Who Will Joe Judge Target in Free Agency?
The New York Giants were in the playoff hunt until the very end. This was without the services of running back Saquon Barkley who injured his ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season and an injury plagued quarterback Daniel Jones.
Now they will enter the 2021 season needing to solidify positions on both sides of the ball. The Giants will have the 11th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and four picks in the first 110 picks of the draft.
As far as the free agency they currently have $7,516,150 in the salary cap. Which isn’t great but it is workable. Unless you go with the salary cap projections from Over the Cap, which has them in the red by $3,373,297.
But let’s be optimistic and predict who the Giants should target to improve on the 2020 season.
The Giants are working with two wide receivers who are better WR2. Both Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard are good, but not great.
Slayton 2020 season stats: 97 targets, 50 receptions, 751 yards, 3 touchdowns, averaged 15 yards/reception
Shepard 2020 season stats: 90 targets, 66 receptions, 656 yards, 3 touchdowns, averaged 9.9 yards/reception
This year’s free agents in the wide receiver department is deep. It is also possible that the top will be more costly than the Giants can afford.
Enter Kenny Golladay. With the departure of Matthew Stafford, and the apparent dismissal of the Lions wide receiver coach, Robert Prince, there is no reason for Golladay to keep his talents in Detroit.
Golladay could come at a bargain because he only played in five games in the 2020 season due to injuries. But he is one year removed from 11 touchdowns, 1190 yards and 65 receptions.
Golladay 2020 season stats: 5 games, 32 targets, 20 receptions, 338 yards, 2 touchdowns, averaged 16.9 yards/reception
Golladay 2019 season stats: 16 games, 116 targets, 65 receptions, 1190 yards, 11 touchdowns, averaged 18.3 yards/reception
JOE THUNEY, GUARD
The Giants offensive line was in flux, which led to Daniel Jones being sacked 45 times in the 2020 season. The starting left tackle opted out, which put rookie Andrew Thomas next man up. They converted Nick Gates to the center position and in mid season fired offensive line coach Marc Colombo.
Pro Football Focus ranked the offensive line 31st in its pass-blocking efficiency. While Football Outsiders’ had the offensive line finish 24th in Adjusted Line Yards run-blocking stat and 27 in Adjusted Sack Rate.
The quandary is the offensive line more than most groups need cohesion. However, the guard position is an area that drastically needs improvement in order for Jones to improve. Shane Lemieux was forced to start in Week 8 when Will Hernandez went on the Reserve/Covid-19 list. Lemieux was graded at a 16.9 in 299 pass-blocking snaps. He was charged with five sacks and 25 pressures allowed. And while offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo thinks Lemieux will get better, why not get a better guard in free agency now.
New England Patriots guard Joe Thuney is the choice to solidify the offensive line. The Patriots put the franchise tag on Thuney last season, he will most likely see the market this year.
In five years Thuney has not missed a game. He went from offensive tackle in college to left guard in the NFL without a hitch. He has also started two games in the center position in NFL, so his flexibility on the line is something the Giants need. Thuney has allowed three sacks in the past three years and has an overall PFF grade of 74.2.
The Giants were tied for 12th in the league in sacks with 40, and that was with no dominate edge rusher. Most of the credit has been given to defensive coordinator, Patrick Graham and his schemes of shuffling players on and off the field, which is a necessity when only one player is dominating.
Leonard Williams was on the field for 74 percent of the defensive snaps. He finished the year with 50 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, and 30 quarterback hits. The next productive defensive end was Dexter Lawrence who was on the field for 60 percent of the defensive snaps. He finished the year with 53 tackles, six tackles for loss, four sacks, and 10 quarterback hits. The Giants need another dominant force, even if they manage to retain the services of Williams.
Okwara started his career with the Giants. His defensive line coach was Graham. In addition to the familiarity, Okwara has shown improvement since his time in New York. In the 2020 season that amounted to a career-high in sacks (10), with 18 quarterback hits and 11 tackles for loss.
Unfortunately, Blake Martinez cannot do it all by himself. Luckily, Lavonte David is on a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that is chock full of free agents and they cannot keep them all.
Martinez was on the field for 97 percent of the defensive snaps. He led the team with 140 tackles. He also added nine tackles for loss, three sacks, six quarterback, hits, five passes defended, one interception, and two forced fumbles.
David has missed only seven games in his nine seasons in the NFL. He has at least 100 tackles in eight of his nine seasons. This season he has 117 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and one interception. Full Press Coverage agrees, citing David’s ability to boost the Giants run defense while allowing his coverage ability to complement Martinez’s downhill style.
JAMES WHITE/ WAYNE GALLMAN
This is in no way is an indictment on Saquon Barkley. Barkley will be back. But White is a different type of weapon out of the backfield. While Barkley will handle the heavy lifting part of running, White is the weapon that will allow Jones to check down when trouble arises, while allowing Barkley to do what he does best.
Not counting 2020 season, Barkley’s targets went from 121 his rookie year to 73 the next. His touchdowns in the passing game were reduced by half, while his receiving yards went from 721 to 438.
White on the other hand had 62 targets and 49 receptions with a struggling Cam Newton under center this year. The Patriots offense was abysmal, and White still managed 375 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown.
Wayne Gallman performed admirably in Barkley’s absence. He finished the season second on the team in scoring, while accumulating 682 rushing yards on 147 rushing attempts. He also had six rushing touchdowns. Gallman was particularly exceptional in yards after contact. He was fourth among running backs averaging 3.63.
Can you imagine a backfield with Barkley, Gallman and White, taking pressure of Jones?
As stated earlier the Giants will have to do some nifty sleight of hand to acquire the free agents listed here. While listing the running back position is out of the box thinking, there is no denying the Giants are in need of an alpha wide receiver one and help on the offensive line.
They have 42 players under contract, committing $165,470,516 in cap dollars. However, by cutting a few players, including Golden Tate, Levine Toilolo, Nate Solder, and Kevin Zeitler they can save a projected $35,750,000.
Of course, all this is unlikely to happen as Zeitler and Solder are unlikely to be cut. But finding a way to acquire a number one wide receiver and help on the offensive line should be priority one.
In the NFC East all it will take for the Giants is to find those ‘five easy pieces’ that will lead them to the playoffs.