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Big Blue View mailbag: Saquon Barkley, defensive coordinator, QB, more

The mail’s here!

ctscan123 asks: You know, I’m wondering about taking the over on Thibodeaux and Ojulari next season. At some point this year there was all that talk about the amount of time that the edges spent not pass rushing. Assuming a new coordinator who uses edges more traditionally, and likely more to the training and strengths of the players, how likely do you think it is that we see a big uptick in performance? I wonder if maybe AO and KT were being asked to do so many different things that they didn’t spend enough time developing the core competencies of the position.

Ed says: CT, that is certainly a theory. I’m not sure I agree with it, but we can discuss it.

Let’s talk about Kayvon Thibodeaux. He posted 11.5 sacks in 2023, but I have consistently said fans should not expect double-digit sacks from Thibodeaux on an annual basis. He is a terrific player, but that is not because of his pass rush ability. It is because of the many ways he can impact a game. I have consistently said during his time with the Giants that I don’t see Thibodeaux as a “pure” pass rusher.

Wink Martindale used him as a “can opener” to set up a lot of his blitz packages and didn’t always turn him loose as a pass rusher.

Now, do I wish Martindale had turned him loose more often? Yes. Per Pro Football Focus, Thibodeaux rushed 86.1% of the time, 45th among 55 qualifying edge defenders who rushed 359 times or more.

Pointing to his not being a pure pass rusher, his pass rush win percentage was second-last in that group of 55 at just 6.4%. So, he did not get as many opportunities as others AND he did not maximize his opportunities.

Is that Martindale’s fault? Is that ex-outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins’ fault. Is that just what he is?

One thing that has not happened in Thibodeaux’s two seasons is that he has not worked with defensive line coach Andre Patterson. Maybe with a new defensive coordinator that could happen going forward. I think Patterson could really help Thibodeaux as a pass rusher.

Now, let’s talk about Azeez Ojulari. It has purely been injuries that have held Ojulari back. To me, he is a better natural pass rusher than Thibodeaux though his unproductive 2023 season doesn’t show it.

If Ojulari wants to be a Giant beyond 2024, he needs to have a healthy and productive season. I’m not sure how much a new coordinator matters. I know healthy legs would make a difference.

Douglas Furth asks: Ed, a couple of weeks ago you wrote that Caleb Williams’ ceiling is Patrick Mahomes. (I think you said his floor was Jameis Winston but I don’t remember.) That’s pretty high praise because IMHO Mahomes is already in the group with Brady and Montana as one of the 3 best QBs ever. Sorry Peyton Manning, Rodgers, Marino and Johnny U you’re not in that group. So, if you were Schoen and Daboll would you trade whatever is needed to get the number 1 overall pick from the Bears (I’m guessing that’s 5 or 6 day 1 and 2 picks) if you thought Williams had a 10% chance of being a top five all time QB? What about a 25% chance? What about a 40% chance?

Ed says: Douglas, I used the Mahomes ceiling for Williams because that is the common name you hear when analysts describe Williams stylistically. Can he be that? Odds are against it, because few ever have.

I have often said that no price is too steep for a quarterback if you need one, love a guy and have a conviction that he will be a great player who will help you win Super Bowls. To be great, you have to be great at that position.

Now, would I mortgage multiple first-round picks and probably a couple of Day 2 picks to move from No. 6 to No. 1 for Caleb Williams? No. Not me. Others might. I have reservations about Williams, though I see the spectacular plays. As I often say, there are others who know more than I do but I’m not making that move.

Don Appel asks: My understanding is that the Giants new O-Line coach is not allowed to have contact with the players until OTAs. If that is correct, how can he properly evaluate the talent he has on hand to guide both the draft and free agent acquisitions?

Ed says: Don, that is correct. Coaches are not allowed to “coach” players until OTAs. Those are the collectively bargained rules. This is the players’ offseason, and the rules are the same for every team. Now, the unfortunate part of that is that a player who wants extra help from his coaching staff isn’t allowed to get it.

As for what Carmen Bricillo can do, all he is allowed to do at this point is learn the Giants’ playbook and watch film of current players, prospective free agents and potential draft picks. He can also, of course, attend events like the Senior Bowl, the Combine and player Pro Days in person. Bricillo was at the Senior Bowl working with and getting first-hand knowledge of players.

John Watkins asks: Your thoughts on a trade for a QB for the future, how about this. Contact the Bengals, offer our #1 pick for Jake Browning? We have seen a small sample of his abilities, but at the NFL level leading to the playoffs.

Ed says: John, I’m glad you aren’t the Giants’ GM. You want to trade a first-round pick for a 27-year-old backup who entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2019 and didn’t play a down until 2023?

Browning did a nice job for the Cincinnati Bengals, but he is not a franchise quarterback. He is a backup. How many times have we seen teams overvalue what they see from a backup in a short sample size, give that quarterback big money, then put him out there as their No. 1 guy only to find out the guy is ... a good backup?

Trading a first-round pick for Jake Browning, a guy who has a seven-game sample size over a five-year career, is how a GM gets fired.

If the Giants want to move on from Daniel Jones the best course of action is to draft a quarterback they can have on an inexpensive rookie contract for the next four to five years.

John Foti asks: I was looking at the Giants 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl teams. Eight players made up those lines with Chris Snee, Dave Diehl and Kareem McKenzie playing on both. Chalk one up for continuity!

Not a single player was a first-round pick. Sean O’Hara and Seubert were undrafted free agents.

Since 2013, the Giants have used four first-round picks on tackles and brought in a former first round pick, Nate Solder, on a big free agent contract.

We know the line has been a mess but there’s no denying they have spent resources on the O-Line so what is the issue?

Is it coaching, scouting, player evaluation? Is it ownership? I thought it was a mistake when John Mara pushed to bring in Jason Garrett as OC, who brought Columbo with him as the O-line coach. We know how that ended.

In 2021 after not drafting a single lineman, they said that they liked the guys they have in the room which totally escaped me. Is it all of the above?

Ed says: John, I think I have answered this before. I will, though, entertain it again.

The reality is that it is all of the above. The Giants have had four head coaches since 2016. Carmen Bricillo is the seventh offensive line coach in that time. They have had five offensive play-callers.

How do you develop a line when you have no continuity? When the coaching staff changes, the scheme changes. That means you are looking at different types of players.

The Giants have made some free agent mistakes. They have made draft mistakes, both in guys they selected and guys they did not select. They have had injuries.

It’s been a combination of things. They keep trying, but it’s not an easy fix.

Tom Huelbig asks: I am not a capologist and don’t understand how some of the cap works. If you cut a player pre-June 1 the dead cap money is always more than if you cut a player post-June 1. For example if we cut Daniel Jones this year pre-June 1, according to Over the Cap the dead cap for the three years would be $69.3 million, $22.2, and $11.1. If he is a post-June 1 then the numbers are $47.1, $11.1, and $11.1. Where does the extra money go, is it owed down the line (which I don’t see) or does it just disappear. If that is the case and the money is significant why don’t teams cut after June 1 more often? Because the cap space is not available during FA? But then it still decreases it down the road. Teams don’t worry about the following years as much? Thanks.

Ed says: Tom, I am not a capologist, either. This job has forced me to acquire at least a basic understanding of the cap, though, and I will do the best I can to break this down for you.

First of all, the money doesn’t necessarily “go” anywhere. It is really just accounting, and how the money divided up. There are other factors, but the basic pieces of a contract are the yearly guaranteed salary and the signing bonus.

Let’s take Daniel Jones’ contract, which Over The Cap says had $82 million of the $160 million guaranteed at signing. $37.080 million of that is guaranteed salary. $44.42 million is signing bonus.

That signing bonus went into Jones’ pocket when he signed the contract. For accounting purposes, only 25% of it ($11.105 million) is charged to the salary cap each season.

For accounting purposes, as a pre-June 1 cut this season, the Giants would owe Jones $36 million in guaranteed salary and $33 million and change in bonuses — thus $69 million.

In a post-June 1 cut, Jones cap hit this year would be $47.105 million. That is his guaranteed salary plus the portion of the signing bonus attached to 2024. The other $22 million would hit the Giants’ cap in 2025.

Why don’t teams designate players as post-June 1 cuts more often? Simply because the bulk of free agency happens in March, and those post-June 1 savings are exactly that. They don’t help you try to improve your roster when the best free agents are generally available.

The second half of the video below includes answers to a handful of mailbag questions not included in the written mailbag.

Alex Sunderland asks: For this question, let’s assume Barkley has played his last snap for the giants.

From most of what I’ve read the assumption seems to be that he would hit the open market as a free agent. But Schoen is famous for exploring all options, so I think he’d kick the tires on a tag-and-trade.

Would that have some obvious downside I’m missing? Just seems odd that we’re not seeing a million articles speculating on potential trade partners, etc so I figure I’m missing some detail here.

Ed says: Alex, let me try to lay this out the best I can.

NFL teams have to decide whether or not to franchise tag a player between Feb. 20 and March 5. GM Joe Schoen has said he won’t talk contract with Saquon Barkley’s representatives until the Combine at the end of February. For starters, that gives the Giants only a small window to decide whether or not to use the tag. Although, it is possible — maybe even likely — that they have already made that determination.

The franchise tag for Barkley would cost roughly $12.1 million. The moment the Giants use the tag, whether Barkley signs it or not, that tag would be applied to the Giants’ salary cap. They would get it credited back if they trade him, but in the interim they would be charged that amount.

Generally, tag-and-trade deals are not done unless there is a deal — including a long-term contract agreement — in place before the tag is applied and signed.

So, the Giants would probably be at the mercy of Barkley and his agents to go out and find a deal they would agree to, then would have to work out compensation with that team. The Giants would probably not be driving the bus. They would get something in return, but not what they would want.

If a trade could get done before free agency begins that would work. If not, it would hurt the Giants’ ability to sign free agents because that $12.1 million would be tied up.

Jeff Newman asks: Ed, let me preface my question by saying if Joe Schoen strongly believes one of the QB’s in the draft is a future top 5 prospect, then he needs to do everything he can to get them. If he doesn’t, however, or if he is unable to make a trade, then wouldn’t he be better off trading back this year? We have lots of holes on the roster and we are stuck with DJ next year regardless due to his contract. Why waste a year of a rookie QB contract, when he could trade back for a 2025 1st round pick and fill out more of the roster this year? Then next year, when we can move on from DJ and free up some of his cap space, use those two 1st round picks to trade up for a QB without having to mortgage the future to do so? We might even get lucky and land the 1st overall pick in the trade back like the Bears did and have our choice of QB’s plus another 1st round pick to play with.

Ed says: Jeff, can the Giants get a 2025 first-round pick by trading down in Round 1 this year? That depends on what team or teams might want to move up. I always support the idea of trading down, but passing up on Micah Parsons and Rashawn Slater a few seasons back and landing Kadarius Toney and other assets has given me pause.

If the Giants are sitting there at No. 6 and they believe one or both of Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze are future No. 1 wide receivers, or Joe Alt is a future All-Pro right tackle, that’s hard to pass on.

If you don’t like your choices, or you value the additional capital more, by all means trade down. As a general rule, I would like more bites of the apple than fewer. Still, you have to be willing to live with it if you move down from No. 6 when you could have selected Nabers and he turns into the next Ja’Marr Chase.

As for the idea of wasting a year of a rookie contract, the flip side of that argument would be why wait to get a quarterback until you have no choice and are forced to not only draft one, but play him immediately? What’s wrong with drafting a guy and giving him a little runway to learn before handing him the keys? A lot of talented quarterbacks have been ruined by being thrown in before they, or their teams, were ready.

Michael Litano asks: With so many of the early mock drafts predicting the Giants take a wide receiver - potentially Malik Nabers - with the 6 pick, I am wondering why we aren’t hearing more about the possibility of the Giants signing a free agent WR1 (Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman, or jeez even 2 years of Mike Evans?) and drafting the top OT on the board. What are your thoughts?

Ed says: Michael, that is certainly within the realm of possibility. I doubt the move would be Mike Evans. I also think Cincinnati will tag Tee Higgins and not let him hit free agency. Pittman? Maybe. We have also talked about Gabe Davis of the Buffalo Bills.

As for offensive tackle at No. 6, I’m not convinced the Giants will do that. My gut instinct, and I have no inside information to confirm this, is they give Evan Neal one more chance at right tackle, which means they wouldn’t go offensive tackle at that spot.

Wayne Mirsky asks: I wasn’t going to send an email this week but I have to get this off my chest after reading that the Titans signed Denard Wilson as their new DC. Schoen was asleep at the wheel in Mobile, Ala.

Schoen has done a terrible job with this hire. Wilson is probably the best DB coach in the NFL and a truly rising coaching star. Schoen interviewed him twice but never made him an offer. After the second interview he should have been hired ASAP.

I, along with others, thought that after McDonald was hired as the Seahawks HC, Wilson would be promoted. Did not happen.

You probably will say that if he is such a top notch coach why didn’t the Ravens promote him. I believe that they have an assistant head DC coach that they will probably promote, but obviously I have no clue.

Ed says: Wayne, you didn’t really ask a question. I do hope, though, that you feel better after getting that rant off your chest.

Now, to respond to a couple of the points that you made.

No, Joe Schoen didn’t do a terrible job with this hire. He is involved with the process and likely has to sign off, but the coaching staff hires are Brian Daboll’s to make. Daboll is the one who has to work side by side with these guys every day. The GM doesn’t tell the head coach ‘these are your coaches.’ At least, not usually. As for being asleep in Mobile? C’mon, now! Schoen was in Mobile doing his job scouting college draft prospects. Where do you expect him to be?

As for Wilson, do you know he is one of the best defensive backs coach in the league? He probably is, but I doubt anyone reading this has actually watched him coach or knows how good he is.

You’re upset because the guy the media narrative said was a top candidate didn’t get, or take, the job. I get it. Do we know for a fact the Giants didn’t make him an offer? No, we don’t. Wilson had options. He waited out the hiring cycle and took the one he thought was best. Do we know Wilson would be a good DC? No, we don’t.

As for Wilson not getting promoted in Baltimore, did you expect that to happen five minutes after Mike MacDonald left for Seattle? Maybe that wasn’t going to happen. Maybe it could have, but he wanted the Tennessee job.

Christopher Keller asks: If the Giants can’t get the QB they want with the 6th pick, I think they should be looking at the option of trading a 3rd round pick for Justin Fields. He has a $6M cap hit for 24 which is less than Taylor’s cap hit was this past year. Could Daboll tap into Fields’ upside? He has proven (albeit at an inconsistent level) that he can play in the NFL. I think with a 3rd rounder this is a low risk, high reward scenario. I know the elephant (DJ) is still in the room for another year but at some point you can’t let DJ’s presence keep you from making this type of move. What do you think?

Ed says: Christopher, I have been asked this before and my stance is not changing. I am not in favor of a trade for Fields. If he was a big-time franchise quarterback, the Chicago Bears wouldn’t be entertaining the idea of replacing him. He is a guy entering his fourth year about whom there are still a lot of questions, not much different than Daniel Jones entering Year 6.

If you are going to start over at quarterback, start over with a guy at the beginning of his rookie contract and not with a guy about whom you almost immediately have to make a financial decision.

Doug Mollin asks: Nick had a good article on Friday about the Giants defensive line, but there was one line that jumped out at me: ”There were variables outside of the defense’s control that led to their 29th-ranked rushing defense.”

I’m trying to think of what these variables might be. I mean, we were tied for second worst yards per attempt (4.7), second worst rushing TDs allowed, second worst rushing first downs allowed ... what was outside of their control? The scheme they were playing?

Ed says: Rather than speak for Nick, I asked him what he was thinking. He writes:

“Doug, thank you for the question. The variables I was referencing pertaining to the 29th-ranked run defense was the Giants’ 30th-ranked scoring offense. The Giants defense often played without a lead, leading to more rushing attempts by opposing offenses to close out games. New York’s defense also ranked 23rd in total defensive plays a game, albeit that’s only a tangential point.”

Walker Joyce asks: Well, we’re still looking for a Dee-Coordinator after the not-lamented Wink’s classless departure, and the pickings are now slim.

Here’s a guy I’ve always thought would be a perfect fit, and Antonio Pierce’s emergence in Vegas has only strengthened the case.

Carl Banks.

A borderline Hall of Famer and Giant legend, his stint as an analyst on the Jints’ radio-casts have shown him to be a shrewd evaluator. He’s already in the house, and knows the owners, GM and HC. After playing for Parcells and Belichick, he’d certainly know how to draw up the X’s and O’s. And there’s no doubt he could motivate today’s generation of players.

Only his desire to join the profession is a question mark, and thus far he’s shown no inclination.

Waddaya think? Has anybody ever asked him about coaching?

Ed says: Carl has been asked about this many times, including by me. It is not something he has interest in.

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