Never the loudest team in NFL free agency, the New York Giants became big-time buyers on Tuesday afternoon, when Kimberly Jones of NFL Network reported that the team had agreed to terms with ex-Kansas City Chief Geoff Schwartz—the man, considered by some, to be the most talented offensive guard on the 2014 open market.
Schwartz's contract will be a four-year agreement, reportedly worth $16.8 million with $6.2 million of that figure being guaranteed, per Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com.
The signing of Schwartz is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. In 2013, the Giants' offensive line allowed quarterback Eli Manning to be sacked a career-high 39 times. The Big Blue O-line didn't fare any better in run-blocking—only three teams fielded a rushing attack worse than New York's was last season.
Schwartz is a sound blocker, not a cure-all.
|Geoff Schwartz at a Glance|
Lance Zierlein of Sports Talk 790 in Houston reports that Schwartz will play tackle with the Giants rather than guard, as his 6'6", 340-pound frame fits the bill for a premier edge-protector. However, Schwartz expects to be plugged in immediately as the starting left guard, according to a separate Jones report.
In either case, New York is still without a trustworthy option at center.
After David Baas was cut, most assumed that Green Bay's Evan Dietrich-Smith was in the crosshairs. The day before unrestricted free agency opened, Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News described the Giants' interest in Dietrich-Smith as "serious."
And yet nothing has become of said interest. Dietrich-Smith has not yet signed with a team at the time of this publication, but his reported visit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers leads one to believe he may not be headed for New York after all, per Pro Football Talk.
On day two of free agency, the Giants did sign a center. They landed ex-Denver Bronco and Washington Redskin J.D. Walton, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post. Although Walton started the first 36 games of his career, he suffered a broken ankle in 2012 and has not even appeared in a game since.
Kevin Boothe is still hanging around on the open market, too.
Boothe, who can also play tackle and guard, closed out the 2013 season as the Giants' starting center. Normally seen as no more than a stopgap snapper, Boothe could now be in the running as New York's full-time starter. This option was first explored by Ranaan on the NFL New Year.
Suddenly, the Schwartz celebration is cut short by mulling several sobering options at center.
That's without considering New York's underplayed tackle conundrum. Will Beatty and Justin Pugh are not locks to be Week 1 starters on the outside. Beatty is coming off of an atrocious season after signing a new contract in the spring of 2013, and Pugh has always been considered a better fit at guard due to his lack of size and arm length.
If Schwartz does end up at tackle, what will fate hold for the likes of Beatty and Pugh? Will Pugh be pushed inside? Will he be tested at left tackle? Will Beatty and his $38.75 million contract ride the bench?
And please don't forget about Chris Snee, who has had two hip surgeries since the turn of 2013. Yes, he is back, and for a far reduced rate, but can he still perform up to par? After playing in only three games last season, the 32-year-old is likely to face further questioning regarding his durability.
In the end, more questions are raised than answered by the signing of Schwartz. While it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, it is just that—a single step.
New York still has a lot of work to do when it comes to cleaning up its offensive line. Once a formidable model of consistency, it has since regressed into a mere mash of massive men.
The Giants must continue to pursue available O-line talent in the coming weeks, but the main focus from now until May should be the 2014 NFL draft, where New York will be tasked with locating the best possible options to bolster its offensive front.
The Schwartz signing does give New York the flexibility to pursue other needs, such as cornerback or linebacker, in the first round of the draft. However, players like Arkansas center Travis Swanson, Mississippi State guard Gabe Jackson and several mid-round tackles should be dominating the Giants' incoming rookie radar.
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