The Giants got off to as active a start in free agency as any team in the NFL, handing out more than $ 200 million in contracts to free agents, both internal and external, although all that money is not guaranteed.
Clearly, this is a team, led by general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Joe Judge, that is not resting on its laurels. The Giants were one win away, or one loss in Washington, from winning the NFC East in 2020, and that was with a 6-10 record. They are paying not to fall short again in 2021.
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The Giants added significant improvements to cornerback (Adoree ‘Jackson) and wide receiver (Kenny Golladay) while filling in some other needs on the roster, but they are not done yet.
This is still a team with holes and other lineup decisions to address.
We rank the top six priorities for the rest of this offseason between the second wave of free agency and the NFL Draft:
1. Edge runners: The Giants also appear to be committed to developing young players at the edge rusher. They let Kyler Fackrell (Chargers) go as a free agent and only signed young Ryan Anderson (six sacks combined in the past two years) to a minimum contract. On paper, it looks like a downgrade, but the Giants are counting on the development of 2020 draft picks (Carter Coughlin, Cam Brown) and the return of two injured players (Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines) to make an impact.
No. 11 is believed to be too high for lead runners in this draft class, making the Giants more likely to select one in the second or third round. That would leave the Giants without a proven outside linebacker. Carter has 9.5 sacks in his career, which would bring all of his players to the position.
Maybe they still have something up their sleeve in free agency, Athletic thinks veteran Ryan Kerrigan would be a good fit, but the draft looks more likely.
2. Offensive line: The Giants released Kevin Zeitler and didn’t have a suitable replacement until Thursday, when they signed veteran guard Zach Fulton. It may not be the best solution either, considering he allowed 11 sacks, the league’s most, in 2020, according to Pro Football Focus. Still, it’s at least one option and will be in competition for the Giants’ younger options: Shane Lemieux and Will Hernandez.
Fulton has started as a right guard for the Texans for the past three years, while Lemieux and Hernandez are primarily left guards, but it remains an uninspiring trio based on how the three played last season.
The Giants clearly feel good about who they have at tackle – Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart, Nate Solder – but the guard post should still be considered an area of concern. Even if the Giants are on top of Lemieux as a left guard, it is undeniable that he struggled as a rookie. The Giants benched Hernandez in the second half of last season and it’s unclear if they consider him part of their future plans.
At this point, it should still be an expectation that the Giants will draft a guard at the start of this year’s draft.
Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater appears at tackle but many believe he would be a Pro Bowl-caliber point guard, making him an intriguing first-round possibility. Ditto for Alijah Vera-Tucker of USC, though he would be preferable in a trade from No. 11.
3. Explore an extension of Jabrill Peppers: Clearly, Peppers wants to be here. If he didn’t, the 25-year-old safety wouldn’t have been as involved in recruiting Golladay and Jackson. He is a team leader and his energy is contagious. It helps Peppers come off his best season (91 tackles, 2.5 sacks, one interception, 11 pass deflections and eight tackles to lose) and he is a perfect fit for Patrick Graham’s defense. Peppers safety trio Logan Ryan and Xavier McKinney have the ability to line up on the field.
Peppers will make $ 6.7 million this season in the final year of his contract. The Giants have had a bad habit of allowing young players to reach free agency (Dalvin Tomlinson, Landon Collins) without first signing them with an extension … or trading them for value. The Giants won’t trade Peppers, so if they see him as a long-term piece they should, then it’s time to work on an extension.
Something in the range of Vonn Bell’s deal with the Bengals ($ 18 million over three years) and Adrian Amos’s with the Packers ($ 36 million over four years) would make logical sense.
4. Find cheap depth in defense: The Giants have added some depth to inside linebacker (Reggie Ragland) and defensive line (Ifeadi Odenigbo), but they still need more, especially since it affects special teams. They brought Devante Downs back as linebacker, but they could use a better option than him. Nate Ebner is expected to return at some point, but there are other options in free agency or the draft that could help on special teams as well.
The Giants could also add another defensive lineman. They lost Dalvin Tomlinson to the Vikings and re-signed Austin Johnson. But Johnson and BJ Hill are ready to enter free agency in 2022. It would be wise to recruit a developing defensive lineman at least sometime in this year’s draft.
5. Get another RB: The Giants came out and got Devontae Booker to be Saquon Barkley’s best backup on the first day of free agency, but at this point they have no other backups on the roster. They shouldn’t spend anything more than the minimum or a late draft pick on a third running back, but they certainly need it. Right now, the Giants have as many fullbacks (Eli Penny, Cullen Gillaspia) as there are running backs (Barkley, Booker).
One intriguing player who is still available and who could help both the running back and the catcher, and the returner, is Cordarrelle Patterson, a player with whom Judge has a track record and shouldn’t cost much (maybe a little above the minimum). right now in free agency.
6. Exercise the Barkley 5th Year Option: The Giants don’t need to do this right away, but sometime between now and the May 3 deadline, they will exercise the fifth-year option, guaranteed by injury, on Barkley’s rookie contract.
Barkley’s option for 2022 will be worth $ 7.2 million, which is actually less than what the Giants are paying for him ($ 10.09 million) in 2021.
It’s a no-brainer, but it begs the big question of how the Giants will handle their next contract.
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