Breaking Down New York Giants' Remaining Offseason Needs
The New York Giants delivered a sizable splash during the opening days of free agency, potentially upgrading a defensive pass rush with newcomers Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison; re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul; and signing two new back-end players, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and inside linebacker Keenan Robinson.
With the exception of LB Jasper Brinkley re-signing, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, the Giants have otherwise been unable to close the deal on any other transactions.
Despite the lack of recent activity, that doesn’t mean the Giants are done nor content with the roster being what it currently is.
"There are still some players we’re looking at, obviously at a lower level in terms of compensation,” team co-owner John Mara told Bob Glauber of Newsday.
“I still think we have some holes to fill. I think we’d like to have another offensive lineman somewhere down the line, another corner, another receiver. There are still players we’re looking at. We may have to wait until the draft if [the right players] aren’t there in free agency.”
In short, there’s no reason to panic just yet about the lack of recent activity by the Giants. In fact, there might be some positions at which, from the outside looking in, the Giants might be able to roll with what they have if they can't find the right fit.
With that said, let’s take a look at five positions where the Giants didn’t add any new faces and try to gauge what the future holds at each.
While the Giants don’t publicize those players they’re meeting with, these things usually have a way of leaking out through various sources. With that said, there was nary a whisper of any rumors linking to the Giants to a veteran safety.
So what can we make of this? Well, last year the Giants seemed ready to roll with the youth movement until a string of injuries wiped out prospects such as Bennett Jackson, Mykkele Thompson and Nat Berhe well before the season started.
Berhe is the only one of the three mentioned with any prior regular-season experience, that coming in his rookie season (2014) in which, per Pro Football Focus, he played 32 snaps on defense at both safety spots. He is also the player the Giants were apparently looking at last year to pair alongside Landon Collins in that defensive secondary until Berhe’s calf issues began.
With all that said, it looks like the Giants are going to try again with this youth movement rather than bring in a veteran, as Mara said to Tom Rock of Newsday.
The question, though, is do the Giants have a legitimate starting free safety among a group of players who all had lower body injuries?
Thompson is coming of a torn Achilles; Jackson tore his ACL and has twice now needed knee surgery in as many years. Berhe meanwhile was treated for a calf injury.
Only time will tell, but for now, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Giants open their spring OTAs with Berhe lining up alongside Collins with the first string.
Unlike safety, the Giants did make a push to land a veteran to complete their offensive line, reportedly meeting with Russell Okung, who signed with Denver, and reportedly reaching out to Donald Penn, who re-signed with Oakland.
There was just one problem. As Jordan Raanan of NJ Advance Media pointed out, the majority of the tackles the Giants targeted were career-long left tackles who apparently had zero interest in flipping to the right side.
So where does that leave the Giants besides facing a dried-up veteran candidate pool? Considering they have devoted four draft picks to four of the five projected starters (Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg and Bobby Hart), they might as well finish the hand with another young draft pick who would have no choice but to flip to the other side if he comes in having played left tackle throughout school.
Some names to watch in the draft if the Giants want to address this position early include Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame, Jack Conklin of Michigan State (pictured) and Jason Spriggs of Indiana.
Another position at which the Giants seemed to be quiet was receiver, where other than reportedly restructuring Victor Cruz’s 2016 cap figure, there have been no reported visits by any unrestricted free agents.
While there is optimism surrounding Cruz’s return, it would be surprising if, given how last year went, the Giants are putting all their eggs in that one basket. However, just because they haven't met with any veterans just yet doesn’t mean they don’t have a plan.
The Giants signed Anthony Dable, 6’5”, 215 pounds, formerly of the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions of Germany, for whom he posted 145 catches and 32 touchdowns.
A huge target, it’s certainly possible that the coaches saw enough raw talent in Dable that, with a little refining, they believe they can turn him from an unknown into a legitimate complement to Odell Beckham Jr.
The Giants also have another relatively unknown receiver who was briefly with them last spring and who stood out because of his effort and intensity. That would be Ben Edwards, listed as 5’10” and 197 pounds, who signed as an undrafted free agent out of Richmond.
Edwards worked with the Giants throughout the spring before suffering a hamstring injury. He then received an injury settlement before the start of training camp, but he was brought back after the terms of his injury settlement expired and managed to get on the field last year ahead of sixth-round draft pick Geremy Davis.
Edwards is actually a receiver on whom I’m very bullish. He reminds me quite a bit of Phil McConkey from the 1986 Super Bowl team in terms of his spark-plug demeanor.
Edwards looked especially intriguing as a slot receiver, where he showed no fear in going across the middle, and he can also return punts.
The only true concern, though, with Edwards is that he has a concussion history that, according to Ed Valentine of Big Blue View, includes two suffered within a month of each other during his senior season.
In addition to Dable’ and Edwards, the Giants are also obviously hoping to see Davis and Myles White take a step forward.
They will likely draft at this position at some point, as well as sign an undrafted candidate or two to compete in what should be a wide-open competition.
At the NFL combine, general manager Jerry Reese was asked about the Giants’ tight ends, a group that last year consisted of Larry Donnell, Will Tye, Jerome Cunningham and Matt LaCosse.
“Will Tye who came on, was on the practice squad, we brought him up and he really did a nice job for us,” Reese told reporters. “We expect him to continue to develop and grow and be a good piece for us at that position. Larry Donnell had the neck injury, he’s coming back and hopefully he’ll be able to continue to play. ... There’s a couple of young tight ends on the roster that we like.”
While Reese never rules out looking to upgrade at a position, it does sound as though the tight end position is not high on his priority list. Nor should it be.
Per Pro Football Focus, Tye led all rookie tight ends last year with 42 catches for 464 yards and three touchdowns.
While by no means a finished product—his run blocking was inconsistent—Tye seemed to improve each week to where it would not be surprising if he ended up as the full-time starter over Donnell in 2016.
As for the rest of the tight ends on the roster, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, in his pre-draft profile of LaCosse, noted that the former Illinois tight end is “willing to fight and sustain when asked to square up as in-line blocker," adding that LaCosse's blocking technique "needs work, but ... has ability to get better.”
That LaCosse had a hamstring issue that put him out of football for a bit last year likely set him back some, but it certainly says something that the Giants brought him back after cutting him so early in training camp last year.
The addition of Janoris Jenkins was a nice move, as he’ll team up with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as the starting cornerback duo.
The rest of the depth at this position, however, is lacking as it appears that neither Trumaine McBride or Jayron Hosley are going to be re-signed.
Besides Jenkins and Rodgers-Cromartie, the Giants also have Trevin Wade, who will presumably be the slot cornerback once OTAs begin.
Mykkele Thompson, listed as a safety on the roster, also played cornerback and slot cornerback in college, per NFL Draft Scout, so it wouldn’t be a shock if he served as the “swingman” in the defensive backfield.
As for the rest of the depth, the Giants will almost certainly add to this group via the draft.
Will they add a high pick such as Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III (if he’s there at No. 10) with an eye toward having the rookie replace Rodgers-Cromartie a couple of years down the line, or will they look to fill out the depth with a Day 3 pick who can serve as a utility man?
For a team that has had to rely on free agency to fill holes as they pop open, it would probably make more sense to go the former route and let a rookie grow into the speed of the NFL game wherever possible.
Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.
Follow me on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.