In some ways, Joe Shane’s first offseason as Giants general manager was easier than his second. Last year, Shane almost eliminated the salary cap and refrained from making major financial investments.
But with a surprise playoff appearance last season and key players signing new deals, Shane had some important decisions to make this offseason. Being the kind-hearted type, I laid out the blueprint for success at the beginning of the offseason.
Here, I review my 10-step offseason plan and compare it to what Shane did.
It’s always nice to get a good start, as is driving onto the fairway off the first tee. Shane was unable to fire Golladay last year because of the potential negative impact on the salary cap, but GM bounced back as quickly as possible from one of Dave Gettleman’s biggest mistakes.
Cutting Golladay saved $6.7 million in caps, leaving $14.7 million in dead money. After 43 catches in two seasons with the Giants, it wouldn’t surprise me if the 29-year-old never played in the NFL again.
I was a little reluctant to sign Jones for the long term, but I knew it was the best option for the Giants. With no clear path to quarterback upgrades this offseason, it’s understandable why the Giants bet big on the continued development of the 26-year-old Jones.
I thought the Giants would want to keep it under $40 million a year, so I offered a five-year, $185 million ($37 million a year) deal. But Jones’ campaign pushed for a tougher deal than expected.
I expected Jones’ offer to be very high, given the $46 million-a-year contract he signed with Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray last year. But Jones wanted more, asking for $47 million a year.
Negotiations loomed over the franchise tag deadline in March, allowing Jones to reach the $40 million annual salary mark on a four-year, $160 million contract. Key for the Giants is an escape hatch for 2024 and beyond. The team will release Jones after two seasons, saving $21.5 million on caps with $18 million in dead money.
The contract structure was consistent with my concerns about signing Jones, and the quarterback camp was able to take advantage of hefty compensation during the first two years of his contract.
This step has not yet been resolved, and Shane might have taken my advice in a lingering contract deadlock with Barkley. Since the Giants used the franchise tag on Barkley, Barkley owes $10.1 million this season unless the teams can agree to a long-term extension by the July 17 deadline.
It’s a mistake to make promises of long-term profit to a running back. And just keeping Barkley on the tag would eat up $10.1 million from this year’s cap space, so resource usage will be questionable.
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I’ve had cheap veteran running backs like Donta Foreman, who signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Bears, and midfielders in the NFL Draft like Tulane’s Tyjay Spears, who was a third-round pick by the Titans. Suggested targeting named players. The duo would be capable, and the $8 million they saved at running back could have been used to meet their needs at more valuable positions.
4. Be disciplined with in-house free agents
He cautioned against overspending to maintain last season’s roster. Shane certainly followed this approach.
The Giants have included last season’s contributors, including WR Richie James (1 year, $1.2 million), OL Nick Gates (3 years, $16.5 million), and OL John Feliciano (1 year, $2.25 million). He made him a free agent with a relatively low contract. ), DL Nick Williams (1 year, $1.2 million), safety Julian Love (2 years, $12 million).
Gates was the only player in that group to price outside the Giants’ range, and they simply pursued replacements in other spots. Love’s departure was a blow, especially considering the cost, but the negotiations did not agree between the two teams, and the team moved on.
The Giants have signed a number of free agents (RB Matt Burida, WR Sterling Shepherd, OLB Jihad Ward, O’Sheain Simenez, P Jamie Gillan, LS Casey Kreiter) on veteran minimum or near-deal deals. renegotiated. The only exception is wide receiver Darius Slayton, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal after leading the team in receiving yards. It was a little surprising that the Giants re-signed Slayton, who was on the chopping block last offseason, but he won the administration and keeping one of Jones’ favorite targets wasn’t too expensive.
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5. Don’t force free agency on the No.1 WR
This is the big difference between Shane and Gettleman. When the Giants had a big hole under Gettleman, he spent big money in free agency to fill the hole. This approach has led to deals like Golladay and left tackle Nate Solder.
It would have been a big mistake for Shane to spend a lot of money in a weak free agent class to fill the void of the team’s No. 1 wide receiver. Shane wisely avoided spending market-leading money on receivers like Jacobi Myers, who signed a three-year, $33 million contract with the Raiders.
My suggestion was to sign two midfield receivers instead of forcing them to sign No. 1s. I mentioned that Slayton could be one of the best options he could be, but Mekor Hardman and McHollins are mentioned as other potential targets. Hardman (1 year with the Jets, $4.5 million) and Hollins (1 year with the Falcons, $2.5 million) were in the same price range as Paris Campbell, who the Giants signed to a one-year, $4.7 million contract.
6. Focus on starters, not stars in free agency
There are so many holes in the roster that spending so much on one player would have been a mistake. The Giants needed to spread out around cap space to close as many gaps as possible. There were several positions that clearly needed reinforcements, including the defensive line, inside linebacker and cornerback.
I identified Indianapolis’ Bobby Okereke as a solid inside linebacker that’s affordable to acquire. Okereke’s four-year, $40 million contract with the Giants was a little more expensive than expected, but it fell far short of Chicago’s Tremaine Edmunds’ four-year, $72 million record deal.
I figured cornerbacks would be top draft targets, and the Giants acquired Maryland cornerback Deonte Banks with a first-round pick. Still, I thought the Giants should have signed a cheap veteran like Sean Murphy Bunting, who signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Titans.
The Giants have been more aggressive than expected on the depth of their defensive line, signing veterans Asean Robinson (1 year, $5 million) and Rakeem Nunez-Roches (3 years, $12 million). But they’re still an economic boost to the Giants’ weak run defense.
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Williams’ $32.3 million cap hit was asking Giants something. But nothing happened… yet.
It looks like the Giants will need to lower Williams’ cap charge to survive the season. However, there is no indication the team is interested in extending the 29-year-old.
My idea was to lower the hitting cap for Williams this year and be more aggressive with overtime to ensure quality players for the future. It’s still possible, but it would have been more advantageous to have extra cap space during free agency, so I suspect the Giants were at least in negotiations for an extension by now.
At this stage, if the Giants need to lower Williams’ hitting cap, a restructuring is likely. That would create more dead money by 2024, but it would also avoid renewing a player who battled injuries for the first time in his career last season.
Another option would be to propose a pay cut. Shane downplayed that possibility back in March, but he may believe his influence will grow even more as we approach the start of the season when Williams’ markets are constrained.
8. Early reinforcement of young players
After mentioning current free agency, it was important for the Giants to look to the future and start locking down some of their brightest young players before they hit the market. The Giants followed this game plan with Dexter Lawrence, who was in the final year of his rookie contract, on defensive tackle.
The Giants gave the 25-year-old Lawrence a four-year, $90 million contract extension rather than risk his departure next offseason. I thought the Giants’ goal should have been to get as close to a four-year, $84 million deal as possible, so the deal fell within expectations.
Other extension-eligible players I identified were left tackle Andrew Thomas and safety Xavier McKinney. Shane has expressed interest in extending Thomas, but nothing is imminent.
The Giants still have Thomas on a rookie deal until 2024, so they have time, but as I noted in my plan, the cost will only go up as the 24-year-old approaches free agency. I put a five-year contract worth $100 million as a realistic goal for Thomas, but that underestimates him. If Thomas does eventually extend, he will likely ask for at least $25 million a year.
There is no indication that the Giants have begun extension talks with McKinney, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal. No wonder, considering he missed eight games last season after breaking his finger in an ATV accident during the bye week. But now may be the time to attack.
Mr. McKinney’s influence is at its lowest point due to a self-inflicted mistake. McKinney, a 2020 second-round pick, isn’t on a big paycheck yet, so he might want a contract extension in his team’s favor. Last year, I used the three-year, $36 million extension signed by Cardinals safety Jalen Thompson as a candidate for McKinney.
It’s not clear what McKinney wants, but an extension now would remove one big variable from next offseason.
9. Don’t impose your needs on the draft
The Giants had plenty of leeway to get the best available players early in the draft. Wide receiver and cornerback are considered ideal positions for a first-round pick, and the Giants moved up one place from No. 25 to acquire Banks.
I used to see wide receivers, defensive lines, and linebackers as potential targets on Day 2, but that was before the Giants piled up defensive tackle depth and free agent okeleke. The Giants acquired Tennessee wide receiver Jalyn Hyatt in the third round.
With seven Day 3 picks, it seemed logical to trade the coveted player. Shane gave the third-day pick in a trade to move up to Banks and Hyatt.
10. Dealing with Injury Situations
The much-criticized MetLife Stadium lawn, like the Giants’ indoor practice field lawn, was replaced this offseason. But the grass couldn’t be blamed for all of the Giants’ injuries last season, so further testing was needed.
Team executives have vowed to address the issue, with coach Brian Dabor frequently citing the influence of the team’s sports science department. But the only way to measure progress in this area will be the health of the roster this season.
My plan and Shane’s actions largely coincided, with a few notable exceptions. I would have moved from Barkley and spent the savings on a premier guard and more defensive help. Shane is sticking with Barkley, but the length of that deal has not yet been set.
I never thought a trade for tight end Darren Waller would come, and now that I think about it, I blame myself. The Raiders had Waller in their block last season, and he was a reasonable pivot among the overwhelming number of available receivers.
Shane had to extend Jones’ contract, even though the price was higher than expected. Instead of spending too much money on one player, the right approach was for him to spread his wealth among wide receivers. He was wise to do the same when filling holes in defense. The early expansion of Lawrence laid the groundwork, and sooner or later the same should happen to Thomas.
This offseason has not been an easy offseason, with so many important decisions to make after a surprisingly successful first season under the new regime. The goal was to move forward to become a Super Bowl contestant without skipping any steps in the process. Time will tell if Shane threaded the needle.
(Daniel Jones top photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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