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Joe Schoen takeaways: Separation over size, Leonard Williams, much more

Let’s dive into what the Giants’ GM talked about Tuesday once the topic turned away from Daniel Jones

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Earlier on Tuesday we covered New York Giants general manager Joe Schoen being “cautiously optimistic” about re-signing both quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley.

I want to move on with some takeaways regarding the myriad of other things Schoen talked about on Tuesday, but I have to give a quick assessment of what the GM told us about the negotiations with Jones and Barkley on Tuesday.

He said he wanted both players back and that he did not “necessarily” have to get a Jones contract done before a Barkley one. He also said, though, that he would use the franchise tag to keep Jones off the open market if he had to.

Schoen won’t say it, is loathe to say it, can’t say it, but Barkley is clearly second-fiddle in these high-stakes talks. Schoen was clear Tuesday about a “walk-away number” for Barkley and having a “Plan B.”

No one wants it to happen, but the Giants are willing to face living in a Barkley-less world if they have to tag Jones and that leaves them unable to make a deal with Barkley.

Now, some other takeaways.

Separation over size

When the conversation with Schoen finally turned away from Jones and Barkley, and a few silly “filler” questions from media that does not cover the Giants, I was able to ask Schoen about what the Giants might be looking for as they try to fill their need at wide receiver.

First, Schoen was adamant that the Giants have a lot more to do than upgrade wide receiver.

“I know receiver keeps coming up,” Schoen said. “We still have a lot of needs. I’m still taking the best player available wherever we are and we’ll continue to look, we’ll continue to build.

“We’ll be patient. When the value matches up to where we think the player is we’ll try to make the sound decisions and continue to build.”

When they do pull the trigger on a wide receiver or receivers, though, I was curious. Do Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll, who did not speak to media, believe in the “build it like a basketball team” theory recently espoused by Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy?

Schoen was pretty clear that the answer to that is no. Forget body type — the Giants just want receivers who can get open.

“Dabs is great about that. Again, he wants guys who can separate. If you can separate, no matter how tall, short, wide, if you can separate, we’ll find a way to use them within the offense whether it’s outside, inside or slot,” Schoen said. “That’s one of the unique skills that Daboll has is taking the players and the skill set that he has and developing the offense around their skill set.”

To me, that sounds a whole lot like Jordan Addison of USC, Jaxon Smith-Njigba of Ohio State and Zay Flowers of Boston College. It does not sound like some of the bigger-bodied contested-catch guys.

Leonard Williams is going nowhere

There has been some media-generated chatter about the idea that the Giants would cut defensive lineman Leonard Williams of he won’t take a pay cut to reduce his gargantuan $32.26 million cap hit for the 2023 season.

Williams is not going anywhere.

First, Schoen admitted that the Giants’ defensive line depth is “not great.”

“That’s a premium position. Again, talk about allocating resources to a position. That’s important. We gotta be better next year stopping the run,” Schoen said. “I think some of that is our depth where Dexter [Lawrence] doesn’t have to play the amount of snaps he played or Leo doesn’t have to be out there as much as he was out there. That’s important, not only there but we have to improve the depth across the board.”

As for Williams, he said the eight-year veteran is “still a good player” and that he will be talking to Williams’ representatives later this week.

“Leo’s still a good player. It’s not a position where we’re very deep. We’ve got some ideas in mind,” Schoen said.

“When he’s healthy I still think he’s a good player in the league. When you look at the draft the last few years the defensive tackles they’re just not producing like they have in the past. It’s becoming harder and harder to find those guys. We want to be solid up front on both sides of the ball.

“With Leonard I know his number is what it is but he still plays at a high level.”

On losing leadership

The Giants have a plethora of free agent decisions to make beyond Jones and Barkley. One thing Schoen said he wants to keep in mind is that he does not want too many of the team leaders to leave. Schoen particularly referenced center Jon Feliciano and edge defender Jihad Ward.

“It’s not just what’s on the field with some of these guys. It’s the leadership in the locker room and within their position group,” the GM said. “You’ve really gotta make sure you don’t let a lot of leadership walk out of the building … We want to definitely be able to retain some of that leadership.”

On the interior offensive line

The Giants have Mark Glowinski at right guard. With Feliciano and Nick Gates both heading to free agency and a mish-mash of players having started at left guard, those positions are unsettled.

“We have really good depth. It won’t prevent us from, if there’s a guy our there in the interior that we would want to sign from doing that,” Schoen said. “But I think we have some pieces there. There’s going to be good competition at center and left guard this offseason.”

On locking up other young players

Schoen was asked specifically about Lawrence, left tackle Andrew Thomas and safety Xavier McKinney.

He said the Giants will “most likely” exercise Thomas’s fifth-year option. They want to get deals done with Thomas and McKinney, but those are going to have to wait. At least a bit.

“We’ve got more pressing needs right, but those are guys that we’ll consider down the road,” Schoen said.