Giants' Last-Minute Guide to 2021 NFL Free Agency

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2021

Giants' Last-Minute Guide to 2021 NFL Free Agency

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    Associated Press

    With 2021 NFL free agency set to begin Wednesday—with the legal contract window starting Monday—the New York Giants are on the verge of officially kicking off their offseason.

    In many ways, the offseason has already begun for general manager Dave Gettleman and the Giants. They recently gave defensive lineman Leonard Williams the franchise tag for a second consecutive season and also agreed to rework the contract of offensive tackle Nate Solder.

    Still, there's plenty of work to be done as the Giants try to reload a roster that fell just short of an NFC East title last season. The Giants were competitive under new head coach Joe Judge but only won six games.

    Here you will find a quick rundown of New York's biggest needs, most notable free agents, potential targets and, of course, their cap situation.


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    Dave Gettleman
    Dave GettlemanMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: -$4.4 million

    Solder's reworked contract will presumably provide some cap relief once finalized. However, the Giants are in a tough situation because of the use of the franchise tag. The move keeps a key defender in place for another season but leaves the Giants over the salary cap.

    "It will make things more difficult, but we'll manage," Gettleman said, per Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.

    "Difficult" is a nice way of putting it. New York will need money to sign draft picks later this offseason, so it will have to come up with a substantial amount of cap room to re-sign any other key players or to be relevant when it comes to external free agents.

    The Giants may be close to contention, but they are not likely to attract many big-name players on bargain-basement deals. The reality is that unless something changes with the team's cap situation, the Giants may not be major players on the open market.

Notable Free Agents

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    Dalvin Tomlinson
    Dalvin TomlinsonNick Wass/Associated Press

    The most notable player set to depart in free agency is defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. While not quite as much of an impact player as Williams, Tomlinson has been a tremendous asset along the Giants defensive front.

    In 2020, Tomlinson produced 49 tackles, 3.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss and four passes defended.

    Two other notable free agents, wide receiver Golden Tate and guard Kevin Zeitler, were released ahead of free agency. It's unlikely either player will be back given their statuses as cap casualties. However, their departures do create needs.

    Running backs Dion Lewis and Alfred Morris largely served as fill-ins for the injured Saquon Barkley in 2020 and shouldn't be free-agent priorities. Edge-rusher Jabaal Sheard could be back at the right price. As could backup quarterback Colt McCoy.

    Aside from Tomlinson, though, there isn't a free agent the Giants should be overly concerned with retaining.

Biggest Needs and Potential Targets

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    OG Joe Thuney
    OG Joe ThuneyWinslow Townson/Associated Press

    Wide Receiver

    The Giants needed to land a legitimate No. 1 target for Daniel Jones even before Tate's release. With one of their better complementary receivers now out, the position is an even bigger priority for the Giants.

    In an ideal world, New York would be able to target a high-end receiver like Kenny Golladay or JuJu Smith-Schuster. However, the cap situation makes such a move virtually impossible. The Giants may instead be forced to examine budget options on the open market.

    Bringing back Tate at a lower price could be an option. So too could complementary pass-catchers like Willie Snead, Chris Conley and Cordarrelle Patterson. If the Giants are going to get a true No. 1 receiver, though, they will probably have to do so in the draft.

    New York owns the 11th overall selection.



    With Zeitler out, the Giants need to uncover some reinforcements along the offensive interior. Joe Thuney, who has never missed a game for the New England Patriots, would be an ideal target. With Brandon Scherff getting the franchise tag, Thuney becomes the top guard on the market, and he's just 28.

    Unfortunately, Thuney is probably out of New York's price range, barring a surprising surge in cap space.

    While players like Austin Blythe and John Carpenter could be considered, this is another position that will likely need to be addressed in April's draft.



    Losing Sheard doesn't affect this need much, as he produced just 1.5 sacks for the Giants in 2020. However, the need for an edge-defender existed before Sheard joined the team. New York struggled to generate pressure off the edge in 2020, and no player other than Williams had more than four sacks on the year.

    Several notable pass-rushers, including Shaquil Barrett, Carlos Dunlap, Jadeveon Clowney and Bud Dupree, will be on the free-agent market. As is the case at guard and receiver, though, the Giants may be out of the mix financially.

    If the Giants are going to make a splash at any position in free agency, they are going to have to find cap room between now and Wednesday. This will perhaps be the biggest situation for Giants fans to watch over the coming days.


    Cap information via Spotrac.