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Big Blue View mailbag: Saquon Barkley, draft, salary cap, more

The mail’s here!

Memorial Day Weekend is here. Before you head off to enjoy the unofficial beginning of summer, let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag and answer some New York Giants questions.

Jerry Panza asks: Ed, your article on Saquon of 5/15 answered lots of questions out here in Giantsland, I have one I’d like to know in the general sense of the yearly dance of franchise tag to player contract . Is the franchise tag guaranteed money? Honestly I love Saquon and his is a totally a different story but it’s getting as to feel as exhausting as the KT situation last year.

Ed says: Yes, the tag is guaranteed money. Once the player signs it, that is what he makes — and counts on the cap — for that year.

Kölnerbigblue asks: Ed, much has been made about the Giants have the 3rd lowest rest differential. I understand the calculation but I don’t understand how that impacts the team. Two of those weeks are after the other team’s bye week. I seem to remember that in the Coughlin years, we were horrible coming off the bye week. So I am wondering why I should be concerned with the rest differential in real and not theoretical terms. What is your opinion?

Ed says: Kolner, any time a team has more rest than its opponent they are at an advantage. Short rest means less recovery time for all players, it means the chance of players battling injuries being able to play — or play well — is lessened. Preparation time is lessened and practice routines are compromised.

This study showed that from 2000-2022 more than 50.41% of games were decided by 8 points or less. That, of course, is one score. The NFL is a league built on parity where the margins between the best and the worst teams really isn’t that large.

Everything matters. Every play. Every advantage you can get, or think you can get. It’s why teams obsessively defer when they win the opening coin toss. As of 2019 (the last data I could find) deferring can add a single point on the scoreboard and increases odds of an extra possession by 12%.

Winning a game — any game — in the NFL is hard. Any week where your opponent has more rest than you just makes it even harder.

Jackie Gayle asks: How do you see the second inside linebacker competition playing out? With their plethora of competent inside defensive linemen, might we see the Giants line up in a 4-3 defense a good amount of the time?

Ed says: Jackie, unless the Giants make some type of unanticipated roster move, this is likely a competition between Jarrad Davis and Darrian Beavers. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said as much recently.

As for a 4-3, the Giants are a base 3-4 team. I’m sure you’ll see some 4-2-5 with the edge defenders (like Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari and Jihad Ward) with their hands in the ground. Traditional 4-3? Rarely, if at all. You will see extra defensive linemen in goal line and short yardage, but not traditional 4-3.

I’m not sure why people get hung up on 3-4 vs. 4-3 or whatever. Teams are in sub-package defenses probably 85% of the time, anyway. The base is just a starting point, and you see teams in all sorts of alignments.

Walker Joyce asks: I just read in today’s edition about Wink Martindale’s Dr. Z Award. It reminded me that he won a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens.

Kafka won one with the Chiefs, and of course Daboll has several from his tour with the Pats. It’s probably not unprecedented that the HC and both main coordinators have world title pedigrees, but it’s probably rare. This is another reason why we fans hope the current coaching staff can remain together until the Jints win another Lombardi.

I know we haven’t begun the 2023-24 season yet, but assuming another playoff year do you think Mara will sweeten the pot to keep the two lieutenants on board? Then again, Wink may be perceived as too old at this point, and Mike still a bit too green. Whatever, continuity is a key to success in the NFL, but it’s become a luxury.

What are the odds these two solid assistants will be here in 3 more years, which is how long I think it’ll take the Giants to win another NFC title?

Ed says: Walker, if the Giants continue to be good and Daniel Jones continues to succeed, there is virtually no chance Mike Kafka remains with the team for another three years. He had four interviews for head coaching jobs during the last cycle, was considered for a fifth, and was a finalist for two teams if I remember correctly.

With that kind of interest, sooner or later he is going to get a job.

As for Wink Martindale, I just don’t know. His age and the reality that owners all seem to be looking for the next Sean McVay, the next great, young offensive mind work against him. Sadly for Martindale, I’m not sure a lot of these teams actually know what is and is not important when they interview and hire.

Martindale can lead men. He can set the tone for and be the face of a franchise. To me, those things are more important than which side of the ball you specialize in. I think he could do well if he landed in the right spot as a head coach, but I’m not sure he will ever get the opportunity.

As for “sweetening the pot,” the Giants might try to do that but they aren’t standing in the way of anyone trying to advance their careers. Joe Schoen worked two decades to get his opportunity to be a GM. Brian Daboll coached for 25 years before getting a chance to run his own team.

They won’t stand in the way of Kafka, Martindale or anyone else on staff who wants to advance his or her career.

Derick Gross: The Giants’ recent draft video was fascinating. Knowing that the team considered Hyatt to be a good value at 57 makes trading 89 and 128 to get him that much more impressive. Given how the entire draft unfolded, had Baltimore taken Tae Banks and the Giants traded up to 24 to take Zay Flowers, is there a combination of players New York could have drafted in rounds 2-5 that would excite you as much as Banks, Schmitz, Hyatt and Gray? (Feel free to make the trade up to 73, or take the picks at 89 and 128.)

Ed says: In watching that video it seemed to me like Banks was the No. 1 player on the Giants’ board after Jaxon Smith-Njigba went to the Seattle Seahawks at No. 20. Joe Schoen admitted he started making calls trying to trade up at No. 21, where the Los Angeles Chargers picked. He admitted to being nervous that the Baltimore Ravens would take Banks at 22.

The way things unfolded, my best guess is Flowers would have been their guy (assuming the Minnesota Vikings at No. 23 stuck with Jordan Addison).

You want to know, though, what I would have done after that.

At No. 57, I am taking John Michael Schmitz in that spot every time. I was a Joe Tippmann guy, but he was gone. I was and am a big fan of Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders (Denver Broncos, No. 67 overall), but there was no better pick for the Giants at 57 than Schmitz.

In Round 3, the Giants were willing to give up their fourth-round pick (No. 128) for Hyatt. Let’s assume there was no one else they would have done that for, meaning they would have stayed at No. 89.

Might Michael Wilson, the wide receiver from Stanford who went No. 94 to the Arizona Cardinals, have been an option? Maybe Roschon Johnson, the running back from Texas who went No. 115 to the Chicago Bears.

I’m curious what the Giants might have added if they had kept the fourth-round pick. Available players I liked included:

Edge defender Viliami Fehoko, wide receiver Tyler Scott, cornerback Darius Rush and maybe defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy.

I can’t say the combination of any of those players in Rounds 3 and 4 would have been as potentially beneficial as Hyatt could be if he reaches his potential.

Dan Murphy asks: It’s seems like Schoen has had to perform lots of salary cap gymnastics each of his first two off seasons to not only bring in talent but just create enough space to sign draft picks and get through the season. Is this a byproduct of the situation he inherited, or is it typical of most NFL teams to need to constantly restructure or extend players to eek out a few mil in cap space just to get through the season?

Ed says: Dan, it is a little of both. Every team restructures or extends contracts on occasion. That’s the nature of long-term deals in a league with a hard salary cap.

Regarding the Giants specifically, it is important to remember that Schoen walked into a salary cap mess created by the Giants’ desperation to make a playoff run in 2021. They handed out bad contracts to Kenny Golladay, Leonard Williams and arguably even Adoree’ Jackson.

There are still a lot of players on the roster Schoen did not draft or sign. He is still working his way out from under what he was left with.

I think it is going to be a while before we really know how good Schoen is at managing the cap.

David Silver: Last year, coach admitted that his weight got away from him. Has he made any progress getting it down?

Ed says: David, nobody asked him about that when we saw him on Thursday. He’s a big, round guy. Just looking at him I’d guess he has probably taken off some of the weight he gained at the end of last season. I will admit, though, that I really didn’t look that closely. It wasn’t something I was thinking about.

DG asks: Do you believe that Schoen has put enough pieces around Daniel Jones this offseason to see his ceiling this year? When would it be reasonable to expect DJ to compete for Pro Bowls, All-Pro type honors. 2023, 2024, beyond?

Ed says: DG, I don’t know what Jones’ ceiling is. So, I don’t know that I can answer the question in that way.

What I can say is that on paper this would look like the best group of offensive players Jones has had around him. He has a terrific head coach and offensive coordinator and is in the second year in the Daboll-Mike Kafka system, and that should work to his advantage.

Provided good health for himself, Darren Waller, most of the wide receivers and good enough offensive line play the opportunity is there for Jones to take another step forward.

Kurt Kampp asks: When rating players those who play special teams have an edge over those who don’t. This factor does not seem to be used in reverse. Example, Nate Ebner and Cam Brown. Why is this?

Ed says: Kurt, I’m not sure I agree with you. Guys like Ebner, Brown, Carter Coughlin Matthew Slater of the Patriots and others make their livings primarily on special teams. It’s not like they are incapable of playing defense, it’s just that other players are better. Just like they are better at covering kicks than some offensive or defensive players.

Players who are not starting-caliber often stay in the league based on special teams.

In reality, what happens when it comes to the final few roster spots on any team is that coaching staff are looking for players who can do a variety of things, play a number of positions on offense or defense and contribute on special teams.

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