7 Moves the New York Giants Must Make This Offseason
The good news, though, is that Giants fans, and the media alike, can discuss and predict what will happen this upcoming offseason while the 2013 regular season is still being completed.
That’s right, hot stove football has begun early in New York, and there is a lot to talk about. With the Giants likely headed toward their first losing season since 2004, changes will need to be made on both offense and defense if this team wants to transform into a Super Bowl contender by next season. Also, the coaching staff deserves to be critiqued as well, and a change among this group is certainly likely.
However, blowing up the team is not the answer, either. Some players have performed well in 2013, and their continued employment with Big Blue next season is necessary for a successful 2014 campaign.
Who needs to be re-signed, and which players and coaches must be let go? How should the Giants use free agency and the draft to improve the 53-man roster?
Here are seven moves they must make that will answer these questions to ensure that the Giants aren’t playing out the string next December.
Re-Sign Justin Tuck
Coming into the season, it appeared that Justin Tuck’s Giants career was winding down. His dwindling production—he only had four sacks in 2012—and impending free agency made it hard to envision Big Blue’s defensive captain being on the team past 2013.
The 30-year-old, though, has flipped the script with an exceptional season, and it isn’t just because he has six sacks in his last two games, including four against the Washington Redskins in Week 13.
Tuck has been solid all year, as witnessed by his 16.2 Pro Football Focus rating (subscription required), good for fifth-best among defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme. He has been particularly impressive at stopping the run, with a 12.5 PFF run rating.
Also, even though six of his 8.5 sacks this season have come in two games, he has been pressuring the quarterback all season, as the 36 hurries he’s generated indicates.
Without overspending, the Giants should definitely re-sign the nine-year veteran. He is a leader and has demonstrated throughout his NFL career an ability to stop the run, even when he has struggled as a pass-rusher.
New York should be able to lock him up with a two-year deal around $4-5 million per year. Even if a third year is required, retaining him is still the right move, especially if the Giants can lower the annual salary through a longer contract.
Re-Sign Jon Beason
The Giants have been looking for a true impact middle linebacker since they released Antonio Pierce after the 2009 season. It appears they have finally found one in Jon Beason.
New York acquired Beason in a fortuitous mid-season trade with the Carolina Panthers, in which they only had to give up a late-round draft pick, and it has paid big dividends. The 28-year-old is third on the team this season with 66 tackles, despite only playing in eight games.
Outside of his production, he has instantly brought leadership to the defense, as explained by defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, via Tom Canavan of The Associated Press (h/t The New Haven Register):
He has been a great voice for us. On the defense you don’t think you need a quarterback, but you need a quarterback, someone who can go in and command the front and relate to the back row. Jon has been able to do that. He is very good at understanding situations and being able to talk to all his defensive players and play the game at a fast tempo.
Beason’s contract voids after this season, so he will be an unrestricted free agent. It won’t take $50 million—the amount he received in his last contract extension in 2011—to lock him up, especially with his recent injury history. However, the Giants will likely need to offer a multi-year deal worth several million dollars per year to retain his services.
He is a must-sign for this team. He provides a veteran presence and much-needed speed to a young, inexperienced linebacker corps.
The trade for Beason back in October has been a success to date, but if he is allowed to walk this spring, it will lose much of its luster.
Acquire a Starting Caliber Cornerback in Free Agency
Prince Amukamara has finally stayed healthy this season after missing 12-of-32 regular-season games over his first two years. However, whether the 24-year-old is destined to be an elite cornerback is still unknown.
Amukamara has been strong in supporting the run, with a 3.7 PFF rating, good for fourth-best among cornerbacks. He has also been adequate in coverage, allowing a respectable 534 yards receiving on a 10.3 yards per catch and two touchdowns.
However, he has yet to demonstrate that he is a ball hawk, with only one interception this year and three total for his career. Also, he is not active enough in coverage, as his meager five passes defensed shows.
Amukamara would look a lot better next to a bona fide veteran cornerback, instead of the cast that has lined up opposite him this year. This group includes Aaron Ross and Corey Webster, both of whom are over-the-hill and injured, along with the overachieving Trumaine McBride and the injury-prone Terrell Thomas, the latter of which has clearly lost a step after three ACL tears.
Then there is second-year man Jayron Hosley, who has had his own injury issues this year and has yet to show that he is anything more than a nickel cornerback in the NFL.
According to OvertheCap.com, the Giants are estimated to have north of $16 million to spend in free agency in 2014. This is before any cuts or restructuring of contracts.
New York would be wise to spend a healthy portion of this cap space on a top-notch cornerback. The pool of free agents at this position is deep and includes plenty of 2013 top performers.
One free agent that is an intriguing option for Big Blue is Brent Grimes. The seven-year veteran has bounced back wonderfully in Miami this season from a torn ACL that cost him all but one game in 2012. He has a 12.5 PFF rating, four interceptions, 13 passes defensed and has yet to allow a touchdown. Most importantly, he has started in all 13 games for the Miami Dolphins.
Re-Sign Andre Brown
Andre Brown possesses virtually everything a team wants in a feature back.
He is a powerful runner with great vision and patience that performs well in short yardage. He is an adequate pass-blocker, with a 1.4 PFF rating this year and a 1.2 rating in 2012. Brown is also a decent receiver, as he has 14 receptions for 80 yards in only five games played this season.
For peace of mind, the soon-to-be 27-year-old has only fumbled once in 200 career touches (carries and receptions), which came last Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
The lone reason for the Giants to hesitate re-signing the impending unrestricted free agent as their main running back for the next two or three seasons is his injury history. He tore his left Achilles in his rookie year, broke his left leg last November and then fractured the same leg in the last game of the preseason this August.
Despite this legitimate concern, inking Brown to a multi-year deal is a no-brainer. He is clearly the best running back on the team, especially with David Wilson’s future in serious jeopardy due to a neck injury he suffered in Week 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Given his health issues and the fact that he doesn’t have a full season as a feature back on his NFL resume, the Giants should be able to re-sign Brown at a reasonable price.
It’s a risk, but it is one worth taking given what Brown can do and the fact that there isn’t a viable alternative on the roster.
Cut Chris Snee and David Baas
If you were to choose one main reason why the Giants have struggled so much this season, the play of the offensive line would be a good choice.
This unit has been dreadful, ranking worst in the NFL in pass-blocking, according to Pro Football Focus, with a 69.8 pass-blocking efficiency rating. In addition, Big Blue is averaging only 3.7 yards per carry on the ground, ranking them 28th in the league in this category.
The Giants have certainly had their injury issues at running back, but a strong run-blocking offensive line should be able to generate at least 4.2 yards per carry with any backfield.
New York needs to rebuild this unit in the offseason, and it starts by clearing out the hefty salaries of Chris Snee and David Baas. Both players are past their prime and have spent most of the season on injured reserve—Baas with a knee injury and Snee due to hip issues that required surgery.
Snee is entering the final year of his deal. If the Giants cut him, they will save about $7.2 million towards the 2014 cap.
Baas has two more years on his deal, so the Giants will need to get creative to maximize the cap room they can open up by releasing him. If New York designates Baas as a June 1 cut, they will be able to roll over half of his dead money into the 2015 cap. Therefore, next season, the Giants would only absorb $3.225 million of an $8.225 million cap hit by releasing him.
Cutting both Snee and Baas, as laid out in the previous two paragraphs, would open up over $12 million in cap room for Big Blue next offseason. This type of money could land a very good free-agent offensive lineman with dollars to spare.
Get a Dynamic Tight End
Two key statistics explain the Giants ineptitude on offense this season.
First, according to TeamRankings.com, they rank 26th in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage. Also, again courtesy of TeamRankings.com, they are 23rd in the league in red-zone scoring percentage (TD only).
A big reason for New York’s disappointing performance in these two areas is their lack of a playmaking tight end. Brandon Myers has been a disappointment in his first season with Big Blue, as he has not been winning in the middle of the field enough to be a reliable target for Eli Manning. His meager 22 first downs and three touchdowns, despite playing in all 13 games, are proof of his subpar play.
Big Blue should cut ties with Myers after the season, since his contract is voidable, and make a point to get a tight end that can be a centerpiece in the Giants passing attack.
They know that second-year player Adrien Robinson is likely not an option, since he has barely played since being selected in the fourth round of the 2012 draft.
Speaking of the draft, that is where the Giants could find a franchise tight end, such as Eric Ebron from North Carolina. The junior has already declared for the draft, and with good reason. He is a breathtaking talent (check out his highlight video above) that can provide both big plays in the passing game and serve as a consistent red-zone and third-down target. Bucky Brooks of NFL.com believes he could be the next great tight end.
The Giants are currently slated to pick 13th in the first round of the 2014 draft, as noted by Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com. That may be too high to grab Ebron, especially with other areas, including the offensive line, in more need of help.
However, he is a must-have if he falls into the second round. Or New York could trade down in the first round and still grab him, while potentially picking up some later-round picks in the process.
Ask Kevin Gilbride to Step Down
I am one of Kevin Gilbride’s staunchest supporters, but I think it is time for the Giants to find a new offensive coordinator.
Gilbride has been a popular punching-bag for Big Blue supporters through the years, even when the offense has played well. And the team has had plenty of success since he took over as offensive coordinator in 2007.
From 2008-2011, the Giants ranked in the top 10 in both yards per game and points per game during each season. Prior to this year, New York has never been worse than 16th in either category during his tenure. Say what you want about his play-calling, but the man has been the offensive coordinator during arguably the most successful stretch of offensive proficiency in the Giants' storied history.
However, this season has been a disaster, with the Giants ranking 25th in yards per game and 28th in points per game.
It is hard to retain all of the key coaches from a staff that has led an underachieving team to a second straight non-playoff season. Head coach Tom Coughlin may get another shot to right the ship, and Fewell has overseen a defense that has actually performed fairly well this season. This is especially true considering that turnovers and poor special teams play have factored in greatly to the 25.7 points per game that the team has allowed.
Firing Gilbride, therefore, makes the most sense. The Giants will probably benefit from a new offensive scheme and a fresh playbook after running the same offense for nearly eight seasons.
Just don’t look back on his time as offensive coordinator in a negative light, because the reality is that his offense is a big reason why New York has captured two Super Bowls in the last six years.