6 Biggest Needs New York Giants Have Yet to Address This Offseason
Yet others still loom above the team's head like a dark cloud. If the Giants cannot find a solution to each of their remaining holes, the work they've done so far this offseason will be all for naught. New York must field a complete team moving forward.
That means the team's biggest remaining holes must be addressed before training camp. The Giants must be aware of their squad's deficiencies and keep a watchful eye on unrestricted free agents still lurking on the open market, as well as potential draft picks and even future undrafted free agents.
This slideshow will highlight each of New York's remaining needs, suggesting paths toward a solution that the team will surely pursue in the coming weeks and months.
It is unfair to say that the Giants have yet to address this need. With guard Geoff Schwartz (4 years/$16.8 million) and center J.D. Walton (2 years/$5 million) both joining the team early in free agency, bolstering the offensive line was clearly a priority for New York heading into the offseason.
The additions of Schwartz and Walton counteract utility guard Kevin Boothe's signing with the Oakland Raiders and the team's release of Super Bowl-winning center David Baas. Of the remaining offensive linemen projected to start in 2014, 32-year-old right guard Chris Snee, coming off two hip surgeries, is the most worrisome.
But New York's tackle situation isn't much more certain. On the left side, Will Beatty returns from a fractured right tibia for year two of an awful contract the Giants appear destined to eat. On the right, second-year man Justin Pugh presents a serviceable yet imperfect fit.
The offensive line was easily New York's biggest need entering the 2014 offseason, so the Giants must go beyond the acquisitions of Schwartz and Walton in order to fully revamp this positional unit. In the draft, the team may be able to locate an immediate starter.
Guards David Yankey of Stanford and Gabe Jackson of Mississippi State are two ideal selections to consider after the first round has passed. So is Arkansas center Travis Swanson. Each of these players could develop into a sound, long-term starter in the Giants' offensive front.
If the Giants see the O-line issue as one that must be addressed in the opening round, perhaps they select a tackle with the 12th overall pick. If that's the case, Michigan's Taylor Lewan and Notre Dame's Zack Martin are among the favorites to become Giants next May.
The Giants have fielded a different starting tight end in each of the past four seasons. In 2014, they must find some consistency that can be extended over several seasons.
Last season's starter was Brandon Myers, an Oakland Raiders transplant who has since landed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although his 2013 production was similar to what starting tight ends have offered New York's offense in the recent past, the Myers experiment is viewed as a failed one by general manager Jerry Reese.
What was more concerning than Myers' ill fit was the lack of progression seen in 2012 fourth-round selection Adrien Robinson. Most famous for Reese's likening his rawness to that of All-Pro defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, Robinson has not yet caught a pass in Giants blue. In fact, he's found his way into just three games since he was drafted.
It's a make-or-break year for Robinson, who has struggled with injuries during his difficult transition into the NFL. Larry Donnell, a similarly framed former undrafted free agent, actually played ahead of Robinson last year, catching just three passes for 31 yards. Neither player, at this point in time, appears to be the team's tight end of the future.
And yet the Giants currently have no other options. Many would like to see the Giants take North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, a 6'4", 250-pound pass-catching machine, with the No. 12 overall selection in this year's draft. Bringing in yet another young athlete is risky, though; the starting solution still lies in free agency.
Former Green Bay Packer Jermichael Finley, 26, is still available, most likely due to concerns about the neck injury he suffered last season. As a healthy contributor, Finley would make for a familiar and productive addition to new coordinator Ben McAdoo's offense.
Ex-Baltimore Raven Ed Dickson, 26, and ex-Houston Texan Owen Daniels, 31, should also pique the Giants' interest.
It should be no surprise that the Giants are looking for help along the defensive line. It is New York's most celebrated positional unit, and its most talented members are plucked in free agency at a yearly rate.
This spring, the defensive line lost two huge components, both being instrumental in the Giants' most recent Super Bowl run.
The first was defensive tackle Linval Joseph, a mean run-stuffer who can also hold his own in the pass rush. Joseph now calls Minnesota his home; the 328-pounder will continue his people-eating aptly dressed in purple.
The second was defensive end Justin Tuck, a great two-way defensive end who was a member of both the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl-winning squads. Tuck was a defensive captain, but his voice will need to be replaced in the Giants locker room as he is now a member of the Oakland Raiders.
In their places, the Giants are expecting big things from their 2013 draft class. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, a second-rounder out of Ohio State, projects to fill the massive void left by Joseph's departure. Defensive end Damontre Moore, a third-rounder out of Texas A&M, will likely be unleashed in place of Tuck.
What these youngsters can provide in energy may not make up for what they lack in veteran prowess. The magnifying glass will be on elite pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul to see if he can recapture his former dominance. Don't expect fellow vets Cullen Jenkins and Mathias Kiwanuka to escape the scrutiny, either.
The Giants could draft yet another 4-3 defensive end in the first round by selecting Missouri's Kony Ealy with the 12th overall pick. At 6'5", 275 pounds, Ealy projects to be a natural pass-rusher at the NFL level.
Instead, New York should pursue what's left on the open market. Former Chicago Bear and Rutherford, N.J. native Corey Wootton, 26, fits the bill at defensive end. If Mike Patterson is not re-signed to settle the defensive tackle situation, the Giants should consider 28-year-old Pat Sims, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders.
Where They Could Use More Help
Here's where the Giants have addressed needs but could afford a little more help:
Linebacker: The Giants re-signed Jon Beason to man the middle and brought in former Baltimore Raven Jameel McClain presumably to play the strong side. On the weak side, the competition between Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger, who was recently tendered, will rage on in 2014. All of these players are serviceable, but the Giants are notorious scroungers when it comes to linebacker talent. Second-round options Shayne Skov of Stanford and Chris Borland of Wisconsin could be long-term solutions.
Wide Receiver: Hakeem Nicks finally landed with the Indianapolis Colts on a one-year deal, leaving significant ground for both Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle to make up. On Wednesday, March 18, the Giants reunited with Super Bowl XLVI hero Mario Manningham, according to NBC's Pro Football Talk. To bolster the positional unit in the draft, the Giants will surely target the wide receiver position, where Texas A&M's Mike Evans, USC's Marqise Lee and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin should be near the top of their big board.
Running Back: Although the Giants signed former Oakland Raiders running back Rashad Jennings presumably to be the offensive workhorse in 2014, the team can still use more talent at that position. Peyton Hillis was re-signed in favor of Andre Brown, as he, 2013 seventh-round selection Michael Cox and a dangerously gimpy David Wilson now make up the Giants' depth at running back. New York should keep an eye on LSU's Jeremy Hill, Auburn's Tre Mason and Washington's Bishop Sankey in this year's draft.