Not often do the New York Giants make headlines on the first day of free agency. But the Giants need a makeover, especially on offense, and the draft alone can't fix what ailed this team in 2013.
That's why it's encouraging to see the Giants make somewhat of a splash within hours of the launch of the new league year, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.
Not only did the G-Men bolster that much-maligned offensive line with the addition of top-tier veteran guard Geoff Schwartz, per ESPN.com's Dan Graziano, but they're also on the verge of wrapping up a potential new starting running back in Rashad Jennings, according to Graziano on Twitter.
Eli Manning is coming off his most difficult season in nearly a decade, but a lot of that had to do with all of the flux along the offensive line and a lack of consistency from the running game. But that could change with Schwartz and Jennings.
Schwartz is only 27 and is coming off a year in which he was rated by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) as the eighth-best guard in football, despite starting only seven games with the Chiefs. He's considered to be a solid run-blocker, which is required of anyone in that spot, but Manning will be happy to know that he surrendered only 10 total pressures on 293 pass-blocking snaps in 2013, which, when converted to a rate, ranked 11th among 79 qualifying guards, per PFF.
Jennings was flying under the radar. He's averaged more than 4.5 yards per carry in three of his four NFL seasons, and during a four-week stretch in the second half of the 2013 season he was probably the best back in the NFL.
Jennings has to prove that he can hang in as a pass-blocker. He didn't grade out well in that area at Pro Football Focus, and he was responsible for two sacks while backing up Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville in 2012. Still, he's a proven veteran with lots of tread on his tires for a 28-year-old.
Considering that the Giants haven't been able to rely on former top pick Davis Wilson, and that they were one of only four teams to average fewer than 3.6 yards per carry in 2013, they could really use the type of support Jennings was able to offer Jones-Drew in Jacksonville and Darren McFadden in Oakland.
In fact, he was so good with the Raiders last season that the team appeared to be prioritizing him over McFadden. Ultimately, though, the Giants must have made an offer Oakland wasn't prepared to compete with, which indicates they have big plans for this guy.
The most intriguing aspect of the Jennings acquisition is that he's a superb receiver. Despite making only eight starts last year, he caught 36 passes for 292 yards. If the Giants are serious about making their offense more quarterback-friendly and adding new dimensions in general, utilizing backs in the passing game could be a game-changer for Manning and Co.
The Giants are showing an impressive willingness to evolve on offense. It's not entirely clear yet what they plan to do with the versatile Schwartz—Lance Zierlein of TheSidelineView.com is hearing that they'll plug him in at tackle rather than guard—but he'd be an immediate upgrade over Kevin Boothe, Chris Snee, Will Beatty or Justin Pugh (who would probably take over for Boothe, an unrestricted free agent).
They're already moving on from David Baas at center, according to Graziano on ESPN.com, so they might not be done investing in free agents who can help balance this offense.
UPDATE: That is indeed the case, as they signed 2010 third-round pick and former Broncos starter J.D. Walton on Wednesday, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post. Walton should compete for the vacant starting center job.
Boothe, Snee and Baas are dinosaurs—a combined 94 years of age. New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has the ability to revitalize this unit, starting there and at running back. With the new league year less than a day old, they're off to a hell of a start.
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