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Big Blue View mailbag: Saquon Barkley, MetLife Stadium, Deonte Banks, more

The mail’s here!

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As the clock ticks toward New York Giants training camp — and the deadline for a Saquon Barkley long-term contract — let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag and answer some questions.

Jim Moriarty asks: I believe it was on one of your podcasts where the Maryland coach indicated that evaluating a man to man corner on the number of interceptions makes no sense (or something like that). His explanation made perfect sense to me- hard to stick to your guy and watch the ball the whole way. I literally haven’t seen that point introduced in any metrics or evaluations (zone int vs man to man int numbers). Have you? Your take?

Ed says: Yes, it was Maryland coach Mike Locksley who brought that up during a podcast about Deonte Banks. His point was that in zone coverage the defensive back is always facing the quarterback and sees the ball the whole way. In man coverage, the defensive back is facing his man and often has his back to the quarterback — and the ball. Thus, the defensive back may not see the ball until the last instant — making it much harder to intercept.

I don’t know of any metrics that measure zone vs. man coverage interceptions. Pro Football Focus does list dropped interceptions in man and zone coverage, but I’m not sure how much that tells us.

James Stoll asks: As a card-carry[ing] member of the Daniel Jones Skeptics Club, I continue to scratch my head over Schoen’s decision to hand him a 4-year, $160M, 50% guaranteed contract, while at the same time hard-balling Barkley over what amounts to maybe ~$3-5M a year. The buy-out (dead money) of Jones’ contract if he flops is $18M alone. And of course, Saquon is the team’s most electric player; and Jones, to date, has been at best a mediocre game manager. All that said, here are my questions:

1. Do you think Mara forced Schoen to go so high on the dollars as opposed to letting Jones hit the market and come back after no offers were received and accept the ~ $20M-ish his play to date warranted?

2. Do you think Schoen and Daboll really believe Jones can carry the offense without Barkley?

3. Or do you look at the Jones signing and Barkley-hardball as simply a reflection that neither is in Schoen’s long term plans that only comes sharply into focus beginning with the 2025 season?

Ed says: Seriously, James? You’re making me explain all of this again? Oh well, here goes.

Quarterback is more important — far more important — to an NFL team than running back. You can win without a top tier running back. Can’t do it without a top tier quarterback, not the way the game is played now.

So, since the Giants disagree with you and think Jones has a chance (not is, but has a chance) to be a top tier quarterback he was always going to be the priority. GM Joe Schoen was clear about that as soon as the season ended, and he was correct.

Most analysts put Jones somewhere from 11-15 when they rank NFL starting quarterbacks. Right now, Jones is the ninth-highest paid quarterback in the league. Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Trevor Lawrence will soon be getting paydays that dwarf Jones’ contract. Maybe Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Fields and a couple of others, as well. You may not like the numbers, but that’s what quarterbacks make in the NFL now, and when you consider where he is and the QBs coming up for deals, I think he’s paid pretty much exactly what he should be.

I also think the Giants got a good deal because it only includes two years of guaranteed money, meaning they can get out from under it after 2024 if they think they need to.

As for your specific questions:

  1. If you think Jones play warranted only $20 million annually you just aren’t being realistic about what quarterbacks are paid. I think you’re also kidding yourself if you think Jones would not have had suitors.
  2. They’re not going to be without Barkley. The franchise tag means he isn’t going anywhere, and I don’t believe his threat to sit out.
  3. I think Schoen wants to keep Barkley, but I also think he would rather not blow his salary cap out of whack for a running back. Even a back as important as Barkley. Given the recent history of big second contracts to running backs, I think that is the right approach.

Steven Schlein asks: Ed, in your profile on Tre Hawkins III, there was no mention of a potential move to free safety. At 6’2”, 188 lbs, Hawkins would seem a good candidate IF he can’t display the quickness in man coverage for corners required at the NFL level. Has there been any talk of this? Am I missing something?

Ed says: Steven, Hawkins told us in the spring that he was exclusively an outside cornerback in college. The idea of giving him a chance at safety was not mentioned when the Giants drafted him — they also chose safety Gervarrius Owens. To my recollection, we did not see Hawkins at safety during spring practices.

Maybe down the line a move to safety is something that might be considered. Right now, though, it would seem the Giants want to know if Hawkins can develop into a useful man coverage cornerback for Wink Martindale.

Gregg Wanlass asks: After watching the Giants for over 40 years, I feel Jones and Barkley are as talented a combo as we’ve ever had, although, realistically, much less accomplished at this point. The limiting factors being poor offensive lines and a merry go round of below average coaching. The latter seems to be fixed for sure, but the o line is very much in doubt. Am I being paranoid, or is there a reasonable chance that a doomsday scenario could play out — we implement new offensive strategies designed to stretch the field, but the line is not up to the task to provide DJ the time needed to execute those plays. Sacks go up, turnovers increase and the time consuming methodical drives of last year are gone. I realize you can’t fix everything in one offseason, but it does seem that while we made a lot of improvements, we are rolling the dice by sending out essentially the same unit and hoping that Evan improves and our rookie center can immediately live up to press clippings without the usual rookie growing pains. Your thoughts?

Ed says: Gregg, I think Eli Manning and Tiki Barber would like a word with you. Probably Phil Simms and Joe Morris or Ottis Anderson, too.

Now, let’s talk about the offensive line.

I understand the concerns. There is a lot riding on hoped-for improvement from Evan Neal and the idea that John Michael Schmitz will be up to the task as a rookie center.

You seem to be implying, though, that you don’t think GM Joe Schoen has paid enough attention to this position group. I beg to differ.

In two drafts, he has used a first-round pick (Neal), second-round pick (Schmitz), third-round pick (Josh Ezeudu), and fifth-round pick (Marcus McKethan). One of his bigger free agent outlays in 2022, when he was pinching pennies to get the Giants’ salary cap in order, was on Mark Glowinski, a competent veteran guard.

The Giants have also scoured the waiver wire and lower tiers of free agency for potential depth and have added pieces like Tyre Phillips, Jack Anderson, J.C. Hassanauer, and Wyatt Davis for potential backup spots.

Will the Neal and Schmitz moves work out? Will Ezeudu develop into a starting-caliber player? It is too soon to know.

I think, though, that Schoen has devoted a ton of resources to the line in two offseasons. I’m not sure what more you would have him do.

Jeffrey Itell asks: Since 2016, the Giants seemingly turnover the bottom half of their roster after the final 53 cut downs, adding 5-10 players from other training camps. This obviously spoke to the weakness of those camp rosters. Do you anticipate similar roster churn this year and, if not, how much do you think that speaks to the relative strength and improvement of the roster?

Ed says: Jeffrey, the short answer is probably not. Those kinds of things tend to happen when you have new head coaches and are revamping/rebuilding rosters where you just don’t feel good about the bottom of the roster.

There is constant churn of the final few spots on every NFL roster, and I would anticipate that to continue for the Giants. I am sure we will see a couple of players added after final cut downs and before Week 1, but I wouldn’t anticipate the kind of makeover we have become accustomed to.

Anthony Viola asks: How did you get into the business? What was your motivation for how you decided to do this as a career? Was there any one moment that steered you into this career path?

Ed says: Anthony, playing or being involved in sports is all I ever really remember wanting to do. I found writing in high school through the passion and encouragement of a kind old teacher named Mrs. Hartigan who far too many students made fun of because of her age and frailty.

I always dreamed of being a columnist for one of the major newspapers in the country, back in the day when people like Dave Anderson, Red Smith, Jim Murray and others were icons in the business. That’s what I wanted to be.

I never reached that goal, but I’m proud of Big Blue View. It’s the best work I have done in my life.

Jerry Panza asks: So some negatives are starting to be written on Darren Waller. I read a lot of things about the Giants from other sites, however there is none better than reading BBV. My go to Giants site. I enjoy articles in particular written by you ... One writer, I won’t mention his name has Darren Waller at the top of his list for NFL player busts for 2023. I certainly hope he is wrong considering what we just finished with another 70 mill. true bust last year. Any thoughts on DW?

Ed says: Jerry, thank you for the kind words and the support of Big Blue View. As for the article you reference, do we really want to waste time worrying about the opinion of a single writer from Bleacher Report? I don’t.

Everybody knows the deal with Waller. He’s good. Really good. He’s also had injury problems the past two seasons. If he is healthy and playing every week he will be very productive. If he is missing games because of injury, or trying to play through things that limit him, he won’t be.

Is he still the player he was in 2019 and 2020, when he had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons? I don’t know. I do know he will be a huge asset to the Giants if he can stay healthy.

Larry Jamieson asks: Back of the roster question on tight ends. We can assume Waller and Bellinger are the top two, but there seem to be quite a few choices for the third tight end. If the Giants decide to go with three, would they likely have a receiving TE, like Cager, as the third and use an O lineman as the additional blocking TE, or will they keep someone like Myarick as a blocking TE as the third? Or perhaps just keep four?

Ed says: Larry, that is going to be one of the interesting things about the construction of the season-opening 53-man roster. In my post-minicamp 53-man roster projection I have three tight ends (Lawrence Cager being the third) making the roster, but I say clearly that I would prefer four. I just couldn’t find the roster space.

Four would be ideal — two receiving tight ends (Darren Waller, Cager) and two inline tight ends (Daniel Bellinger and either Chris Myarick or Tommy Sweeney). The Giants could keep three and use an offensive linemen as an extra blocking tight end at times. The problem with that is if Bellinger gets hurt during a game it handicaps the offense because neither Waller nor Cager is really a good inline option.

Gino Phillips asks: Could it be that [Saquon] Barkley, [Dalvin] Cook and [Jonathan] Taylor are all waiting to see if the others set a market value that can be used in their own negotiations, given the current state of the RB market?

Ed says: No, Gino. All three are different situations. Barkley is a franchise tagged player facing a Monday deadline for a long-term deal. He can’t wait to see what Dalvin Cook or Jonathan Taylor get. Cook is a free agent looking for job. Taylor is on the last year of his deal with the Indianapolis Colts. Aside from the fact that they are all running backs, I don’t see them as comparable.

Greg Hart asks: I realize the situation with Saquon Barkley will hopefully play out with an agreement before the deadline. My question is; what are you hearing regarding a Plan B if Barkley is willing to sit out?

Ed says: Greg, no one believes that Barkley is going to sit out the season. He would lose $560,611 in salary for every regular season game he doesn’t play. He is not going to do that. Now, without a deal the Giants probably don’t see him for most, if not all, of training camp. He has that right.

As for Plan B, I don’t think there is an immediate one. I think the Giants will assess the backs they have throughout the summer and, if Barkley is sitting out games, they will assess at that point whether they need to add a back. I doubt you’ll see a move before then.

Erick Voronin asks: Hi Ed, let me ask you about one of the worst or possibly the worst football stadium in the NFL…MetLife. Players hate it, fans hate it, I wouldn’t be surprised if ownership hates it too. In a league where beautiful state of the art stadiums keep popping up, we are stuck with one that is worse than its own predecessor. Even our hated rivals, the Eagles, have a nicer stadium. My question is what are the chances of a new stadium being built in the near future. I know Met is only 13 years old but why can’t we have nice things, too. How was MetLife funded, privately or public funds and have other stadiums been built to replace fairly new ones in the past?

Ed says: Wait, Erick, you’re not impressed by the lowercase ‘ny’ now being on the 50-yard line?

Players, to my knowledge, don’t hate the stadium. They have hated the turf, which was upgraded for the 2023 season. We will see how that is received when players get on it.

I know fans dislike the stadium, mostly because of its lack of personality. I have said this before, but that generic feel to the stadium is what you get when there is co-ownership between two teams. It’s not Giants Stadium or Jets Stadium. It is a generic building managed by both.

You might dislike it, but you didn’t pay a dime for it, either. The stadium was financed privately. Per USA Today, Gillette Stadium and SoFi Stadium are the only other NFL stadiums built since 2000 without and public funding. The Giants and Jets signed a 25-year deal to operate it as a 50-50 venture. So, you likely have another 12 years to wait before anything changes.

That same USA Today story from 2022 indicated that NFL teams are building new stadiums on an average of about 27 years. So, perhaps something will happen at the end of that 25-year deal.

Thomas Hall asks: Talk me down from the ledge! Do I need to be worried? I know you don’t know what has been said behind closed doors, but who’s the fly in the ointment here? Do you think John Mara could or should step in? Nobody is indispensable, but this is different. Please share your thoughts as to the past few days.

Ed says: Thomas — and every other Giants fan who is in a complete panic right now — I have questions for you. Have you ever paid attention to an NFL negotiation before? Have you not paid attention when I, and virtually everyone else who covers the Giants, has been telling you for months that the Barkley-Giants negotiation was likely to go right down to the wire? Did you not learn anything from the Daniel Jones-Giants negotiations that went right down to the final few minutes before a deal was reached?

This was always going to go down to the wire. Absolutely nothing has happened to this point that should surprise anyone. Barkley has issued the threats and said the things that a player in his position is supposed to, and almost always, says. The Giants have the leverage of the franchise tag, they know Barkley — regardless of what he says — isn’t sitting out the season and walking away from $10 million. They have used it to keep the price as low as possible. Which, to be honest, everyone should have expected.

Remember, GM Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll is not the administration that drafted Barkley. They don’t have that tie to him, and it is easier for them to look at the cold, hard data about what the marketplace says his value should be without any emotional attachment.

Schoen has said for months that he had a walk away number. We have heard the reports of the Giants having thus far held the line at $19.5 million in guaranteed money. I will be shocked if that is the walk away number. Maybe that number is $22 million, the value of the franchise tag over the next two seasons. Maybe it is $24-$26 million. Schoen has left himself room to maneuver in the last 24 hours or so.

John Mara reportedly made a phone call to Daniel Jones before his deal was reached on deadline day. I am certain he will be involved as the clock ticks toward zero, but don’t you think that if he was really unhappy about the way Schoen has handled things thus far that something would have already changed?

I still believe something will get done. It will be for more than the Giants want to pay and less than Barkley wants to be paid. If something doesn’t get done, Barkley is still a Giant. In that scenario, if he wants to play football in 2023 and get the mega-deal he thinks he deserves he’s going to have to sign the tag at some point and play.

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