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They can’t keep ‘em all.
They don’t want to keep ‘em all.
The first order of business for the Giants as they continue to formulate their offseason plan is to figure out their in-house wants and desires. They have 20 of their own free agents to consider — 15 unrestricted, four exclusive rights and one restricted. The most critical decision — can they re-sign both of their valuable starting defensive linemen, Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson — is front and center, but not the only issue for the front office and coaching staff to consider.
The Giants, like every other team, are anxiously awaiting word as to what the 2021 salary cap will be set at as a result of the league-wide COVID-19 revenue losses for the 2020 season, when the cap per team was 198.2 million. The cap has gone up more than $10 million a year for the past 10 years, but it will drop this year, perhaps by $20 million. It if is set at $180 million, the Giants at present would have about $1.5 million of cap space – a figure that can and will rise rather quickly once transactions start percolating. For example, the Giants would gain $10 million of cap space if they make left tackle Nate Solder a post-June 1 cut and save $8.5 million if they do the same with receiver Golden Tate.
Everything the Giants do, though, revolves around where they go with their two defensive linemen. Williams is coming off a career year (11.5 sacks), is only 26 (he turns 27 in June) and the Giants invested so much in him already (two draft picks sent to the Jets) that seeing him leave is unacceptable. He will cost a bundle, as he will easily eclipse in yearly average the $16.1 million he made in 2020 playing on the franchise tag. Put it this way: If you are Williams, do you accept much less than what Chris Jones of the Chiefs ($20 million) or DeForest Buckner of the Colts ($21 million) earn on a per year basis?
The two most impressive wins for the Giants in their 6-10 season came at Seattle and (considering the playoff implications) in the season finale against the Cowboys. Williams in those two games totaled 5.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits. Without him, the Giants are nowhere along their defensive front.
There is no doubt general manager Dave Gettleman prioritizes defensive linemen but he will have to stretch a dollar to retain both Williams and Tomlinson. One of their own (a 2017 second-round pick) and a team captain, Tomlinson’s impact extends beyond the field, where he is a fine run-stopper and, with 3.5 sacks, decent at pushing the pocket as a pass rusher. The starting point for him is upwards of $10 million per year and probably closer to $12 million annually. It is doubtful the Giants can allocate $32 million of their 2021 cap on two players on their defensive line, but they will try to make it work.
Saquon Barkley is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament and there is no one in reserve, with Wayne Gallman, Dion Lewis and Alfred Morris unsigned and Devonta Freeman most recently on the Bills practice squad after playing five games for the Giants early in the season. So, the entire running back room needs to be restocked, keeping in mind Barkley is coming off reconstructive knee surgery. Gallman seems like the only option to bring back after he averaged 4.6 yards per attempt (147-682) and scored six rushing touchdowns filling in for Barkley. Will a team out there view Gallman as more than a No. 2 option? Probably not. The Giants will not over-pursue for Gallman here.
On offense, the only other unrestricted free agent of note is Cam Fleming, who started all 16 games at right tackle, providing durability and only adequate play. He was originally signed as a backup at both tackle spots but was promoted when Solder opted out. Re-signing Fleming to the role he was supposed to fill makes sense. Re-signing him as a starter does not.
On defense, outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell had four sacks in 12 games and is a useful player, but edge rush upgrades are needed. Special teams player Nate Ebner seems like a one-and-done as a Joe Judge first-year culture builder.
Everyone in the building respects Colt McCoy, 35, but the Giants might be better-served by upgrading the spot behind Daniel Jones, with younger options such as Jacoby Brissett, Tyrod Taylor and Nick Mullens available. Andy Dalton, 34, is also out there. Is this the year the Giants actually spend some money for a backup quarterback who can actually pose some semblance of a threat to the starter?
Giants 2021 free agents
DT Leonard Williams
DT Dalvin Tomlinson
DT Austin Johnson
OLB Kyler Fackrell
ST Nate Ebner
OLB Jabaal Sheard
DB Adrian Colbert
DB Ryan Lewis
OT Cam Fleming
QB Colt McCoy
RB Dion Lewis
RB Wayne Gallman
RB Alfred Morris
QB Joe Webb
LS Casey Kreiter
WR Da’Mari Scott
Exclusive rights (4)
DB Madre Harper
WR Austin Mack
WR C.J. Board
WR David Sills
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