forget about all-pro left tackle, Andrew Thomas. Feels so great to write that!
Locking up Thomas should be a top priority this offseason. I could have put Thomas high on the priority list above, but I didn't include him because he's under control for two more years (with 5th year option). I would expect Thomas to get a massive top of the market extension this offseason. LIke Dex, he'll be worth every penny.