For New York Giants personnel and fans alike, there’s been a lot of suspense surrounding this year’s off-season. Although it isn’t as flashy as 2016’s spending frenzy, a lot of new players with potential have been added to the roster. These range from big names like Brandon Marshall to underground players like Shaun Draughn. Nonetheless, they’re all part of the plan Jerry Reese and company have in store for the upcoming season. As we enter week three of the off-season, let’s take a closer look at what to expect from the Giants before the 2017 NFL Draft.
New York Giants: What to Expect Before the NFL Draft
The Salary Cap Situation
Coming off an 11-5 season while not losing any key players gives the Giants an advantage that other teams dream of (I’m talking to you Dallas Cowboys). Even though both sides of the ball are in relatively great shape, there’s always room for improvement in the NFL. As free agency progresses, the Giants continue to make some interesting moves regarding the salary cap. Despite all the recent signings last week, there’s still some wiggle room for the Giants to work with. In fact, they’re still in the process of freeing up more cap space for the upcoming year.
Earlier this year, rumors surfaced about wide receiver Dwayne Harris being released if he didn’t take a reduction in salary. In light of this, he just recently agreed to a $500,000 pay cut. The 2017 Pro Bowl special teamer wasn’t alone on this. Running back Shane Vereen, an expected cap causality, settled for a pay cut as well. That move saved the Giants $1 million against the cap.
Going forward there are still some reasonable options left to free up even more space. The most obvious is to release linebacker J.T. Thomas. In his two seasons with the team, he missed a total of 19 games. This is something no team can afford, especially when cutting him could free up another $3 million. To compliment this, signing offensive guard Justin Pugh to a long-term deal could relieve the Giants of part of the $9 million he’s owed in 2017 as part of his fifth-year rookie contract option. All in all, the Giants are sitting on about $12 million in remaining cap space at the moment. Keep in mind that $2-3 million of that is reserved for incoming rookie players.
Receiving Tight End
One of the biggest needs going into the off-season was a legitimate tight end. After releasing Larry Donnell, the Giants re-signed Matt LaCosse after he spent all last year on the injured reserve. Although there isn’t much playing time to judge from, he can’t be worse than Donnell’s performance last year. Giants also added former Minnesota Vikings tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison to a 4-year deal. As of now, Ellison is expected to be the main blocking tight end. This is where he found his success in Minnesota behind Kyle Rudolph. Outside of those two, Will Tye and Jerell Adams are the only other tight ends on the roster. Neither are starting material but they’ve both showed a lot of potential.
Despite the plethora of tight ends on roster, none are true receiving threats. This has been something Eli Manning has historically played better with. In fact, it’s led him to both of his Super Bowl wins in 2008 and 2012. Given the cap situation and lack of remaining talent in free agency, it’s doubtful this will be addressed before the draft. Instead, the focus will likely be shifted into filling this need via the draft. After all, this year’s draft class is full of NFL-ready tight ends. Depending on whose available at 23rd overall, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jerry Reese pull the trigger on a prospect like O.J. Howard or David Njoku.
Competition on the Offensive Line
While it was considered the biggest need going into the off-season, Jerry Reese has yet to address the offensive line situation. Granted he re-signed John Jerry and brought in D.J. Fluker but neither are game-changing players. While Jerry played decent at right guard last season, his starting job isn’t secured quite yet. Outside of left guard Justin Pugh and center Weston Richburg, there will be some heavy competition to earn the starting job. Now that Marshall Newhouse left for the Oakland Raiders, right tackle is also a position of need. The focus for the rest of the off-season must be on upgrading either tackle position. Even if that means bringing in a left tackle from elsewhere and moving Ereck Flowers to the right side.
This year’s free agency isn’t team friendly regarding offensive lineman. Although they are historically paid well, this off-season has proven to be exceptionally well for anyone at the position. After making Jason Pierre-Paul a priority, the limited cap space remaining isn’t enough to bring in a big-name player. That is unless they take a reduced salary to play for a Super Bowl contender. Otherwise, expect to see some under the radar additions the next few weeks. These will primarily serve to start competition in training camp and give the line a little bit of depth. With the 23rd overall pick in this year’s draft, prospects like Garrett Bolles or Cam Robinson are likely to still be available. These players have the potential to be impact players from day one, something Eli Manning desperately needs if he wants to finish his career healthy.
More Defensive Lineman in Rotation
Before Jason Pierre-Paul’s injury in week 13 last season, him and Olivier Vernon led the league in most snaps by a defensive lineman. While it makes sense to utilize the best players on the line, these two need breaks in order to play at full potential and reduce the chance of injury. Finding another pass rusher to sub in would be a critical addition and hopefully allow JPP to play a full season for the second time in five years. On the interior line, Damon Harrison has been playing on an elite level. Lined up beside him, Johnathan Hankins had an amazing year as well but is still a free agent at this moment. While the Giants gave him an offer, Hankins is still searching elsewhere in hopes of finding the jackpot the Giants can’t afford to pay him. Odds are still about 50/50 on whether he returns or not, but in the NFL, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Expect to see depth players brought in on this side of the ball.
Through the years, the Giants have always built their team around an elite defensive line unit. It comes as no surprise that they wish to continue this pattern into the 2017 season. Luckily for team personnel, there is plenty of them to go around. This upcoming draft alone is packed with young talent ready to make an impact early on. Players such as Derek Barnett and Takkarist McKinley are projected as mid-to-late first round selections and would become impact players early on. On the free agency side of things, there’s been some buzz regarding Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end/tackle Jared Odrick. We all know how much the Giants like versatile players, and what Odrick can bring to the table gives Steve Spagnuolo something to smile about. He was given a hefty contract by the Jaguars in 2014 but didn’t live up to expectations in 2015 and then missed ten games the following season after showing improvement. This will be the main factor driving his price down, but overall would be an excellent addition to the team as he can provide depth at both positions.