Yes, there is still one more game to go in this dismal New York Giants season, but let’s face it: Once the team was eliminated from postseason contention, who could be blamed for wanting to look ahead to the offseason?
This week’s reader mailbag does just that, starting with questions about the offensive and defensive lines. We also cover the recent Giants draft classes and look at the possible future of safety Stevie Brown.
How do you fix the offensive line?
First, I thank David Baas, Chris Snee and David Diehl for everything they brought to the team before I hand them each a Rolex watch and wish them a happy retirement.
There just comes a time in a person’s life when the body and mind don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to performing at a peak level.
Sadly, that time has come for those three players, whose skills just aren’t what they were—injuries or no injuries.
To replace them, I would take an approach similar to what the Giants did at defensive tackle last offseason: Draft youth and acquire reasonably priced veterans to bridge the gap until the kids are ready.
Speaking of reasonably priced veterans, I would make a push to bring Kevin Boothe back if he’d be willing to accept a low-end two-year deal. While Boothe has been part of this year’s underperforming line, if there is a shake-up in talent, that might help things.
As much as some of us are hoping that we’ve seen the last of Will Beatty, his contract makes it financially impossible to cut him. Per Over the Cap, if the Giants were to cut him, they’d take a $15.5 million dead money cap hit, which translates to a net loss of $8.1 million on their 2014 cap.
So does it make sense to throw away $8.1 million on that one transaction when the team can use the cap space for so many other needs?
You have to leave Beatty at left tackle and Justin Pugh at right tackle. Fix the interior of the line; help Beatty straighten out his technique and his obsession about having to live up to anyone’s expectations other than those of his teammates and coaches; and improve the depth.
If the Giants can successfully do all three, you will see a considerable difference moving forward.
Who returns next year on the defensive line?
Of the ends, Jason Pierre-Paul and Damontre Moore are locks. At tackle, Cullen Jenkins is safe, and Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn should be back as well.
As for the free agents, if the Giants can re-sign Justin Tuck for a reasonable, short-term contract, that could spell the end of Mathias Kiwanuka, who per Over the Cap, is due a $4.375 million base salary next season.
I can’t see the Giants carrying both Tuck and Kiwanuka again—unless Kiwanuka agrees to take a salary reduction. Instead, they’ll look to draft a defensive end, or, if a reasonably priced option is available in free agency, maybe they’ll go that route.
Back to defensive tackle, they won't be able re-sign Linval Joseph because he’s going to command a huge contract. The Giants want to get Hankins, their second-round pick this year, more snaps anyway, and if Joseph re-ups, then Hankins would probably sit for at least another year.
New York most likely won't cut Jenkins, who has been one of the best players along the interior.
As I mentioned in Part 2 of my analysis of the Giants’ upcoming free agents, Jenkins might not have the numbers that Joseph has, but that’s mostly been a result of him drawing the double-team blocks, which frees up others to make plays.
The Giants might also re-sign Mike Patterson and let Shaun Rogers walk, which would complete the defensive interior for next season.
Is safety Stevie Brown coming back next year?
No one knows what the future holds, but what we do know, per Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, is that Brown is interested in returning to the Giants after a lost 2013 season.
“I want to be back,” he said. “Definitely like it here, like this organization. I can’t really speculate on it. Just go in there to talk, wait for the offseason to hit.”
Usually but not always, when a player comes out and declares ahead of free agency that he would like to return to his previous team, that’s a good sign that he’s willing to be reasonable in upcoming salary negotiations.
Of course, with him coming off ACL surgery and the emergence of Will Hill as a starter, Brown might not have as much negotiating leverage as he once had.
The Giants will likely offer Brown a one-year deal for the veteran minimum (approximately $730,000) to include a split salary in case he has a setback and can’t finish the 2014 season. A split salary, as explained by Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap, is a reduced salary given to a player who ends up on injured reserve.
I’d also include a roster bonus if Brown makes the 53-man roster after training camp, and I’d give him a signing bonus, with the sum of both bonuses not to exceed $65,000.
If the Giants take this approach and Brown makes the roster, he would only count for the equivalent of a second-year player as far as his base salary is concerned (approximately $570,000), plus the bonuses and incentives.
If he doesn’t make the roster, the cap hit would be minimal in the big picture.
Would you consider general manager Jerry Reese’s recent drafts to be busts?
This past April, I looked back at the Giants’ last five draft classes and the production the team has gotten out of those classes.
More recently, Art Stapleton of The Bergen Record did an analysis on the numbers and found that of the 45 players drafted by the Giants since the end of 2007, 21 remain on the active roster, two are on injured reserve, and three are on other teams.
No draft class is ever going to be 100 percent spot on—New York's 2007 draft class might have come the closest to having all of its members contribute in their rookie seasons.
By the way, that class was technically Jerry Reese’s last draft before he handed over the college scouting director duties to now vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross.
If you prescribe to the popular opinion that you can’t evaluate a draft class until three years later, Tony Manfred of Business Outsider points out that the Seattle Seahawks have been bucking that trend to where they’re getting quicker production from their draft classes. Just look at the players they picked in 2010 to 2012 alone to see the tremendous value they’ve acquired in the mid to lower rounds.
To get back to the question, the Giants have done well in the first round under Reese’s tenure as general manager.
It’s after that where it’s been hit-and-miss, and there are numerous reasons for it.
One could be that the coaching staff isn’t developing these players fast enough.
Another could be chronic injuries, which I’ve long suspected could be related to how a player trains when he gets to the NFL.
Yet another reason could be that these players are just not fits for the system that the coaches want to run, and thus there is a longer learning curve.
Whatever the reason, we can all agree that the drafting needs to be better, given the number of misses that have tarnished the team’s record of late.
Have a question you want answered as part of my weekly Giants mailbag? Tweet it to me using the #askpat hashtag or post it in the comments section below by Thursday.
Patricia Traina is the senior editor for Inside Football. All quotes and information obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.