clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Did Giants have one of the NFL’s worst offseasons? ESPN writer thinks so

Bill Barnwell trashes Giants for buying into their own hype and not making enough changes

New York Giants Offseason Workout Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Only three NFL teams have had worse offseasons than the “run it back” New York Giants, according to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, who recently ranked the team’s offseason 29th in the 32-team league. [ESPN+]

Barnwell writes, in part:

The organization appears to have bought into its own hype. An unexpected trip to the postseason and a road victory once they got there was a pleasant surprise for the Giants, who had been treating 2023 as a year to get their salary cap right and begin a rebuild. Their underlying performance wasn’t quite as impressive; they were outscored on the season and finished 21st in DVOA. They went 8-4-1 in games decided by eight or fewer points and were lucky to draw an even worse playoff opponent in the Vikings, whose DVOA ranked them as the sixth-worst team in the league.

In response, the Giants appear to be running it back. They franchise-tagged Saquon Barkley and committed to Jones, signing the same player who wasn’t worth a fifth-year option 12 months earlier to a four-year, $160 million deal with $81 million guaranteed over the first two seasons. They brought back Slayton and Shepard, who seemed to be on the way out, and while those weren’t major deals, the move for Jones certainly was just that.

The cap space the Giants were supposed to be clearing last year went to Jones and Barkley, which limited what they could do to upgrade a defense that ranked 29th in DVOA last season. I liked the addition of A’Shawn Robinson to one of the league’s worst rush defenses, but a four-year, $40 million deal for off-ball linebacker Bobby Okereke was too aggressive at a position where the majority of useful players settled for much smaller commitments. Schoen used the team’s first-round pick on much-needed cornerback Deonte Banks, but this secondary is going to struggle against an NFC East full of imposing receivers.

Valentine’s View

I am honestly flabbergasted by Barnwell’s ranking. I am not sure what he is seeing. Or, more precisely, not seeing. Same with Pro Football Focus, which argued recently that the Giants still have one of the league’s weakest rosters.

Let’s start with Barnwell’s take on Jones. He wrote:

Jones ranked sixth in Total QBR last season, so I won’t be arguing that he played poorly. In terms of Jones’ development, though, coach Brian Daboll squeezed just about everything out of him. The 2019 first-rounder threw the shortest average pass of any quarterback (6.0 air yards per attempt), which helped drop his interception rate to an unsustainably-low mark of 1.1%. Jones was incredible as a scrambler, but his 708 rushing yards nearly doubled his career rushing total from Years 1 through 3. He averaged just 6.8 yards per attempt and still managed to take sacks on nearly 9% of his dropbacks. Plus, he attempted just 29.5 passes per game.

On a rookie deal, that sort of production is incredibly valuable. At $40 million per year, it wouldn’t be a good use of resources. Jones has to improve as a passer to justify that sort of contract, and the steps he has to take as a downfield thrower and a post-snap processor likely open him up to the turnovers he avoided in 2022.

There is no denying that the Giants were cautious with what they asked Jones to do over the first half of the season. Over the first nine weeks he threw for 200 or more yards just twice, with a high of 217 yards. Over the final nine games, including a 301-yard, two touchdown playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, Jones threw for more than 300 yards three times, threw for 200 or more yards twice, threw nine touchdown passes and was intercepted four times.

The Giants, in other words, put much more in his hands. Yes, Jones 1.1% interception rate is unsustainable year over year, but as coach Brian Daboll said many times last season it indicated that Jones made good decisions with the football. He processed what he saw post-snap well.

In terms of the four-year, $160 million contract the Giants signed Jones to I would simply ask this — what else were they supposed to do?

They weren’t in any position to draft one of the top quarterbacks — none of whom are guaranteed to be as good as Jones already is. There was no Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow or Trevor Lawrence among the QBs in the 2023 draft class. Jettisoning Jones for another middling veteran quarterback, or letting Tyrod Taylor be the starter in 2023, would have sent a horrible to the locker room and perhaps blown up much of the progress made in 2022.

GM Joe Schoen and the Giants did what they had to do. They re-signed Jones. Yes, at a larger number than many saw coming, but also one that will soon be dwarfed by Herbert, Burrow and Lawrence. They also protected themselves by giving only two seasons of guaranteed money, a chance to get out of the deal sooner rather than later if what we saw of Jones in 2022 was the best he’s got rather than a hint of even better to come.

My view of that is that the Giants did the best they could.

I do understand the viewpoint that perhaps Okereke was an overpay given the rest of the linebacker market, but I think that in general what I wrote the other day about PFF’s low opinion of the Giants’ roster also applies here. So, rather than re-invent the wheel, here is what I said:

“I think you can make the argument that the Giants have touched each area of the roster in a significant enough way this offseason that potentially each position group on the roster could be better than its 2022 counterpart. That doesn’t mean each will be better — but the possibility is there.

“On offense, significant additions have been made at wide receiver, tight end, the offensive line and running back. That should make the quarterback better.

“On defense, potential upgrades have been acquired at linebacker, cornerback and the defensive line. Increased health from Azeez Ojulari on the edge, Adoree’ Jackson at cornerback and Xavier McKinney at safety would also improve those units.

“As for the Giants being “due for some regression to the mean,” I have written previously that being more talented on paper doesn’t necessarily mean the Giants will win the same number or more games in 2023. We will just have to wait and see.

“I do think, though, that when the Giants open training camp this summer they will do so with a better roster than the one they ended 2022 with.”

Am I overstating the Giants’ offeseason, or is Barnwell right? Your thoughts, Giants fans.