Fixing New York Giants Offensive Line in 1 Offseason
If getting the right general manager and coaching staff are priorities No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, for the New York Giants, fixing their offensive line is a close third on the top offseason list.
The next general manager will have to be an expert at building from the inside out, something that wasn’t necessarily a strength of previous incumbent Jerry Reese.
However, the good news is that the Giants' starting offensive line might already have most of the pieces in place—just not in the right order.
Let's look at each position and see.
For the last three seasons, the Giants have had Ereck Flowers—the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft—man the left tackle position with mostly negative results.
In 2018, the team might want to go in a different direction.
The problem is if they do end up with the No. 2 overall pick, there is a good chance they might opt for a franchise quarterback if they don't feel Davis Webb is their guy.
With the free-agency market rather thin at tackle—Nate Solder and Justin Pugh are the top names to watch in 2018, assuming they both hit the market—the Giants might have to engineer a trade for their long-term left tackle.
A potential trade partner could be the Buffalo Bills, who might make Cordy Glenn available via trade. The 28-year-old struggled through the 2017 season with foot and ankle injuries. He was recently placed on season-ending injured reserve and was scheduled to undergo foot and ankle surgery.
The bigger picture, though, is the Bills have been able to get solid production out of the younger and cheaper Dion Dawkins, their second-round draft pick this year, production that may make Glenn and his $14.45 million 2018 cap hit expendable.
If the Giants—projected by Over The Cap to have just $26,587,197 of cap space for other free-agency needs—were to acquire Glenn, they would only be charged his 2018 base salary ($9.2 million) against their 2018 cap.
Perhaps if they can swing a deal with Glenn to rework what's left of his contract, which runs through 2020, and turn some of his 2018 base salary into a prorated signing bonus, that might make a trade easier to execute and finally solve their left tackle dilemma.
Even though Justin Pugh hasn't been able to make it through a 16-game season since his rookie year in 2013, he is still worth re-signing if his back injury checks out.
Pugh has been the most steady and consistent of the Giants offensive linemen since he arrived on campus. A David Diehl clone with more talent, the 27-year-old can play any position on the offensive line except center, which is a valuable trait.
Why? Because as we have seen this year, when the Giants needed to plug an emergency hole along the line where the depth lacked, they turned to Pugh who in turn delivered solid play.
The big question is whether Pugh will be worth the large contract he's likely to get on the open market. The short answer is no. Few free agents are worth the big money they get, and the next Giants general manager might want to be careful locking up too much in a player with an injury history.
If the Giants are smart, though, they should consider including a play-time incentive for Pugh in which he gets a certain bonus for every game he's on the 46-man game-day roster. This way, if the injury issues continue, they at least have a chance at gaining a credit toward subsequent years.
The play of former Canadian Football League star Brett Jones has made the Giants' decision regarding the center position easy.
Simply put, the offensive line has not missed a beat since the 26-year-old took over the starting job for Weston Richburg, who is now on injured reserve after suffering a concussion.
Besides his solid play, Jones will also be a restricted free agent, meaning the Giants can retain his rights for at least another year at a lot less than it would take to keep Richburg, their second-round pick in 2014.
Considering the Giants might not have much free cap space with which to work—Over The Cap projects them as having $26,512,197 of cap space to start (before any cap credits and cuts are made)—this might be one corner worth cutting given the needs at other spots.
The Giants took a flier on former Chargers castoff D.J. Fluker, their first-round draft pick from 2013.
While it took Fluker a while to work his way into the lineup, the running game suddenly started to enjoy some late-season success when he did—success that disappeared when the 26-year-old landed on injured reserve with turf toe.
Even though Fluker's time was cut short, he did enough to warrant a second contract from the Giants. However, with other pressing needs for the team to address such as the linebacker unit, he could end up being re-signed after the initial rush of free agency is over.
I mentioned Flowers on the left tackle slide, so let's talk more about why a move to right tackle potentially makes sense.
Flowers, remember, was initially penciled in to play right tackle after he was drafted, but an injury to then-incumbent Will Beatty forced him to step in at left tackle as a rookie.
Flowers' biggest issue has been his footwork as a pass protector. He's been inconsistent in his technique and unable to keep up with speed rushers. This season, he has struggled with run blocking as well, prompting some to wonder if he might be a better fit for right tackle or even right guard.
Given his size and his power, the Giants might be able to salvage Flowers if they try him on the right side for a season.
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.