Giants' 2023 Free Agents, Targets and Draft Needs After NFL Playoff Loss

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2023

Giants' 2023 Free Agents, Targets and Draft Needs After NFL Playoff Loss

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    Giants head coach Brian Daboll
    Giants head coach Brian DabollDavid Berding/Getty Images

    The New York Giants weren't supposed to make it this far.

    After five straight seasons below .500, they carried very low expectations into the 2022 season. With a new head coach in Brian Daboll and a borderline bust of a quarterback in Daniel Jones, just a few signs of progress would have made this past season a success.

    However, Daboll found ways to get the most out of the roster and unlocked the potential of Jones, who finally lived up to his billing as the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft.

    With a belief that they could be more than just a rebuilding team, the Giants ran head-first into the season instead of taking baby steps. They burst into the playoffs with a wild-card berth and an upset win over the Minnesota Vikings in the opening round before falling to the Philadelphia Eagles 38-7 in the divisional round on Saturday.

    New York isn't rebuilding. Now that its postseason run has ended, it's looking to build off of what it accomplished in 2022 and forge a legitimate Super Bowl contender for 2023. To do that, the Giants must first keep their foundational pieces in place.

    Jones is set to be a free agent when the market opens on March 15, and retaining him should be priority No. 1. From there, Giants general manager Joe Schoen will try adding pieces through free agency, the draft and the trade market in order to make the roster even better.

    Let's take a look at New York's impending free agents, potential free-agent targets and draft needs heading into the 2023 offseason.

Free Agents

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    Giants QB Daniel Jones
    Giants QB Daniel JonesDavid Berding/Getty Images

    Unrestricted Free Agents

    RB Saquon Barkley

    RB Matt Breida

    DT Justin Ellis

    C Jon Feliciano

    G Nick Gates

    P Jamie Gillan

    WR Richie James

    S Tony Jefferson

    WR Marcus Johnson

    QB Daniel Jones

    LS Casey Kreiter

    S Julian Love

    CB Fabian Moreau

    WR Sterling Shepard

    WR Darius Slayton

    DT Jihad Ward

    DT Nick Williams

    LB Oshane Ximines


    Restricted/Exclusive-Rights Free Agents

    None


    Here's the good news for New York: The Giants are projected to have $52.5 million in cap space this offseason, the second-most in the NFL. The bad news is that much of that money is likely to dissipate quickly.

    Jones has a projected market value of $25.5 million annually, though that's a conservative estimate. According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, the 25-year-old will likely receive the franchise tag or get a short-term deal around the value of the tag.

    "That's my guess," Rapoport told WFAN's Tiki and Tierney. "... Either the tag or a short-term deal that is around the price of the tag."

    This year's non-exclusive tag for quarterbacks was worth $29.7 million. Therefore, if the Giants use the tag on Jones or are unable to do a back-loaded multi-year deal, he'll take up more than half of the available cap space.

    According to Rapoport, the Giants also hope to re-sign star running back Saquon Barkley, and he has a projected market value of $11.9 million annually.

    The Giants could well find themselves below $25 million in cap space after signing Jones and Barkley or tagging one of them. They'll then have to turn their attention to key contributors like defensive tackle Fabian Moreau, Julian Love, Jihad Ward and Jon Feliciano.

    Oh, and two of New York's top receivers, Darius Slayton and Richie James, are also scheduled to be free agents this spring.

    While New York is in a good cap situation right now, it would be wise to clear a little more room before March. One option could be releasing the 2021 free-agent addition and massive disappointment Kenny Golladay. Doing so with a post-June 1 designation would clear another $13.5 million in 2023 cap space.

Potential Free-Agent/Trade Targets

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    Buccaneers LB Lavonte David
    Buccaneers LB Lavonte DavidCliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Re-signing Jones and Barkley should be New York's biggest priorities, and it would make a ton of sense to bring back the likes of James and Ward. However, the Giants could stand to upgrade several areas, and if they leave enough cap space, it would be logical to do so in free agency.

    Even if James and Slayton are back in the mix, the Giants could stand to upgrade their receiving corps. The latter led the group with just 724 receiving yards, and there isn't a legitimate No. 1 target on the roster.

    Unfortunately, there isn't a clear-cut No. 1 receiver in the 2023 free-agent receiver pool either. Former Giant Odell Beckham Jr., who didn't play in 2022 after suffering a torn ACL a year ago, and JuJu Smith-Schuster are likely the closest things to one.

    This is why New York might ponder a trade with the Arizona Cardinals, which are considering trading DeAndre Hopkins, according to Jordan Schultz of The Score.

    The 30-year-old is still a high-end possession receiver, and his 2023 cap hit of $8.2 million—after Arizona's dead-money payouts—isn't unreasonable.

    With a talented crop of free-agent tight ends, including Dalton Schultz, Mike Gesicki and former Giant Evan Engram, it wouldn't be a shock to see New York target someone to pair with rookie TE Daniel Bellinger.

    It would also make sense to upgrade a defense that ranked 31st in yards per rush allowed, 25th in total yards allowed and logged just six interceptions on the season.

    A reunion with cornerback James Bradberry would make sense if the 29-year-old is open to it. Defensive backs like C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Jessie Bates III and Jamel Deal would also be logical targets in free agency.

    The biggest defensive priority, though, should be finding a standout run-stuffer to lead the linebacker corps. High-end linebackers such as Tremaine Edmunds, Lavonte David and David Long Jr. are slated to be available.

    An inability to contain the run was one of New York's biggest liabilities in 2022.

Draft Targets

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    ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 27:   New York Giant logo on the video board during the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft on April 27, 2018, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.   (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    After making two top-10 selections in the 2022 draft, the Giants are set to select near the end of the opening night. This means that, for them, the realistic first-round options will depend on how the early stages of the draft unfold.

    Based on New York's current needs, though, a few prospects feel like logical early draft targets.

    On the defensive side, prospects like Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III, South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith, Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson and Baylor defensive lineman Siaki Ika could all make sense. Each is ranked between 20th and 32nd overall on the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's latest draft board.

    Or New York could look to finally find its No. 1 receiver in the first round. Wideouts like Wake Forest's A.T. Perry, LSU's Kayshon Boutte and SMU's Rashee Rice could all fall within its range.

    A reliable and physical receiver like Rice could do wonders for Jones' continued development as a passer.

    "Rice is a high-end No. 2 or a low-end No. 1 akin to San Francisco's Brandon Aiyuk," Derrik Klassen of the B/R Scouting Department wrote. "His ability as a ball-winner on the outside would be welcome on any team. For more creative teams, Rice's bully-ball YAC skills and alignment flexibility will make him a nifty weapon to move around the formation."

    A "nifty weapon" sounds like something that would be fun to see in Daboll's offense.

    New York also has its second- and third-round picks, along with the Kansas City Chief's third-round pick from the Kadarius Toney trade. Therefore, Day 2 and 3 prospects like Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta, Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo, LSU safety Jay Ward, Boston College wideout Zay Flowers, Tennessee receiver Jalin Hyatt and Iowa cornerback Riley Moss should be on the Giants' radar.

    With New York's playoff window open again, expect Schoen to primarily target prospects who can help contribute right away.


    *Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference. Cap, contract and market information via Spotrac. Draft information via Tankathon.

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