Team Giants


Special Report

Sent: 01-17-20

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.


By Aaron Klein
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.

Who 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.

However, 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).

Among 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.

Right 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, but doubtful.

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? Probably.

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.

There 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.

Lastly, 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 dead cap).

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.

Do you have questions? Comments?

Send it all over to

and follow me on Twitter @-AaronKlein-

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- Team Giants

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