Tom Coughlin with Giants Director of College Scouting Marc Ross
If you took a break from the NFL over the weekend to watch the final days of the Winter Olympics, you missed quite a bit of New York Giants news to come out of the annual NFL Scouting Combine currently being held in Indianapolis through Wednesday.
Fear not, as I have you covered with a recap of some of the biggest Giants-related storylines to emerge—the news, the rumors and what it all means going forward.
Later this week, I'll have a separate article on the combine itself—whom the Giants met with and what it all could potentially mean.
At the end of the 2013 season, Giants CEO John Mara and general manager Jerry Reese both stated that they wanted Tom Coughlin to continue on in his role as the team's head coach.
The only question, though, was if they were willing to extend the 67-year–old Coughlin's contract, which was entering the final year of the three-year extension he signed after winning Super Bowl XLVI, beyond 2014.
"That has been our philosophy in the past," Mara told reporters during his season-ending press conference. "There's no secret about that. Whether it continues or not is yet to be decided."
Well, it's since been decided, as Coughlin himself broke the news at the combine that he has indeed agreed to a one-year extension.
His extension, which will be signed after he returns from the combine, will officially remove the "lame duck" label from his status and keeps with the Giants tradition.
Why one year? Well, new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, whom some believe could be Coughlin's successor, signed a two-year deal, per Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger.
Is it a coincidence that both Coughlin's and McAdoo's deals will expire at the same time?
Considering that Coughlin told reporters after the 2013 season that he's still a "young guy in this business," and considering that his teams have gone 16-16 the last two years, it's clear that he has to get this ship turned around.
Also worth noting is that Coughlin fired two longtime assistant coaches, running backs coach Jerald Ingram and tight ends coach Mike Pope, moves that seemed perplexing when they were announced.
Were the firings a result of the start of a possible transition or a simple desire to get younger on the coaching staff?
No one from the team is saying publicly, but it would not be a surprise if, as McAdoo further builds up his resume, he soon enters the discussion for a head coaching role.
When it comes to running back David Wilson, who will be entering his third year as a pro in 2014, there are two things we know to be definite.
The first is that the young man underwent a surgical procedure on his neck to address a herniated disc.
The second is that the Giants organization has repeatedly expressed optimism that Wilson will return to play at some point in 2014.
What we don't know—and what's been a hot topic of debate that's resulted in conflicting reports—is when Wilson will be able to return.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Wilson is "ahead of schedule," and is "expected to be ready for training camp."
However, Coughlin, who would obviously have a better idea on where Wilson is in his recovery, didn't agree, telling reporters at the combine that he wasn't sure what the immediate future held for Wilson:
I really don't know the answer to that question. I think a lot has to do with his attitude, the way he feels, the way the doctors and trainers obviously feel. He's not going to be put out there unless he's ready for that. I'm not even sure how he's going to be limited in the spring.
Coughlin said he recently saw Wilson and offered this update:
I saw him about four or five days ago and he's that same bouncy personality. He's very pleased with where he's at right now. He's able to do work with his legs for example, not as a heavy-duty thing but in a lighter capacity. He's excited about that. He looks good, he feels good. He doesn't have a lot of pain.
Despite all the encouraging signs, both Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese stressed that their first concern is Wilson's long-term health.
"Forget about that he could be a difference-maker on the team, it's the idea that is he going to be healthy enough to be able to withstand?" Coughlin said.
"That will be the doctors' and our main concern. We're not going to put him out there unless he really believes in himself again and the doctors believe he'll be ready to go."
In other words, there's no rush to put Wilson onto the field until he can withstand the physical nature of the game that likely led to his condition in the first place.
Not surprisingly, Reese said the team intends to proceed as if it won't have Wilson.
"We can't put all of our eggs in one basket," he told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Saturday. "Our number one goal is for (Wilson) to be healthy. We'll continue to look for a running back, (and) a veteran, and there are some pretty good prospects in this draft as well."
Given all the needs the Giants have on the team, if they're worried enough to want to bring in a running back just in case Wilson isn't ready, it wouldn't be surprising if come the spring, he's kept out of drills.
If that happens, it will be interesting to see how much that sets him back in what will be a critical upcoming season in his development.
General manager Jerry Reese has plenty of reasons to smile these days given the projected rise of the 2014 NFL salary cap.
"It's hard to maintain a high-caliber roster with a flat salary cap, especially when you're picking late and last some of the times that you're picking," Reese admitted. "Anything's better than flat."
The cap, remember, dropped from $128 million in 2009, the final capped year of the old collective bargaining agreement, to about $121 million in 2011, the first year of the new CBA.
That reduction created havoc for many teams, the Giants included, who had structured previous contracts to increase incrementally based on projected increases to future caps.
So now that Reese will have roughly $6 million more to work with, he should be able to lock up some of his team's pending free agents such as defensive end Justin Tuck and linebacker Jon Beason before the start of free agency, right?
"I had talks with all those (prospective free agents). Free agency means free agency. It means you go out and get as much as you can," he said.
OK, so what about going after blue-chip free agents from other teams starting on March 11?
"The last couple of years, it's been a pretty saturated free-agent market," he said. "If there are guys you like and you have the money, people go get them. If you can hold your water, we think there will probably be some guys available in that second and third waves."
Despite indicating plans to possibly wait, which isn't surprising because indicating otherwise could put the team at a disadvantage in negotiations, I think the Giants will complete deals with some of their free agents whose contracts should be straightforward.
The last time the Giants traded down in the first round of the draft was in 2006.
That trade, per ESPN and Pro-Football-Reference, saw the Giants send the 25th overall pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for Pittsburgh's first-round pick (32nd overall, spent on defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka), third-round pick (96th overall, spent on linebacker Gerris Wilkinson) and fourth-round pick (129th overall, spent on OL Guy Whimper).
Since then, it's been status quo for the Giants in the first round. This year, however, as holders of the 12th overall pick in the first round, Reese hinted that the team might be more receptive to trading down, a scenario I indicated would make sense last week.
"We'll try and get the best player available on the board," he said. "We'll keep our options open there. If someone wants to come up to 12 and entertain us moving back, we'll consider that as well."
How realistic is the chance that the Giants will move down? That would depend obviously on how the first 11 picks fall in the draft.
If the 11 teams drafting before the Giants pull off the unexpected, the Giants might stand pat. If the board falls as they project , then they might trade down a few spots if they think their target will still be there.
On a separate, yet related note, the Giants could be in line for a fifth-round compensatory pick, per Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com.
The more picks, the better, as the Giants look to gear up for the future and to have ammunition to pull off other draft-day trades as they see fit.
Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo
If you were looking forward to the Giants completely dropping the system previously run by Kevin Gilbride, I have some bad news for you.
That system won't completely disappear in favor of the West Coast offense, based on what head coach Tom Coughlin had to say at the combine.
"(McAdoo), interestingly enough, does not describe himself as West Coast," Coughlin said. "He thinks more in terms of the ball going vertical or down the field if the opportunities present themselves."
While Coughlin said there will be changes made to the system, there will be some things that stay the same, such as the running game.
"We will maintain a commitment to the run," Coughlin said. "That will be a factor no matter what. That has been agreed upon by all."
Another thing that won't change is Coughlin's involvement in the offense's continued development.
"I'm involved very much in it, as are all our coaches," he said, noting that McAdoo will have the final say on the offense's direction and on the play-calling aspect.
"It's a very good exchange right now because we're doing the best we can to meld a couple of systems, to discuss those types of things. Ben will have the final say on that and of course play-calling, but I'll be very much involved."
While there still aren't enough details available to determine what percentage of the offense will resemble what the Giants have run in the past under Coughlin and what percentage will be new, we should be able to gain additional clues based on the personnel the team acquires in free agency and the draft.
Some of the clues to watch for include offensive line—will they go for a power line or a finesse line? In addition, what will they do at tight end—will they look for a blocker or a receiver type?
The melding of the systems has Coughlin excited.
"It's stimulating. It's exciting," Coughlin said. "We're very new into the development of where we'll go and what our program will be, but it's a good time; it's an exciting time. I feel good about it."
If you were ready to mail your farewell cards to offensive linemen Chris Snee and David Baas, you might want to wait.
That's because both 30-something offensive linemen, who finished last year on injured reserve, could be back in 2014.
"I think both of those guys want to play," said general manager Jerry Reese, per Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger. "I've talked to them. I believe they want to play. But they've had significant injuries and right now, I think they're on a good track to recovery. We'll see how it goes."
Baas had his season end last year after three games thanks to an unspecified MCL injury for which he needed surgery.
However, Baas also has a history of neck problems, which landed him on the Giants weekly injury report in both 2011 and 2013.
With Baas currently owning the fourth-highest cap figure on the team ($6.45 million), Over the Cap estimates that the Giants would save $1.775 million if they cut him.
Will they? If the Giants can find a younger, cheaper alternate in that second and third wave of free agency, I think they'll part with Baas.
Reese mentioned that when a player is up there in age and coming off a major injury, you can't always count on him, and while he wasn't specifically talking about Baas, certainly the logic would have to apply in that case.
If Baas is cut, I think the Giants will designate him as a post-June 1 transaction.
Doing so would increase their cap saving to $5 million and be more than enough to sign their rookie class, which OTC estimates will cost them $2,288,911.
Snee, meanwhile, underwent surgeries on both hips last year. According to head coach Tom Coughlin, Snee could be eyeing a return in 2014.
"He's progressing well. He's working. He's building himself back up," Coughlin said. "He feels good and he's looking forward to feeling better. All I can tell you is that he's making very good progress."
However, that doesn't mean the Giants will wait indefinitely for Snee. Still, the head coach sounded optimistic about the potential return of the veteran guard:
Right now it's all offseason and he's in the rehab aspect of it. But for anybody that's been injured, obviously the rehab and all of those things come into play as you start to formulate where you are. Right now I'm optimistic about it.
Reese, however, was reluctant to echo any optimism:
All of that will come out in the wash. Is he going to be healthy? I think that's the number one thing. Obviously, he's got a big contract; that's an issue as well. So all of that will get hashed out when we figure out if he's going to be healthy or not.
Reese did confirm that Snee is building toward a return.
"He definitely wants to play. Again, he had significant injuries and he's not a baby at this point in his career, so that always factors in."
If Snee does return, it most definitely won't be at his $11.3 million cap figure that includes a $6.75 million base salary.
The Giants have a couple of options they can do to lower that number.
The first is to have him take a salary cut and give him an opportunity to earn back some of the money through playing incentives that wouldn't affect this year's cap.
The second and less likely option is to reduce Snee's base salary and front him the difference. To lessen the hit on the cap, they would need to tack on a voidable year.
However, if the Giants definitely intend to move on from Snee after 2014 (assuming he does play), this option doesn't make sense because they'd have to carry dead money from his contract in 2015.
When might the Giants make a decision regarding Snee's contract?
"We'll take care of it when we need to take care of it," Reese said.
In a development that should surprise absolutely no one, former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride likely would have been fired had he not decided to retire at the end of last season.
"It's important for everybody to have a good feel for what we're trying to do moving forward and be all in on the changes that we made," Reese said when speaking about the change at offensive coordinator.
"It was time to make a change. I think everybody is excited about what's going on."
While Reese praised Gilbride for the job he did, clearly he agreed with team CEO John Mara that the Giants' 28th-ranked offense was indeed "broken."
"We obviously needed to make some changes," Mara said in a interview last month with ESPN Radio (h/t New York Daily News).
"There are times where you just have to do that, because things were just not working for us, particularly on offense."
Head coach Tom Coughlin didn't agree with Mara's use of the word "broken" to describe the offense. "I certainly agreed that some things had to be fixed, let's put it that way. But I wouldn't have used that word."
Regardless, Both Coughlin and Reese gave a vote of confidence to new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, whom the team hired last month to replace Gilbride.
"I think he's going to bring some new life," Reese said. "Obviously, Coach Gilbride did a terrific job for us. The change, I think, is going to energize our offense a little bit."
"I basically, from my standpoint, have a chance to challenge myself with some new learning, which is good for me and for all of us who are a part of the offensive system," Coughlin added.
One of the biggest mysteries from the 2013 season was the approach that wide receiver Hakeem Nicks took in his contract year.
It all began in the spring when Nicks opted to skip the voluntary OTAs. While it's within his right to do so, it was the first time since he was selected in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft that he didn't participate in the team's voluntary program.
Nicks never did make it known why he chose to stay away from the Giants, but the most common theory is that he was trying to protect himself from injury heading into his contract year, especially considering how he suffered a broken foot during an OTA workout in 2012.
If that was indeed his thinking, it was severely flawed. The Giants' medical staff is typically very conservative when it comes to what they allow injured and rehabbing players to do on the field.
If Nicks indeed had any concerns about a relapse, all he had to do was communicate that to the medical staff, who no doubt would have worked with him and devised a schedule that kept him out of harm's way.
By staying away from the OTAs—Nicks did show up for the three-day mandatory minicamp in June—he missed valuable classroom time with quarterback Eli Manning.
Considering how his injuries slowed him down the year before, it was an ill-advised decision that also annoyed head coach Tom Coughlin, who let it be known that Nicks went back on his word about attending.
"At one point, Hakeem told me he was going to be here, and he was not here," Coughlin told ESPN.
Fast-forward to the season, where Nicks not only again failed to make it through 16 games—but also missed a critical midseason matchup against the Dallas Cowboys after suddenly appearing on the injury report with an abdominal injury that he told reporters had been bothering him "on and off."
"As far as I know, it came up and he reported in on Wednesday (before the home game against Dallas) with something."
The final straw sealing Nicks' likely future was a report by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network that claimed Nicks was "fined multiple times" by the Giants for issues that, according to the New York Daily News, were related to being late to meetings and for missing treatments.
While it's unclear why Nicks made the decisions he did, he apparently has some concerns about his future potential earnings given the negative publicity and his disappointing play last season.
What does all that mean for Nicks' future with the Giants?
Interestingly, neither Coughlin nor general manager Jerry Reese mentioned that they hoped to have Nicks back, with Coughlin saying, "I'm sure that the market will be where Hakeem will go. We'll see what happens."