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Big Blue View mailbag: Wan’Dale Robinson vs. Richie James, draft questions, more

The mail’s here!

The NFL might be in a bit of a lull as we wait for the NFL Scouting Combine, but the Big Blue View Mailbag is still overflowing with New York Giants questions. Let’s get to some of them.

Joel Friedberg asks: I do mock drafts with Pro Football Network and am able sometimes to get a wide receiver at 1 but almost always can get Sewell do you think considering linebacker maybe our greatest need is he worth a first-round pick. Also sometimes can get the center Schmidt from Minnesota with the second-round pick. Is it wise to go that high for a center?

Ed says: Joel, first you are talking about Noah Sewell, the linebacker from Oregon. Tony DelGenio took a long look at positional value recently, and that study would indicate that off-ball linebackers are generally not a great first-round value.

In my view, if there isn’t a wide receiver or cornerback there that the Giants really want I wouldn’t have a problem with a linebacker. I selected Drew Sanders of Arkansas at No. 25 for the Giants in my most recent mock draft. As for Sewell, he is not my cup of tea. When I watch him I see him fail to make far too many plays he is in position to make, or should make.

As for John Michael Schmitz, if the Giants think he is first-round worthy I have no issue with that. Grabbing a center in the bottom third of Round 1 has become a fairly common occurrence in recent years.

Jeff Toto asks: If Wan’dale Robinson was healthy all season and put up the same stat line as Richie James, I feel like praise would be lumped upon him and Schoen would be praised for drafting him. Yet, everyone seems to hate Richie James due to the SEA game and the MINN drop.

In James, I see a reliable (yes, I used that word - one of the highest catch rates in the league), veteran receiver playing for cheap. He also has a good rapport with DJ.

I don’t see why we shouldn’t consider bringing him back. Though I feel like Schoen is gonna go with “his guy” in Wan’dale.

What are your thoughts on Richie James vs. Wan’dale Robinson. Specifically, what is Wan’dale going to do that Richie James can’t?

Ed says: Jeff, I have no issues with Richie James — or with using the term “reliable” in describing him. He had two fumbles in one games, otherwise was exactly that for the Giants. He does have eight fumbles in 221 career touches, a fumble every 27.6 touches. That’s not fantastic.

I won’t have a complaint if the Giants bring James back on a one-year deal at a low cost, something slightly above the minimum perhaps with some incentives to raise the deal’s potential value.

What can Robinson do that James can’t do?

Let’s start with this. What we saw of James — career bests by far in receptions (57), yards (569), touchdowns (4), catch percentage (81.4) and passer rating when targeted (119.6) is probably the ceiling for James, who will be 28 next season.

What we same from Robinson, who just turned 22 in January, is just the tip of the iceberg of what the Giants believe he can do. The nine-catch, 100-yard game he had Week 11 against the Detroit Lions — the game in which he got injured — is what the Giants were hoping for.

What Robinson has that James did not show in 2022 is dynamic play-making ability. Yes, Robinson averaged just 9.9 yards per catch. Look closer, though. James averaged a paltry 3.1 yards after catch and broke one tackle in 57 receptions. Robinson also broke just one tackle in 23 receptions, but averaged 5.5 yards after catch.

There is more upside with Robinson and, based on the little bit we saw in 2022, more game-breaking potential.

As for GM Joe Schoen going with “his guy,” I’m not sure what you are suggesting there. Robinson is an exciting 2022 second-round pick. He is going to be part of the 2023 Giants. James is, and always was, a depth player forced to play more than expected who did a nice job. If the Giants can bring him back on their terms, they will. And, that’s fine.

David Silver asks: When you consider all of the Giants’ needs, you have to stop the run and the Giants ranked 30th in the league in doing so. How much can you invest in Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams, and how much should you invest if you want to bring in one or two veterans who would raise the talent level on the line or the linebacker position?

Ed says: David, I honestly don’t know what the exact number is. I know this — Dexter Lawrence is the Giants’ best defensive player and you do what you have to in order to keep him. He is set to play 2023 on his fifth-year option, so the Giants don’t have to move right away. They will, obviously, though want to keep him from hitting the open market next year.

I also know that cutting Williams is foolish. His cap number ($32.26 million) is ridiculous and the Giants will have to work out an extension that lowers it somewhat.

You do what you have to do to keep your best players. You worry about the ancillary pieces with what remains.

Steve Harrington asks: The 2023 Eagles (both players and coordinators) won’t be the same as in 2022. Salary cap is also in issue. What will it take for the 2023 Giants to narrow the gap between the two teams?

Ed says: Steve, the gap is going to narrow somewhat naturally. The Eagles have lost both coordinators. They currently have slightly more than $7 million in cap space, with a ton of important players heading to free agency. They will carry dead money from several contracts that are going to void this offseason. They are not going to be able to keep everyone they would like to keep.

The Giants just need to keep piling bricks on top of their foundation. We know and have talked a lot about where they need to add talent — wide receiver, interior offensive line, maybe tight end, linebacker, cornerback, defensive line. Pretty much everywhere.

They need to have a good draft. They need some of the injured rookies from 2022 to rebound in 2023. They need to be right with a couple of modest free agent signings.

There is no magic formula, other than continue to upgrade the roster in any way they can.

Jim Jordan asks: Help me out here, Ed. I’m very confused by the Giants’ decision regarding Sterling Shepard. If they’re going to be on the hook for over $4 in dead cap space by voiding his contract now, why not hold the contract and see if he can recover in time to compete in camp, and if he can’t THEN cut him loose? Would that option somehow cost them more in dead cap space?

Ed says: Jim, there was no decision to make. Shepard took a pay cut to remain with the Giants for the 2022 season. The 2023 portion of the deal was always a void year, meaning it was a dummy year that didn’t really exist. It was just an accounting mechanism — a way to push some of the signing bonus from 2022 into 2023, lessening Shepard’s 2022 cap hit. That means the contract was ALWAYS going to void and he was ALWAYS going to be a free agent. Teams do that when they have cap issues to work around, which the Giants did in 2022. And, yes, it kicks at least some of the can down the road.

To play for the Giants in 2023, Shepard was always going to need a new contract. I checked with both CBS cap analyst Joel Corry and Over The Cap’s Jason Fitzgerald on this next piece to be certain. If Shepard returns to the Giants on a new contract, the Giants will carry the $4.245 million in dead money from his 2022 deal AND whatever his new contract is worth on the 2023 salary cap.

Chris Chianese asks: There are two types of franchise tags. One is exclusive and no other team can sign him. The non-exclusive franchise allows teams to negotiate and can match or let him go and get two first rounders. Which do the Giants apply for Barkley assuming they do franchise him?

Ed says: Chris, I honestly think it is highly unlikely the Giants will franchise tag Saquon Barkley. I think they have telegraphed that they would like to save the franchise tag as a tool in their negotiations with quarterback Daniel Jones. Remember, teams can only use one tag. The Giants can’t tag both players.

If they were to tag Barkley, I would think they would use the non-exclusive tag.

Jeff McGrath asks: Darnay Holmes is a confounding player for me. Lots of positivity about the pick coming out of UCLA as our new slot CB, but he always seems miscast. Doesn’t have the quick hips to turn and go off the cut, always trailing and grabbing. As a slot CB he is at risk of being cut this year, but might he be better suited at boundary corner or better yet at strong safety? He is a great tackler in run support, could he be a backup/replacement for Julian Love at safety?

Ed says: I would describe Holmes as adequate slot cornerback. No more. No less. I don’t know that Holmes is in danger of being cut — the 637 defensive snaps he played for Wink Martindale was a career-high by nearly 200 snaps. I do think the Giants would like to upgrade if they can.

I don’t see Holmes as a boundary cornerback. He has short arms and isn’t a great athlete for the position.

Holmes only played 60 snaps aligned wide a year ago, and just 38 the year before. That means neither Wink Martindale nor Patrick Graham saw him as a player they wanted aligned wide.

As a safety? As much as safeties need to do in run support, I don’t see it. Julian Love is the same size, but a much more physical player. Holmes’ run defense grades — 42.5 in 2020, 34.6 in 2021, 29.0 in 2022 — don’t show me a player who be trusted in run support from the safety spot.

Harold Tolchinsky asks: Do you think that the Giants would consider signing Miles Sanders if Barkley becomes too expensive?

Ed says: Harold, I wouldn’t rule it out. If the Giants don’t sign Barkley, though, I would honestly expect them to look in the draft where there should be a lot of good options in Rounds 2-4 and to spend their free agent money elsewhere.

Benjamin Lawrence asks: It was well noted on this site how the run has taken more priority this past season. Given that teams are playing more defensive backs and that wide receiver salaries are high, do you think it’s reasonable for a team to focus more on tight ends, an underpaid position, in their offensive game plan?

For example, say the Giants sign Mike Gesicki (a free agent that’s also a Giants fan), gives Cager and Bellinger more receiving opportunities, and picks up another receiving threat in the draft (Dalton Kincaid), this could help take advantage of lighter defensive sets or present mismatches against linebackers. It also puts less pressure on getting a true #1 receiver, somewhat like a KC-light. Could this work?

Ed says: Benjamin, sure that could work if that is what the Giants decide to do. Travis Kelce is the No. 1 receiver on the Super Bowl champs. It wasn’t that many years ago when the New England Patriots built an offense around Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

The Giants need additional receiving talent. There is more than one way to get it.

John Raggio asks: If you’re Daniel Jones, besides money, in order of importance to you, what are you asking for in terms of good faith from the Giants? Good faith meaning obviously these are things that won’t go into a contract. Upgraded interior OL, a big deep threat WR, additional versatile WRs resign Barkley, or nothing and you just go with the idea that your interests and the team are aligned and you hope they don’t use most of their resources on the defense?

Ed says: John, I don’t think Daniel Jones is a guy who has the cachet to ask for anything. You sign the contract and let Joe Schoen and the front office do their job. Of course you would like more talent around you. The Giants know those things are needed.

Patrick Morris asks: While Daniel Jones had a good year, it feels like in many respects the Giants are bidding against themselves to keep him. I’ve seen $38 million a year referred to as a number, which seems high.

At what price point do the Giants just say “too much” and look for a different QB? Perhaps someone like Derek Carr, who may have a similar price point, but from a QB rating perspective looks somewhat better? $38 million a year? $40 million a year?

Ed says: Patrick, saying “too much” and moving on to another quarterback for 2023 is not going to happen. GM Joe Schoen has already committed to Jones being the quarterback next season. Remember when Schoen said “We’re happy Daniel’s going to be here.”

The Giants are not moving on in 2023. This is why I keep saying that I believe the Giants will not franchise tag Saquon Barkley. I believe strongly they are holding that tag for Jones in the event that they can’t reach a deal with Jones that they are comfortable with. Better a one-year franchise tag than an expensive, multi-year deal you end up not being happy with.

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