Underrated Giants offseason moves in 2021
By: Daniel Racz
The New York Giants are entering a make-or-break year for many within the organization. Quarterback Daniel Jones is entering the vaunted third year leading the franchise, and many are doubting whether he will earn a second contract. This offseason general manager Dave Gettleman, who himself is on the hot seat, gave Jones a supporting cast through the offseason and draft. Big Blue broke the bank to add ex-Lion wideout Kenny Golladay and spent the 20th pick in the draft, acquired from Chicago in Dave’s first trade-down, on Florida playmaker Kadarius Toney. During free agency, the Giants also added tight end, Kyle Rudolph, on a two-year contract. The Giants decided to not add to their offensive line, instead choosing to rely on past investments.
On the defensive side of the football, the Giants did not make any super splashy moves. The team re-signed defensive lineman Leonard Williams while letting interior presence Dalvin Tomlinson sign with the Vikings. The Giants added a collection of bodies to their front seven with the hope to remain an above-average defense. In regards to their secondary, the Giants drafted UCF cornerback Aaron Robinson in round three and gave a three-year, 39-million-dollar contract to Adoree’ Jackson. The Giants made waves when they signed Jackson, Golladay, and Rudolph, but other moves deserve recognition.
Gaining future capital
Before the draft, media personalities were saying “There will be right turns in NASCAR before Dave Gettleman trades back.” In his first seven drafts for the Giants and Panthers, Gettleman had never traded back. However, within the first two rounds of the 2021 draft, Gettleman moved back twice. Some even started calling him “Trader Dave” given his newfound affinity for defraying risk through moving down the draft board and acquiring 2022 draft picks. The Giants were rumored to be in love with Alabama wide receiver Devonta Smith. However, when the Eagles traded up ahead of the Giants for Smith, the Giants pivoted.
The Giants moved down from pick 11 to pick 20, acquiring a 2021 5th round pick and 2022 1st & 4th round picks in the process.
During the second round of the draft, the Giants were on the clock at 42. First-round caliber pass rusher Azeez Ojulari was on the board, yet the Giants moved down to 50, taking Miami’s 2022 3rd round pick to do so. At 50, Ojulari was still on the board, so the Giants rushed their card in to make him a Giant.
The Giants exited the draft with extra first, third, and fourth-round picks in the 2022 draft. Gettleman managed to add players that can help the Giants compete for a 2021 playoff spot while also having sustained success. If the Giants do not have a winning record in 2021, Gettleman (and possibly Daniel Jones) will be out of a job, but the team will have plenty of assets to move up the board in 2022. Quarterbacks like Sam Howell, Spencer Rattler, Carson Strong, and Malik Willis will be in play for the Giants if Jones does not pan out, and that extra first-round pick will come in handy.
Trusting their in-house offensive lineman
The New York Giants offensive line has been putrid for the better half of a decade. When Dave Gettleman took over, he promised that he would fix the offensive line. The results have not been promising. Will Hernandez, a 2018 second-round pick, is in the final year of his rookie contract. Nate Solder is a free agent after the 2021 season following a re-working of his contract. New York brings back another lineman Andrew Thomas, Nick Gates, Matt Peart, and Shane Lemieux. Their group did not play well in 2020, but there are plenty of excuses that can be made. The team came off a limited offseason and had to learn offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s new scheme. During the year, Joe Judge fired their offensive line coach. Once Judge relieved Marc Colombo of his role with the franchise, the group played better.
The Giants hired former Louisiana offensive coordinator and line coach Rob Sale to mentor their hog mollies. Sale has gotten rave reviews from the Giants camp so far this offseason, giving fans a reason to expect improvement. The Giants have reiterated that they have confidence in their young unit. While the group has not come together yet, this will be their first complete offseason together in the Judge regime. If the young, affordable unit plays at a close to league average level, it could catapult the team into the playoffs.
Adding front seven depth
The New York Giants’ 2020 defense was a revelation. The success came from new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and his innovative multiple schemes. Graham’s scheme relies on moving defensive lineman, disguising blitzes, and man defense. Last season Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence were the top two pass rushers on Big Blue’s defense. While both return and likely retain their roles as the key disruptors, there are now a plethora of players around them.
Edge rushers Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines both return from injuries that cost them the majority of their 2020 seasons. The Giants also added Georgia pass rusher Azeez Ojulari and Northern Iowa edge player Ellerson Smith during rounds two and four of the draft, respectively. In free agency, the Giants signed depth rushers Ifeadi Odenigbo and Ryan Anderson to round out the group. On the interior, the Giants brought back Austin Johnson and added nose tackle, Danny Shelton. To stabilize their linebacker group, the Giants signed Reggie Ragland. None of these individual moves likely move the needle, but the collection will make an impact. The Giants’ edge presence was lacking last year, mainly due to the absence of Carter and Ximines.
The Giants defense was a top ten unit last season, and to improve the unit the Giants quietly added a handful of players that will see meaningful snaps during the season. The edge rush presence will allow Pat Graham to drop more players into coverage when necessary and still feel confident that his group will pressure the quarterback enough. The Giants’ defense does not have to be a top three-unit, but if they want to sniff the playoffs they must have an above-average group.