Dave Klein was the Giants' beat
writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books
and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls.
Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.
ON SECOND THOUGHT: SURE, THE GIANTS HAVE A NEW HEAD COACH
AND THEY'RE STILL
BUILDING HIS STAFF... WHAT ABOUT THE ROSTER?
As new head coach Joe Judge
assembles his staff of assistants -- even former Dallas head coach Jason Garrett
has interviewed for the open Offensive Coordinator position -- he will eventually
have to look at the roster and make some tough decisions.
Shaping the roster will play a role in what the coaching staff looks like, and
vice versa. So, while there are still plenty of coach openings, especially on
offense (that will come together once the OC is in place), the Giants' roster,
the one with several young building blocks, veterans and backups that managed
to finish the 2019 season at just 4-12, will likely look very different next season.
Those expected changes will come in the form of free agency decisions, the Draft,
painful cuts and expiring contracts.
There are 15 players on the roster who will become Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs)
in March and some, as you might guess, won't be back.
is on their way out? That's the mystery. As UFAs, the players would require a
new contract to return, and the team can offer any amount of money it wants, unless
the Giants want to offer a Franchise or Transition Tag. Market value sounds good,
but if the Giants are only marginally interested in retaining a player, they'll
make an offer that is lower than the player wants but still in the ballpark, giving
the player the option to shop around for a better deal before pulling their own
offer off the table.
There are those
who will be told (maybe they already have been) that they will or won't be coming
back. One might think it's easy to project that list, but as we learned last week,
the status of one player, Eli Manning, is maybe still in flux as co-owner John
Mara said publicly that he has met with Manning and would not rule out anything,
including a return to the team in some capacity, whether on the field or off.
If you'd like to read between the lines, it sounds like Mara might be ready to
move on from Manning on the field but doesn't want him to go anywhere.
Without predicting anything, as we're not sure of what Judge's evaluations of
the players will tell him, let's take a look at the UFAs first, then maybe a glance
at the rest of the roster to see who could still be released or traded once the
league year begins on March 18. In fact, teams can designate Franchise and Transition
tags beginning Feb. 25, a little less than six weeks from now.
Topping the list of the Giants' UFAs is Manning himself. While the odds are against
his return, it is not out of the question that he could be offered a more cap-friendly,
bargain contract to come back as the backup to Daniel Jones. Of course, Manning
might not want to come back at all and has made it clear he probably wouldn't
want to be a backup. The best thing for Jones could be Manning's exit or retirement,
giving him the team with no one lurking in the shadows.
the two get along and Manning has helped immensely in Jones' development. Should
the Giants bring him back? Probably not. Would they? Probably not, but nothing
is cut in stone.
Also high on the list
of UFAs is long snapper Zak DeOssie, who is 36 years old and finished the season
on Injured Reserve. He's probably gone (retirement).
the higher-profile and younger players who are without a 2020 contract, it's a
fair bet to expect linebacker Markus Golden, safety Michael Thomas, linebacker
David Mayo, wide receiver Russell Shepard and possibly tight end Scott Simonson
and wide receiver Corey Coleman, who spent the season on Injured Reserve after
showing promise as a return specialist.
tackle Mike Remmers? While his play was not disastrous, at times he was at once
solid, erratic and struggling to stay healthy. It's possible that Remmers returns,
What about defensive lineman
Leonard Williams, the player who was acquired for a third- and fifth-round draft
choice, one that could become a fourth rounder if Williams is signed to a new
deal. On the one hand, the Giants should get a little credit for making a bold
move at the trade deadline for a defensive lineman who was excellent against the
run and brought plenty of quarterback pressure but failed to put up stellar stats
in the sack department (0.5 sacks). The truth is that the Giants' run defense
improved after Williams arrived, but was the price to get him still too high?
The quandary is this: If they
like him and want to retain his services, the Giants will lose a third and fourth.
Even with the potential for a third-round compensatory pick coming back if they
let him go, it seems that the Giants tried to make an impactful trade but wound
up painting themselves into a corner. Many expect the team to try to sign him
to a long-term deal, but Williams has at once said he wants to return while hinting
that he wants top dollar to do so. We'll see who is better at hardball.
The Giants will also have to decide on tight end Evan Engram, the talented three-year
vet who is due a fifth-year option offer from the team. However, Engram has struggled
to stay on the field with injuries keeping him on the sideline, though he really
showed his impact on the offense when he was healthy earlier in the year.
are also three key Restricted Free Agents (RFAs) who have had impacts on the team
though may or may not fit into the team's plans. Kicker Aldrick Rosas, center
Jon Halapio and fullback Elijaah Penney are all RFAs and could each get a $645,000
tender. However, Halapio, who was up and down this year before a ruptured Achilles'
tendon sent him to surgery, is certainly on the bubble.
While Rosas is expected to return, his struggles this season were glaring and
the team will most certainly bring in legitimate competition for training camp.
Finally, Penney's status will hinge on the offensive coordinator and what kind
of system he and Judge want to run.
there will be several players who are under contract for the 2020 season yet still
could be released to make room for different/better players through the draft
and free agency, though at a high price in the dead cap category. Among them are
safety Antoine Bethea, tight end Rhett Ellison ($2.2 million dead cap), linebacker
Alec Ogletree ($3.5 million dead cap) and linebacker Kareem Martin ($1.2 million
What about Nate Solder? If
the Giants want to part ways, that transaction will cost about $13 million in
dead cap. That's too much. The team could seek to restructure his contract but
that would just stretch out his bloated contract. The best bet is that Solder
remains and if the team can get a qualified left tackle, Solder could be moved
to right tackle, especially if Remmers is not re-signed.
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