Giants' Early Report Card for Most Impactful Offseason Decisions
The New York Giants are maintaining a level of continuity this offseason. After falling just short of winning the NFC East in 2020, head coach Joe Judge and general manager Dave Gettleman both returned for another run.
However, the Giants have made some significant changes when it comes to their roster. Whether New York is better in 2021 remains to be seen, but the roster isn't going to be the same.
The next big decision will likely come in next month's draft, but several have already occurred in the early stages of free agency. Here, we'll examine the most impactful decisions the Giants have made so far and apply letter grades based on factors like team needs, roster makeup, potential impact and salary-cap implications.
Tagging, Extending Leonard Williams
The Giants franchise-tagged defensive lineman Leonard Williams last offseason, and the former New York Jet had a breakout campaign in response. In all, Williams totaled 57 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss and 42 quarterback pressures.
Gettleman refused to let Williams get away and applied the tag to him for the second-straight season. This ensured that one of New York's best players would return, but it put the cap-strapped Giants in a tough situation.
"Obviously it certainly makes it a little more difficult [in free agency], but we’ll operate, and we’ll manage," Gettleman said, per Dan Benton of Giants Wire.
Had the Giants stuck with the tag alone, this move wouldn't grade out as high as it does now. However, Gettleman was able to reach an extension with Williams, signing him to a three-year, $63 million deal. The extension is significant because it carries a cap hit of only $11 million in 2021. That's important because of this year's reduced salary cap.
The Giants are still more than $12 million over the cap, but they'd be in a far worse situation with Williams playing on the tag again.
Choosing Williams over Dalvin Tomlinson
The Giants were never likely to afford both Williams and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency. This doesn't mean, however, that picking between the two was an easy decision. Tomlinson didn't impact the pass defense quire like Williams did, but he was still a valuable member of the defensive front.
In 2020, Tomlinson had 49 tackles, 3.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss and four passes defended. He went on to sign a two-year, $21 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings. In 2021, Tomlinson will carry a cap hit of $6 million.
Had the Giants opted to prioritize Tomlinson over Williams, they could have potentially saved a significant sum over the long-term, but their 2021 cap savings would have been just $5 million—operating in a vacuum, anyway, as Tomlinson's deal with New York may well have been different.
With the cap implications considered, New York's decision appears to be a wise one. The difference on the 2021 cap isn't overwhelming, and as the salary cap goes back on the rise in 2022, Williams' hefty price tag will become less of a factor.
Revamping the Receiving Corps
The Giants decided to take an aggressive approach to rebuilding their receiving corps in free agency. They signed wideouts Kenny Golladay and John Ross while also adding tight end Kyle Rudolph. The reason? New York needed to put more talent around quarterback Daniel Jones and improve a passing attack that ranked just 29th in 2021.
This was the right call in theory, but one could easily argue that New York overpaid for its offensive makeover.
Ross signed a modest one-year, $2.25 million deal, but Rudolph and Golladay were both relatively expensive. Rudolph inked a two-year, $16 million deal—according to theMMQB's Albert Breer—while Golladay signed a massive four-year, $72 million contract.
As previously mentioned, the Giants remain in a tough cap situation, and their receiving-corps moves play a role in that. The sheer amount of money handed out for Rudolph and Golladay—good, but arguably not elite players—keeps this series of decisions from being a truly great one.