American Football

Big Blue View mailbag: Draft, free agency, salary cap, more


The mail’s here!

It is time once again to open the Big Blue View Mailbag and see what is on the minds of New York Giants fans. Let’s get right to it.

Erick Voronin asks: Injuries have been a major issue the last few years, derailing our seasons and maybe some careers? Is it time to move on from some of our oft-injured players. What are your thoughts on the following players. O-Linemen Matt Peart, Shane Lemieux, D-Linemen D.J. Davidson, Elerson Smith and DB Aaron Robinson. These are all positions of need whether as starters or depth so are the Giants just wishful thinking or is it rime to cut the cord.

Ed says: Erick, I don’t think it’s time to give up on any of those players. They are all young players with upside on inexpensive rookie contracts. In a salary cap league, teams love to have those kinds of players. They need to have those kinds of players.

Look no further than Parris Campbell for what can happen when a young player with talent finally gets healthy and shows what he can do. If the Giants look at any of those players you mentioned and simply don’t believe they are good enough to help them, fine.

Peart and Davidson each had one injury. Peart could still be a good swing tackle and Davidson could be part of the defensive line rotation. There is value in both roles.

Lemieux is a guy this coaching staff likes. They made that clear last year. Who knows, he might even go to training camp at the starting center.

Robinson is a good young cornerback. If he can stay healthy he might be able to do on defense what Campbell did on offense for the Colts a year ago. You can’t just hand him a job, but it would be silly to just cut bait without giving him another opportunity.

Smith? Pass rushers are hard to find. He may never develop into a full-time player, but it’s hard to give up on guys with his kind of length and athleticism. On a rookie deal, I’m not sure why you would.

Doug Mollin asks: Do you think we can extrapolate anything from Schoen’s first draft into this upcoming draft?

The surprising thing for many last draft was so many “off chalk” picks after the first round:

WanDale 43 (composite big board 94)
Ezeudu 67 (179)
Flott 81 (182)
Bellinger 112 (165)
Belton 114 (197)
McFadden 146 (193)
Davidson 147 (292)
McKethan 173 (338)
Beavers 182 (110)

The Big Board is not the gospel obviously. Was this Schoen looking for his “tough, smart, dependable” players? Seeing value where others didn’t? Being hamstrung a bit without his scouting department fully in place?

Ed says: Maybe it was because last year was his first draft and Schoen wasn’t completely comfortable with the staff around him, but my takeaway from last year was that Joe Schoen trusts himself and his own scouting evaluation above everyone else.

That doesn’t mean he won’t listen — he credited Brandon Brown and Tom McDonnell for pounding the table to pick Daniel Bellinger last year — but Schoen (and pretty much every NFL GM) doesn’t give a hoot about media Big Boards and all of that. They care about players they think will help them, will fit with their coaching staff, and can do the things they want/need done.

The other thing I learned about Schoen is to pay attention to the teams/players he scouts in person, the guys he has dinner with, the guys who come in for 30 visits. As far as I can tell so far, those touch points are really important to him.

Greg DiDonato asks: After the first wave of free agency, amongst these needs (IOL,LB,CB,WR) which do you still see as the most glaring need still?

Ed says: Greg, we have talked about this a lot. On defense, cornerback is the most obvious need. On offense, a starting-caliber center.

David Silver asks: With Nick Gates gone, and Jon Feliciano leaving on a one year deal, the Giants don’t have a credible starter. Was Nick Gates worth $16.8 million over three years? Jon Feliciano was rated at 30 of 36 centers and started. So maybe Joe Schoen didn’t see that much money for Gates, but Feliciano as a backup is not inconceivable. What happened? When you have nobody to try to upgrade from, what kind of negotiating position are you in when trying to land a credible starter? How do you get better at the Center position next year?

Ed says: David, let me say this first about Nick Gates. I like the guy, but what the Washington Commanders gave him is a serious overpay. As for Jon Feliciano, everyone I have talked to is a little surprised that he chose to move on. We all figured that, eventually, he would return to the Giants on a one-year deal as a stop-gap at center while the Giants tried to develop a long-term solution.

The numbers on Feliciano’s one-year deal have yet to be reported, so I don’t know the value of the contract. Maybe it is more than the Giants were willing to offer. Maybe Feliciano had the 49ers offer in hand and was tired of waiting for the Giants to take care of other business before getting to him. Maybe he just likes the West Coast — he did spend five seasons with the Oakland Raiders. When players are free agents they have choices. Feliciano made the choice he wanted to make.

How do the the Giants get better at center? I keep saying this — they need to prioritize drafting and developing a long-term answer at the position. They haven’t had one since Weston Richburg. That probably means adding a stop-gap type player — a guy like A.J. Hassenauer, who visited on Wednesday — and selecting someone in the first two days of the draft.

Jeff Bergman asks: If you were the GM, would you have rather made the trade for Waller at TE or signed Gesicki to the deal he got with the Patriots?

Ed says: That’s easy. I will take the Darren Waller trade all day, every day. Gesicki got a one-year, $4.5 million with $3.55 million guaranteed from the New England Patriots. Waller, when healthy and at his best, is a far superior player.

Gesicki’s best year was 73 receptions and 780 yards receiving in 2021. Waller has a pair of 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and years of 90 and 107 receptions. He has the potential to be a difference-maker in a way Gesicki can’t come close to.

Now, is Waller still that guy — or close to it? We will see.

Jeff Newman asks: Special teams was a weakness last year. After letting Richie James go we lost our main kick returner. How do you think the Giants address this and how high will they prioritize this?

Ed says: Jeff, right now I don’t know who the punt returner will be. He might not be on the roster, unless the Giants give Kalil Pimpleton a real chance to make the team. Pimpleton spent last season on the practice squad. He averaged 19.0 yards on 16 punt returns with two touchdowns for Toledo in 2021.

Maybe they draft a receiver in the middle rounds with return ability like Jayden Reed of Michigan State or Tank Dell of Houston.

The Giants did sign Jamison Crowder during the week, and he has extensive punt return experience. Of course, Crowder is not guaranteed a roster spot. He has to be be considered an option, though.

I would like to see the Giants be more dynamic on kickoff return, where I am not a big Gary Brightwell fan, and punt return.

Honestly, it’s March and I have no idea how the kickoff and punt return jobs will shake out. It has been a while, though, since the Giants had a return man who could really threaten to chance field position. They know that. Let’s hope they can find one, or two.

Jason Byam asks: My questions has to do with John Mara. As a younger Giants fan, I don’t understand where all the John Mara hate and criticism comes from? From everything I have seen, he seems like a classy guy who genuinely cares and wants to win. He seems willing to spend money and do whatever it takes for the Giants. I constantly see comments about Mara “holding the organization back” etc. What am I missing?

Ed says: Jason, this is a really a question I would have expected to get before the 2022 season. Not now, after the Giants had their best year since 2016.

Reality is, when things go wrong everyone needs someone to blame. The owner of a team is an easy target, whether or not he is at fault. Mara made mistakes in several coaching hires. He kept Jerry Reese too long as GM, then ran a bad process to replace him and — predictably — ended up with a bad hire in Dave Gettleman to replace him. He was criticized, somewhat rightly, for there being too much Mara family influence in football decisions and for not being willing to go outside the organization to find some answers to the team’s problems.

He deserved some of the blame that was thrown his way, and admitted as much.

That said, John Mara cares deeply. The Giants have been his life since he was a little boy. He is always in the team’s facility. He is at practice all the time.

The ownership situation with the Giants is tricky as it is the only two-family partnership in the NFL, with the Mara and Tisch families each holding 50 percent. That makes things tricky if John Mara and Steve Tisch disagree.

I think John Mara is an excellent, if imperfect, owner.

Mark P. Lynch asks: Every year it seems that certain players who rated very highly at the start of the college season have dropped or completely fallen off the cliff when it comes to draft status. Examples are from Notre Dame C Jarrett Patterson, safety Brandon Joseph and to a lesser extent edge Foskey and from LSU WR Kayshon Boutte. There others but let’s just focus on these players. All were either preseason All Americans or conference All Stars. Patterson switched from C to G and may have lost his spot because of the switch. Joseph did have some injury concerns and just by the eye test Foskey looked better last year. Boutte I have no idea why the drop. What is your take on these players and why do you think there stock has dropped.

Ed says: Mark, I’m not going to get into the individual players. I will be honest in that I have only really been studying the draft prospects for two or three months now.

The reality is you shouldn’t get attached to these guys before the college football season even starts. Perceptions change because there is another entire season of data. There are more games watched, the regional scouts really tunnel in on these kids talking to the people who know them best and getting the full picture of what guys are. There are all-star games, testing numbers, etc., etc.

Whatever happened a year or two years ago is enough to more or less put guys on a ‘watch list,’ if you will. Scouting departments, though, have spent the last year really diving into these guys.

Impressions change. Guys rise. Guys fall. That’s why you can’t decide a year in advance that Player X is ‘the guy.’ All the evidence isn’t in.

Florian Cortese asks: With the flurry of new signings this week, mainly short term, minimum deals such as Crowder, Oruwariye, Sweeney and even McCain, I have a question. They no doubt can add depth and competition in the pre-season. But how do they fit into the cap presently? If they don’t make the squad is there any residual cap hit on any of them? Obviously, none of these signings will have any impact on how the Giants draft. I think most of us are waiting for a center to be included with this group if not already done by the time this hits the Mailbag!

Ed says: Florian, I get the ‘how do these affect the cap’ or ‘where is the money for these signings coming from’ questions all the time.

The last five signings by the Giants — cornerbacks Leonard Johnson and Amani Oruwariye, safety Bobby McCain, tight end Tommy Sweeney, wide receiver Jamison Crowder — have not yet shown up in the Over The Cap database.

Johnson is almost certainly a standard three-year undrafted free agent deal. The other four are likely veteran salary benefit deals with minimal cap impact and little or no guaranteed money.

Remember, at this time of year the Top 51 rule applies. That means only the 51 highest contract count against the cap. When one player is added to the top 51, one player drops off. The bottom six Giants on the Top 51 list each count $940,000 against the cap. They will drop off, the new players will be added and only the difference from $940K to whatever the new players make is charged to the cap. That might be $1 million total for all five guys. OTC currently shows the Giants with $3.732 million in cap space with $779K in ‘effective’ cap space.

Obviously, they have work to do to sign their draft class and have space to get through the 2023 season. They will do it.

Darryl Linder asks: if it’s true the top RB free agents over the last 2 years have gotten max 7 million a year deals why are the Giants offering Barkley 12.5 million per? If they remove the tag its doubtful he gets 12 million per year from anyone.

Ed says: Darryl, I’m not sure where your $7 million figure comes from. Now, it is true that Miles Sanders — off a similar year to Saquon Barkley — signed for an average annual value of $6.35 million, and that teams are shying away from the big-money running back deals. Justifiably, in my view.

The Giants reportedly put that $12.5 million offer on the table last year during the bye week because that is what they thought Barkley was worth to them. Barkley wants more. Is $12.5 million or a little bit more from the Giants still on the table? I think so, but I am honestly not certain. Honestly, in this running back market that kind of money would be an outlier.

Would Barkley get that much elsewhere? Almost certainly not. The Giants, by the way, aren’t removing the tag unless Barkley signs a new deal.

Edwin Gommers asks: Probably more of a hypothetical, but here it goes. Should there be little to no market for Zeke, would you consider him for the Giants if you can get him cheap. Here is the thought. While his YPC has fallen off a cliff, he’s probably still a better pass catcher than Breida and probably a better blocker than Barkley. Him taking on the role of a tailback/full back would allow the Giants to run a lot of pro-sets and i-formations with some creativity on where the ball is going. I’m thinking a Kyle Juszczyk type of role or maybe something similar to Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw type of tandem where Zeke grinds for the dirty yards and the Saquon will be fresher and become the home run type of player. What do you think?

Ed says: Simple answer. No. No chance. If it’s me, I have zero interest in Ezekiell Elliott as a Giant.

Paul Oliviera asks: I understand the differences in the Franchise Tags, Exclusive v.s. Non-Exclusive. My question is can both be used by a team, or is only one or the other available each year?

Ed says: Each team can use only one tag.

Jeff Drummond asks: Ten draft picks left. Seems very likely Schoen will trade up in one or more rounds. Are there any particular players that you think Schoen would try to make a move up for in the FIRST round? Moves in the second and later round may be more likely, but I’m curious about your thoughts on who that first round “gotta have” talent may be and if Schoen might try to move up. Understand trades require willing partners etc.

Ed says: If the Giants move up in Round 1 I think it would be for the cornerback or wide receiver of their choosing. Is that Jaxon Smith-Njigba? Zay Flowers? Deonte Banks? I don’t know. I don’t see any reason to move for anything else, though.

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