Top Priorities for Giants After Retaining Dave Gettleman as GM
The NFL's first-ever Super Wild Card Weekend has wrapped, and the New York Giants weren't a part of the action. However, the Giants should still feel fairly good about how they performed near the end of the 2020 regular season.
Things started slow for New York and new head coach Joe Judge. However, the Giants were able to establish a physical, tough identity, make serious strides on defense, and win five of their final eight games.
There's definitely something there that New York can build upon heading into 2021. The Giants appear to have the right coach in Judge, and they're bringing back general manager Dave Gettleman for at least another run.
"I feel better about our roster than I have in years. I think the two of them working together have started the building process of something that can have sustained success going forward," team co-owner John Mara said, per ESPN's Jordan Raanan.
Judge should have the benefit of a somewhat more normal offseason in 2021, but Gettleman and the Giants still have some challenges they'll need to overcome in the coming month. Here, we'll look at some of the team's top early-offeason priorities.
Find Some Cap Space
Finding ways to free up salary-cap space is usually an offseason goal for any NFL franchise. It's going to be all the more important in 2021, though, as the cap is expected to drop for the first time in years. This could be particularly problematic for the Giants, who are projected to be more than $10 million over the cap—according to Spotrac.
This is one of the first issues that Gettleman will need to address, as achieving many of the other offseason goals will require more cap space than New York is projected to have.
Whether Gettleman clears out cap space by cutting players who aren't contributing or by restructuring the contracts of pricey veterans, New York won't be able to make many significant offseason moves under its current salary restraints.
Retain Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson
Gettleman's 2019 trade for defensive lineman Leonard Williams has paid off as much as any move he's made as general manager. Williams was a force in 2020, racking up 11.5 sacks and a whopping 41 quarterback pressures.
The 26-year-old is likely to be one of the most coveted sack artists on the open market this year.
While fellow defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson hasn't been quite as disruptive as Williams, he's still been a huge part of what defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is able to do up front.
Retaining both of these standout defenders will be critical if the Giants hope to maintain and build upon a defense that finished the 2020 regular season ranked 12th overall and ninth in points allowed. Williams will likely be the top priority—in part because Gettleman traded valuable draft capital to acquire him—but in an ideal world, both will be back.
Continue Building the Offensive Line
The Giants made the wise decision to use the fourth overall pick in the 2020 draft on an offensive tackle. The problem is that the selection, Andrew Thomas, had more than his fair share of struggles as a rookie. According to Pro Football Focus, Thomas was responsible for three penalties and 10 sacks in 2020.
Getting more out of Thomas in 2021 will be a good first step, but the Giants will need to further upgrade their line in either free agency or the draft.
Giants' quarterbacks were sacked an alarming 50 times this past season. Naturally, that made growth difficult for second-year quarterback Daniel Jones, who took 45 of those sacks and who fumbled 11 times in 14 games.
Find a Legitimate No. 1 Receiver
Putting up points was a problem for the Giants, who finished ranked 31st in both yards and points in 2020. The return of a hopefully healthy Saquon Barkley should help address the issue, but New York must also go out and find a legitimate No. 1 receiver.
The Giants only need to look to the Buffalo Bills to see how the addition of a true No. 1 target can help aid a quarterback's development. Josh Allen is a viable MVP candidate this season thanks to the acquisition of Stefon Diggs.
New York—which was led in receiving yards by Darius Slayton with 751—doesn't have anything close to a Diggs on its roster. The Giants will need to remedy the situation either in free agency or the draft. Given the team's cap situation, the draft would be ideal.
While the Giants have a playoff-caliber defense, they're going to have a difficult time actually reaching the postseason if they cannot move the ball more effectively in 2021.