What Will the New York Giants Look Like in 3 Years?
When it comes to an NFL team, a lot can change over a three-year period.
How much? Well, let's take the New York Giants as an example.
According to Pro Football Reference, only three players—quarterback Eli Manning, wide receiver Victor Cruz and offensive lineman Justin Pugh—remained from the starting lineups on offense, defense and special teams from 2013 to 2016.
So as the Giants appear headed for significant changes after what has turned out to be a disappointing season, let's pull out our crystal ball and try to anticipate what changes might be in store for this team.
General manager Jerry Reese has had plenty of opportunities to fix the Giants roster to where it can be competitive every year. However, his insistence on building from the outside in, the poor draft classes as outlined by Inside Football, and the reliance on expensive free agents have put this club into such a tailspin that the Giants just aren't getting a good return on their investments.
Reese is a good man and a hard worker, but it's time for ownership to go in a different direction. The Giants historically have promoted from within when it comes to the general manager position, the lone exception being George Young, who had been an executive with the Miami Dolphins before he was hired in 1979.
That practice needs to end.
While many people will turn to the popular names such as Atlanta Falcons assistant general manager Scott Pioli, there are some intriguing up-and-coming general manager candidates who have been part of successful franchises, such as New England Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio, Seattle Seahawks Co-Director of Player Personnel Trent Kirchner and Minnesota Vikings assistant general manager George Paton.
The bottom line is the Giants need a general manager who is as sharp on the business side of things as he is on the scouting side, has a solid record of building rosters from the inside out and comes from a successful program.
Head coach Ben McAdoo might have gotten a vote of confidence from team ownership for the rest of the year, but beyond that, all bets are off, and that includes McAdoo's assistant coaches.
If the Giants continue to tank and fail to show the consistent effort that McAdoo said he noticed was missing in his review of the tape, it's hard to imagine that he will survive beyond this year. If, however, McAdoo can turn things around and win most of these remaining seven games the same way Tom Coughlin won three out of his last four games in 2014, there's a chance McAdoo will be back.
The same can't be said of his assistants. It would be a major shock if, for example, there aren't changes made to the defensive side of the ball, such as replacing cornerbacks coach Tim Walton and possibly linebackers coach Bill McGovern, whose units have underperformed this season.
Getting back to McAdoo, his roster is what it is. The cavalry isn't coming in to save this season. If he hasn't gotten the kind of consistent effort he's expecting by now, it would be very hard to imagine that will change over the next seven weeks. If it doesn't, the Giants will be in the market for a new head coach come early next year.
Eli Manning, who turns 37 in January, might think he can play until he's 40 years old, but the odds of him fulfilling that goal appear to be about as slim as his being benched this season.
For starters, Manning's contract is set to end in 2019, and there is no guarantee that he'll even finish that contract.
While the Giants ownership likely doesn't want to push Manning out the door anytime soon, it also cannot let one player hold up its transition to the future, no matter how sentimental that player is.
The Giants took Davis Webb in the third round of this year's draft, the highest draft pick they've exercised on a quarterback since 2004 when they plucked Philip Rivers in the first round to then flip to the then-San Diego Chargers for Manning.
Not long after Webb was selected in the draft, Giants co-owner John Mara almost immediately stepped up to throw cold water on the notion that Webb is automatically Manning's heir.
In an interview with Rich Eisen for The Rich Eisen Show (h/t CBSSports.com), Mara had this to say about Webb back in May:
"I think it's a little premature to be anointing this guy as the heir apparent to Eli -- he hasn't set foot on the field yet. But he's got a lot of talent and we're looking forward to seeing what we've got when he gets here. But as Bill Parcells used to say, let's not get his bust ready for Canton. He's a talented guy but let's let him get on the field, let's let him play in the preseason and develop and if he's the successor that's great, but if not, we'll find somebody else."
With the Giants likely to be in position to draft a blue-chip quarterback prospect next spring, there is a good chance they might go in that direction, especially if they sweep out the general manager and the coaching staff.
Although Ereck Flowers, the current starting left tackle, has played better of late—he unofficially hasn't allowed a sack in the last four weeks—his run blocking still falls short of what it was during his rookie season.
The Giants have to decide on Flowers' fifth-year option, a decision which, if they pick it up, would pay Flowers the average of the 10 highest salaries at his position, so chances are they're probably going to decline that option (especially with the contracts of Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins coming up).
A more likely scenario would see Flowers being offered a contract to stay after next season is up and the coaching staff moving him to right tackle, which would allow Pugh (assuming he's re-signed) to move back to left guard, his best spot, and John Jerry, currently the left guard, to move to the bench.
The Giants can then devote whatever resources necessary to getting a more solid left tackle to improve that offensive line.
At center, figure Brett Jones will be tendered next offseason given he's a restricted free agent, while unrestricted free agent Weston Richburg, an older version of Jones, probably won't be retained.
At right guard, the Giants could look to retain D.J. Fluker or, if they want to upgrade, they might see if Adam Bisnowaty, their sixth-round pick from this year, is ready to move inside by then.
The Giants had big hopes for the defensive end duo of Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul.
Unfortunately, the two teammates have yet to play an entire season together because of injuries—last year an abdominal issue for Pierre-Paul and this year a sprained ankle for Vernon.
With their rising cap numbers—Vernon and Pierre-Paul are scheduled to count for a combined $37 million in cap space in 2020—it would be surprising if both are on the roster by then.
The Giants can realistically get out of Vernon's deal after the 2019 season, when his dead-money cap hit would be just $4 million. With Vernon younger than Pierre-Paul, the more likely scenario is that Pierre-Paul's deal is likely to be terminated first if he doesn't deliver the production to justify it.
The Giants are on the hook with guaranteed money owed to Pierre-Paul through the 2018 season. If they want, they can get out of his deal in 2019, but at a cost of $10 million in dead money (versus a $9.5 million cap savings).
The more likely scenario will be in 2020, when they can save $12.5 million on the then 31-year old Pierre-Paul's deal.
Meanwhile on the interior, barring an injury, Dalvin Tomlinson is probably safe moving forward. The same can't be said of defensive tackle Damon Harrison, who will turn 32 in 2020 and carry a $10.85 million cap hit. The Giants can bail out on Harrison's contract after the 2018 season, at which point it would only cost them $3.2 million in dead money while saving them $5.4 million that year.
Considering Harrison isn't an every-down player, it might be too much to continue to carry his contract in 2020 if his skills should decline.
One event you can definitely mark down as happening sooner rather than later is the looming turnover that's coming at linebacker.
Currently, the Giants only have three linebackers—B.J. Goodson, Calvin Munson and Nigel Harris—under contract for next year.
They could look to bring back Devon Kennard, but not if they're going to keep using him as a two-down linebacker who comes off the field in coverage—they might be better off going younger then at that spot.
Jonathan Casillas, the current defensive captain, is likely not going to be back. The same can probably be said of Keenan Robinson, the nickel back.
With this position set to undergo perhaps the biggest facelift of any on the team outside of the offensive line, the Giants need to get players at this spot who are durable (a problem the current unit is having) and productive.
The Giants' top three cornerbacks—Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie—are in for a shakeup after this season.
First, Rodgers-Cromartie, who is entering the final year of his contract, most likely won't be back next season let alone three years from now.
With the Giants set to save $6.5 million next year if they terminate the 31-year-old's contract (he'll cost them a very reasonable $2 million in dead money), it would be a stunning development if the Giants don't look to get younger at the slot cornerback spot.
Barring something unforeseen happening, Apple should still be here in 2020. But the same can't be said of Jenkins, whose lackluster performance Sunday and whose attitude the last couple of weeks—he expressed no remorse for the actions that earned him a suspension—probably won't sit well with ownership, regardless of who the coach is next year.
If the Giants part ways with Jenkins, he'll yield a $7 million in savings. Perhaps this offseason, the Giants might try to trade Jenkins so they're at least getting something in return instead of just a $6 million dead-cap hit.
Salary-cap and contract data information is via Over the Cap.
Patricia Traina covers the New York Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.