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Big Blue View mailbag: Saquon Barkley, drafting a center, other NYG free agents, more

The mail’s here!

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There is one more NFL game to play. Then, a looooong offseason filled with speculation and tons of pointless arguing about which players the New York Giants should sign or draft. Pointless because none of us control those decisions, anyway.

Before we get to all that, let’s open up this weekend’s Big Blue View Mailbag.

William Clayton asks: Usually a team won’t draft a center in the first round could you see the Giants drafting one this year especially since its being reported there are not to many first- round graded players and the NFC East every team has a strong defensive line? I feel like they haven’t address this need for a long time.

Ed says: William, this was a point of debate last year when many fans were high on Tyler Linderbaum of Iowa and wanted the Giants to select him in the top 10. That is rich for a center, but somewhere around No. 20 or later seems to be just fine. Linderbaum went No. 24 to the Baltimore Ravens and had a solid rookie season.

In 2021, the first center selected was Josh Meyers, who went No. 62 to the Green Bay Packers.

In 2020, the New Orleans Saints took Cesar Ruiz No. 24 — and played him at guard.

In 2019, Garrett Bradbury went No. 18 to the Minnesota Vikings.

In 2018, Frank Ragnow went No. 20 to the Detroit Lions and Billy Price No. 21 to the Cincinnati Bengals. Ragnow has made two Pro Bowls.

The No. 1 center in this draft is thought to be John Michael Schmitz of Minnesota. If the Giants have him graded highly enough to be their pick at No. 25 I have no problem with that. The Eagles are a perfect example of the importance of building both lines.

I have long been a believer that you build from the inside out — if you don’t solidify the offensive and defensive lines you can’t maximize the ability of your playmaking receivers, running backs and defensive backs.

There are so many questions in the Big Blue View inbox that I used some in a Friday mailbag post on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast. Here are those questions and answers:

If you have sent a question that has gone unanswered, don’t despair. I have kept many of them and will try to answer ones that remain timely in future mailbags if I can. And, please, keep the questions coming. Send them to

Gino Phillips asks: Is it possibly not a coincidence that Olujari has incurred the multiple injuries that he did this season in part due to his 2021 offseason workout regimen? He came back to camp noticeably bulked up. Did that potentially cost him some flexibility? Was his offseason workout monitored by the team or was he on his own?

Ed says: Gino, I wondered the same thing as I watched Azeez Ojulari suffered multiple leg injuries during the 2022 season. I don’t know whether or not the added weight contributed to the injuries he dealt with, but it is possible. He had a hamstring strain at the beginning of training camp, then missed time in training camp and during the season with calf injuries.

The ankle injury and the bruised quad he suffered late in the year were different, but those muscle strains do make you wonder.

Let’s be honest. After his rookie year Ojulari needed the added strength. The new coaching staff was thrilled at what he looked like and how he was working once he got on the field. With the change in coaching staff, though, Ojulari was on his own to build an offseason training program. Could that have contributed? Maybe.

ctscan123 asks: Hey Ed, I’m kind of torn about Barkley. On the one hand, He’s a team leader, our most explosive player and the face of the franchise. on the other hand, he rushed for 4.4 YPC and Breida rush for 4.1 yards YPC. I know Barkley is better than Breida, and he certainly has much larger thighs, but 10 or $12 million better? I understand that his presence and explosiveness affect the way defenses can play us and that that is valuable, but again, 4.4 and 4.1 … Is there an advanced stat that quantifies productivity versus replacement that we could use to estimate how much more Barkley is worth intangibles aside? My heart certainly wants Barkley, but my head is having trouble reconciling the numbers. Does Barkley improve the team more than a $5 million running back and $10 million towards an impact free agent at some other position of need?

Ed says: CT, this is one of the confounding things about Saquon Barkley. Do you need an elite running back? Can you do just as well with a good one, or a pair of good ones? Beyond the total yards, and the splash plays, how good is Barkley?

Football Outsiders probably provides the best measuring stick.

Using FO’s DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) stat Barkley was only 0.2 percent above a replacement level running back on a per-carry basis in 2022. That placed him 21st among backs with 100 or more carries. Using straight VOA (Value Over Average not adjust for opponent) Barkley was at -0.2 percent, 23rd.

By FO’s DYAR stat (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) Barkley was 13th with 108 yards above replacement. So, by that stat an average running back could have gained roughly 1,200 yards rushing for the Giants this season on the 295 carries Barkley received.

As a receiver, FO has Barkley 43rd among 51 running backs who caught at least 25 passes (he caught 57) with a DVOA of -22.5 percent. He was 47th in DYAR with -37 yards above replacement. So, he got 37 fewer yards than expected on the passes he caught, according to Football Outsiders’ data.

If you want, you can certainly use those numbers to argue that the sum of Barkley’s work in 2022 was below replacement level on a per-touch basis. You could argue that his production does not match his name recognition and his reputation.

None of that factors in how much the Giants relied on him — Barkley was third in the league in touches with 352. It doesn’t factor in his leadership, his presence and his overall value to the franchise.

Negotiating a deal with Barkley is tricky. I am in favor of keeping him, but the Giants should not break the bank. They also should tie themselves to him with guaranteed money for more than a couple of years.

Robert Flynn asks: I get it that Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley are important to this team, but why is there no love being directed toward Dexter Lawrence and Julian Love? Defense wins Super Bowls! I truly hope that our GM and coach realize that and get these guys resigned.

Ed says: Robert, I don’t know why you would have the idea that Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll don’t realize that defense is important.

When it comes to Dexter Lawrence, he will be a Giant in 2023. The Giants have already exercised his fifth-year option. The urgency with Lawrence is to reach a long-term deal that keeps him from entering the free agent market next offseason. He can’t do that this offseason.

The Giants will get deals done with Jones and Barkley because they have to do for the 2023 season. That is the biggest priority. At some point, they will work on getting a deal done with Lawrence. Maybe later this spring. Maybe this summer. Maybe before the 2023 season opens.

As for Love, there were reports during the 2022 bye week that the Giants had discussed a new deal with Love. So, yes, they know he is a player they would like to keep. Thing is, how much do you want to pay him? Love will have options because he is a good player. This might be the one time in his career he can hit free agency and truly be sought after, and I wouldn’t blame him if he tries to find out if someone will give him big money. If you’re the Giants, and you have big-money deals coming down the line with Lawrence, Andrew Thomas and Xavier McKinney how much money can you throw at Love?

Brian Shietman asks: I know Gettleman is not well thought of but I remember him saying there were three things necessary to be a successful football team. Run the ball, stop the run and rush the passer. Even though his teams never achieved that I think he is correct. What do you think the likelihood the Giants draft emphasizes, at least in the early rounds, the offensive and defensive fronts and we pass on the quest for the wide receiver #1.

Ed says: Brian, I absolutely think that is possible. I say it again ... and again ... and again. I’m tired of saying it and many are probably tired of reading it, but you can’t commit yourself to taking a wide receiver at No. 25 just because you think that might be your biggest need. The Giants have needs in several places, including both lines.

If they believe players on the lines are the best values when they pick, then they will — and should — pick those players. If you can’t control the lines of scrimmage, nothing else you can do really matters.

Jack MacMullen asks: Ed, my question is how locked-in are teams to the mantra “Best Player Available”? In this example, the Giants have no flash signings in free agency and they are somewhat comfortable at the safety position.

Their “Big Board” looks like this:

  • No. 25 - a safety
  • No. 28 - their #1 TE
  • No. 29 - their #2 OL
  • No. 30 - their #2 WR

Do they still go safety? Thanks.

Jack: There is no such thing as “Best Player Available,” at least not in the sense that every NFL team will agree who that best player might be. Every NFL team has different scouts, different coaching staffs, different schemes, different perceived needs. So, every team’s “Big Board” of how they rank players will be different.

Teams might rank players in a 1-100 order as an exercise. Giants GM Joe Schoen admitted last year that the Giants did so as part of their prep. That, though, is not how they approach the draft. It’s not as simple as the highest ranked player on a 1-100 board is the choice.

Teams will grade players on a point scale. Chris Pflum uses his own grading scale. Here is a common grading scale. uses this grading scale. Dave Gettleman used to use a grading scale that topped out at 9.0. I don’t know what Joe Schoen uses.

Teams will tier players and approach each of their picks with a list of targeted players they would be comfortable selecting at each spot. They will use vertical and horizontal draft boards to determine value, for example seeing which positions might be “heavy” on talent, meaning they might be able to wait and which are “light” on talent, meaning they had better grab a talented player at that spot before all of their targets are gone. We have presented a vertical and horizontal big board for the last several years.

So, the choice isn’t as simple as going down the list and picking the highest-ranked guy on a vertical list.

Here are a pair of similar Saquon Barkley questions:

Christopher Benfer asks: I just read your article on whether or not to re-sign Barkley (and for how much). One question I have is how viable the franchise tag would be as a medium term plan. From what I can tell, the franchise tag value is about $10M this year. If Saquon performs similarly to his 2022 self that’s certainly not a crazy number, and if he keeps getting injured we can walk away after a year. The next year he could be franchised again at 120%, so about $12M, which is something close to what the BBV writers are suggesting would be the bottom end of a fair price for a multi-year deal. Once again, we’ve got him for a reasonable price for a year, with no commitment if he falls off the RB performance cliff. Going into the third year he would get expensive, but at that point we should have built a solid O-Line and have some weapons for DJ (or whoever is the QB) and be able to move on to a cheaper option, maybe on a rookie deal. Plus, if he goes elsewhere and gets paid we’d be eligible for some compensatory picks, correct?

I suspect Barkley wouldn’t be as happy with this deal - is that why the Giants wouldn’t go down that path? Or am I missing something else?

Sylvain Gauffre: Could you please expand on the scenario where negotiations with Barkley will drag on. In the case an agreement prior to free-agency is not possible, there must be no way Joe Schoen let Barkley walks the door to the open market for nothing. I then would like to see Schoen using the transition tag to at least buy time in the lead up to the draft, and work out a trade for potentially an additional 1st round pick – (Buffalo, Cincy or KC in the bottom of R1, for example). If to use the tag, would you rather franchise tag Barkley for next season, letting him leave as an FA in 2024 – or transition tag him to work a trade come draft day? What do you believe is the possible value in return for Saquon in a trade scenario?

Ed says: Guys, let’s first acknowledge that with the salary cap being set at $224.8 million for 2023, the running back franchise tag is $10.091 million. The transition tag value is $8.429 million.

Here is an explainer detailing the differences in the two types of tags.

The Giants don’t “want” to lose Barkley. They also don’t want to completely throw their spending out of whack by overpaying for a running back, or being tied to a highly-paid one for years after his skills begin to noticeably diminish.

I do understand the various tag scenarios. What you are both missing, though, is that the Giants have telegraphed that they do not want to use a tag on Barkley. Teams can only use one tag. GM Joe Schoen made it crystal clear in his season-ending press conference that bringing back Barkley is secondary to making sure Daniel Jones is a Giant in 2023 — and probably beyond.

What the Giants want to do, the way I read their intent, is to have the $32.416 million quarterback franchise tag available in their negotiations with Jones. That way they guarantee they keep him off the open market and know they have their quarterback for 2023.

I endorse the strategy. Quarterback is far more important than running back, and quality quarterback play is harder to find than productive running back play.

As for a Barkley trade, forget the idea that the Giants could get a first-round pick for Barkley. The Carolina Panthers got a 2023 second-round pick, a 2023 third-round pick, a 2023 fourth-round pick and a 2024 fifth-round pick for Christian McCaffrey. The Giants would not get that much in return for Barkley. Giants fans might not want to hear it, but when McCaffrey is healthy he is a better player than Barkley.

K. Mendy asks: Why don’t the Giants give raises to Kafka and Martindale so they can consider staying? Dallas and Patriots have done that in the past. It would be better for a developing team like the Giants rather than the players having to learn new systems on offense/defense with someone new.

Ed says: Yes, it would be best for the Giants if Mike Kafka and Wink Martindale returned in 2023. People in all walks of life have the right to seek promotions or try and advance their careers, though. The NFL is not any different. The price of success, of hiring a great coaching staff and winning games, is that NFL teams see what you have accomplished and want to try and bring that to their own organizations.

Why would Brian Daboll, who thought he was ready for a head-coaching job several years ago and had to wait his turn, try to hold back assistant coaches trying to follow the same path he followed to the Giants? Besides which, you can’t refuse permission for an assistant coach to interview for a job that would be a promotion.

Yes, you could dangle more money. That’s not going to stop Kafka or Martindale from pursuing career advancement.

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