Ryan Perry asks: Tis the offseason (for the Giants, at least), and our fan brains are in full how-can-we-get-better? mode. My question is this - does a “Unicorn” (i.e. in-their-prime Aaron Donald, JJ Watt, Calvin Johnson etc.) provide more value at positions that are typically not valued? High-value positions are typically QB, WR, DE, CB and OT, and most teams build their rosters by prioritizing those positions that are in conflict with each other (WR-CB, DE-OT). Positions like TE, LB and safety are not valued as high and are not prioritized in roster building. Can having a Unicorn at those positions tend to give a team a larger advantage over other teams? Baltimore comes to mind here, with their combination of Mark Andrews (TE), Roquan Smith (LB) and Kyle Hamilton (safety).
Ed says: Ryan, there are very few “unicorns.” But, I do understand where you are going with this.
I have to talk about Kyle Hamilton a bit here. I said again and again before the 2022 NFL Draft that I thought Hamilton was going to be a great player despite whatever testing numbers some weren’t thrilled with. I thought he was top 10-worthy, and it would have been fine with me if the Giants had used one of their two top 10 picks to take him. He went 14th to the Ravens.
Now, long-time readers know that I think Dave Gettleman erred in taking Saquon Barkley No. 2 in 2018. Great player, but the Giants needed to start a rebuild and a running back with a short NFL lifespan is not the right player to start that with. As a finishing piece or an add to an established playoff team, Barkley would have been an incredible pick. For the Giants in their circumstance, not the best use of that resource.
That said, game-changers are game-changers, regardless of position. That is what you want, and what the Giants need.
The Detroit Lions’ 2023 draft is a great example. They got four difference makers in the first 45 picks, and you can argue that not a single one of those players plays a ‘value’ position. I thought the Lions were crazy when they did what they did in the draft, but they sure look smart now.
RB Jahmyr Gibbs (Round 1, No. 12); ILB Jack Campbell (Round 1, No. 18); TE Sam LaPorta (Round 2, No. 34); S Brian Branch (Round 2, No. 45).
Emory Hunt and I also had an interesting conversation this week that included discussion of the ‘game changers’ topic:
John Brenner asks: Would you be willing to comment on the Saquon Barkley situation, in terms of numbers that might make sense for both him and the organization? I was wondering if something like this could work, even with this year’s franchise tag at $12.1 million, because he’s aging, has an injury history, and the overall running back market doesn’t seem very favorable.
2024: $10 million fully guaranteed
2025: $6 million guaranteed plus $4 million if he leads the team in rushing
2026: $4 million guaranteed plus $6 million if he leads the team in rushing.
Too low? Too ridiculous to give him anything guaranteed in 2026 (his ninth season). What numbers make sense financially to you to keep Saquon in blue for another two or three years?
Ed says: John, I will be shocked if the Giants offer Barkley a contract that includes guaranteed money extending into a third season. They weren’t willing to do that last offseason, when he was a year younger, had suffered one less injury and had roughly 300 fewer touches worth of wear and tear on his body. No way I see them being willing to do that this time around.
I have no idea right now what Joe Schoen and the Giants think is fair. Personally, I have always thought three years and $36-39 million with the first two years fully, or close to fully guaranteed would get a deal done. I don’t think the Giants were willing to go to those numbers a year ago.
If you use the $12.1 million as a starting point for negotiations, maybe the Giants would rather do two years and $25 million with about $18-20 million guaranteed. They might not even be willing to do that. Honestly, it doesn’t make sense to commit to Barkley for more than two more seasons.
Draft questions answered
For the second consecutive week, we received so many questions that I broke some out for a video podcast on Friday. Click the video below for my responses to several 2024 NFL Draft questions.
Bob Donnelly asks: Obviously - dollars aside - every Giants fan would like to see Saquon retire as a Giant.
However, Schoen has to weigh his options:
Saquon remains a Giant:
A) New contract for ___ years at $___ with $___ guaranteed.
B) Tag him.
Move on and deploy the resources elsewhere:
C) Tag and trade him freeing up $$ and adding draft capital.
D) Let him walk, free up $$ and hope for a comp pick.
What do you think he should do?
Ed says: Bob, I gave my thoughts on the possible parameters of a new deal in the previous answer.
If Barkley and his primary agent, Ed Berry, want more than what I laid out above I have to think tag and trade might come into play. I would hate to see Barkley hit the open market with the Giants’ only possible return being a compensatory pick. That, though, might happen.
John Foti asks: I’ve read several articles about Joe Schoen using the franchise tag on Saquon this year. Saquon had a good year, not a great year. I just don’t believe that Joe Schoen wants to pay Saquon Barkley 12.5 million dollars for one season and I don’t think that any other team would pay that either. In all probability, Saquon might not get an offer that tops what he was offered by the Giants last year. If I were Saquon and Schoen uses the franchise tag again, I would sign it.
I’m a big Saquon Barkley fan and want to see him remain a Giant but part of me would like to see him get the opportunity to play behind a quality offensive line. I feel the Giants have wasted the best years of Saquon Barkley much the same way they wasted the second half of Eli Manning’s career by not providing enough help. What are your thoughts?
Ed says: John, I don’t think Barkley would sign the franchise tag for a second time, unless he did so in an effort to force a trade.
I have discussed the financial stuff about Barkley in previous answers. The wasting Barkley’s best years part of your question is what interests me. The Giants tried to start a rebuild with Barkley, and that was a mistake. The shelf life, and the impact on wins and losses, of a running back is just not enough. Jahmyr Gibbs is a finishing piece in Detroit. Christian McCaffrey is a finishing piece in San Francisco. When you are already good and need another piece is, in my view, the right time to use premium resources on a running back.
WesinSC asks: Both the Giants and Steelers are well respected, family-run teams that have been NFL flagships for over 90 years. However, for decades the Steelers have performed at a higher level. In the 53 seasons since 1972, the Steelers have had a winning team (.500 or better), 45 times, made the playoffs 32 years, played in 8 Super Bowls and won 6 of them. The Giants have had a winning season 25 times, made the playoffs 17 times, played in 5 Super Bowls and won 4 of them. The main differences between these teams appears to be coaching. The Steelers have employed just 3 coaches (Noll, Cowher, and Tomlin), while the Giants have had 14 (not counting interim coaches). What can the Giants learn from the Steelers’ success which could help get them back to consistently winning ways?”
Ed says: Wes, the Steelers are an anomaly. Every team strives for the consistency and continuity they have had, but it is virtually impossible to maintain. The Giants have had it twice, with Bill Parcells for a few years and then with Tom Coughlin for about a decade. No one has been able to match the continuity that Pittsburgh has seemingly always had.
The Rooney family has hired fantastic coaches and front office leaders, and had the patience to let them do their jobs. In Chuck Noll’s first three seasons, the Steelers went 1-13, 5-9 and 6-8. Today, I doubt a coach would survive that. Noll coached for 20 more years and won four Super Bowls.
To me, the lesson is patience. Understand that every season isn’t going to be perfect, but don’t overreact to the disappointing ones. If you hired good people, and they haven’t given you reason to doubt them, you have to give them a chance to get through the tough times.
Frank asks: I have not read Andre Patterson as a potential DC candidate for the Giants and wonder why? He seems to check all the boxes, experience as various positions coach, numerous teams/systems, co-head coach & co-DC (with Vikings I think), and is currently in house with the Giants.
Can you shed any light on this?
Ed says: Frank, Coach Patterson is certainly deserving of an opportunity. If he wants one. I have never asked him directly, but I suspect he has made his peace with never getting an opportunity to run his own defense or be a head coach.
Patterson is 63. He had some serious health issues in 2022. I think at this point in his life he is just happy to stay in the game and do what he does as well as anyone in the business — coach defensive linemen.
He told me last summer that he had always hoped to be a head coach, and that about 20 years ago he had a couple of requests to interview for defensive coordinator jobs. The rules in the NFL were different then, and the teams he worked for denied him the chance to interview for those jobs.
Greg Riley asks: Two defensive players I hope return to the G-Men next season are Isaiah Simmons and Leonard Williams. Simmons had 50 tackles, a sack and a pick 6 in limited snaps and to me seemed like the one player who had the speed and athleticism to harass the QB on blitzes. Leo was a good player for years for the team and we know Dex loves playing next to him in the middle of the d-line. What is your opinion of the two and do you think Joe Schoen would resign either?
Ed says: Greg, if the Giants were interested in meeting Leonard Williams’ price tag they would not have traded him in the middle of the 2023 season.
As for Isaiah Simmons, I think that is tough to answer without knowing who the defensive coordinator is going to be. How to properly use Simmons has always been a question. He has a multi-faceted skill set, but there are also things he doesn’t do very well. Consequently, he isn’t an every down player and to get production from him you need to have a role that maximizes what he does best.
Doug Mollin asks: Excellent QB article this week from Tony. This line jumped out: “The Giants almost certainly have to draft a QB this year.”
Do you agree with Tony, because I’m not so sure. Trading up is going to be terribly expensive. And if we did, who is the new QB going throw to? Who is going to be on the OL?
It’s possible there’s someone that drops to the end of the first round that Schoen likes; the cost for that kind of trade-up is much more modest (especially since we have picks #39 and #47).
But what do you think of using all our picks and salary cap room to keep building a better team and kick the QB question to 2025?
Ed says: Doug, I agree with Tony. At some point in the draft the Giants, in my view, should add a rookie quarterback to the mix.
Does that mean they should trade up to make sure they get Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels? Not necessarily. If the organization is convinced one of them is going to be a future All-Pro, sure, go for it. Quarterback is the most important position in the game and if you believe a certain quarterback is your guy, make it happen. It worked out pretty well for Ernie Accorsi with Eli Manning.
Now, my stance doesn’t mean you have to take a quarterback at No. 6, even if Maye or Daniels happens to fall to that spot. Again, it depends on what the organization thinks of the player. If you think his upside is greater than any other remaining quarterback, and you believe your coaching staff can bring it out of him, go for it. If you want to wait and add someone in the middle of the draft, or even by trading back into the latter portion of Round 1, that’s also fine.
Maybe the Giants still truly believe Daniel Jones can be the guy if they put him in a good situation. Maybe they are supporting him only because the situation means they have to. Either way, Jones has one year of guaranteed money remaining on his contract.
Jones has had one good year and one bad one under the Daboll-Schoen regime. If he has another bad one, the Giants will almost certainly move toward a post-Jones era. In my view, it is smart business to prepare for that now.
Anthony Macri asks: Draft question here - Looking at the mocks that have been done so far, there is a chance that both Malik Nabers and Brock Bowers fall to 6 and are available for the Giants. This is all very early, but in a hypothetical scenario, do you feel a “#1 WR” is more beneficial to an offense or an elite pass catching tight end?
Looking at teams like the Pats (TB era), Chiefs & Ravens, you can see that the tight end has been their number one receiver while they’ve used decent WRs to supplement the rest of the offense. They all have great QB’s as well but it seems like they were able to operate at an elite level without a “number 1 receiver”.
We obviously have no idea if either of these two will pan out in the NFL but if we did know both would be elite level players, who would you pick?
Ed says: Anthony, this is an interesting question. I have not thought much about Bowers as a potential pick for the Giants at No. 6. Let’s do that now.
We have to be conscious of the fact that the Giants traded for Darren Waller a year ago, showing a willingness to try and build a passing attack with the tight end as the focal point. It didn’t work out the way the Giants hoped it would. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, or that the Giants wouldn’t be willing to draft Bowers and see if he can do with him what they had hoped to with Waller.
The Draft Network, in fact, recently listed the Giants as one of the three best fits in the draft for Bowers. TDN writes:
Bowers is the type of reliable pass-catcher who could be targeted more than 100 times, even as a rookie. The Giants’ passing attack lacks a clear-cut No. 1 option. Bowers would fill that void.
As you pointed out, we have seen several teams in recent years be successful with the tight end as the first option in their passing offense. I don’t doubt that Bowers could be that for the Giants, if they were willing to structure their offense that way.
The consensus at this point, though, is that Bowers does not get past the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 5. If he did, and the Giants chose him rather than Nabers or Rome Odunze of Washington, I would trust that decision.
Wayne Mirsky asks: Ed, suppose Schoen and Daboll tell you that at pick 6, the Giants are picking a receiver and they want your input.
As pick No. 6 comes the following are still on the board:
Rome Odunze, Malik Nabers, Brock Bowers and Keon Coleman. Who do you advise the Giants taking? It has to be a receiver.
Ed: Wayne, this piggybacks off the last question. For me, the only unacceptable choice here is Coleman. Admittedly, I haven’t studied him but everything I have read and seen indicates he is the only one of the four who is NOT a top-10 worthy selection. As for the other three, it is really a coaching staff preference for what role they are looking to fill and how they want to build their passing offense.
Frederick H. Humphrey asks: Hi Ed, a simple question. Do you see any chance of the Giants hiring Matt Patricia or Ron Rivera as DC? I think Daboll may have worked with Patricia in NE but I could be wrong.
Ed says: No, Frederick, I don’t. Rivera might be interesting, but I haven’t heard anything about that. As for Patricia, yes he has worked with Daboll in New England. I think, though, that given Patricia’s lack of success since becoming Lions’ head coach in 2018 he would be a tough sell as a defensive coordinator. Maybe Patricia could be the outside linebackers coach since he did coach linebackers for five years in New England, but that seems like a long fall from having been a head coach. I am not sure he would do it, or that the Giants would want him to.
Devin Maffei asks: Thanks for all the great draft content. Thinking about the off season, Giants have 22ish million in cap space. They will need about 7ish for rookies. That leaves 15ish for moves. Who do you think is in, who do you think is out? Any thoughts on free agents that could be a good fit? I kinda want to deal with the Barkley thing quickly, really don’t hope it plays out all summer. That’s bad vibes on top of bad vibes.
Ed says: Devin, what the Giants have in cap space today doesn’t matter. Don’t get caught up in that. They will make moves between now and then to create more space. As for in and out, I assume you are asking about Giants’ free agents. I am going through and writing about all of the potential unrestricted free agents now. As for free agent fits, I would assume the Giants are studying the receiver and offensive line markets. Defensively, we don’t know the coordinator or scheme yet so it’s impossible to know.
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