New York Giants must make right guard a priority
Sep 11, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Sean Lee (50) in game action against New York Giants offensive guard Justin Pugh (67) at AT&T Stadium. New York won 20-19. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

With so many needs on offense this offseason, the New York Giants must turn their focus to the offensive line.

The New York Giants’ offense struggled this year is a statement that is agreed upon by nearly every NFL fan.

However, why the offense struggled became the topic of intense debate among the Giants faithful. Some fans blamed the play calling. Some blamed the run game. Some even blamed Eli Manning.

In fact, it seemed there was only one thing New York fans could agree upon about their team this year: the offensive line sucked.

When you really look back at the season, the offensive line can easily shoulder the blame for a lot of the Giants’ struggles. It’s the reason for the limited play calling, why they could never get the run game going and why Eli never had any time.

And in the 2017 offseason, it should be the reason the Giants upgrade their interior lineman, specifically at right guard.

While the Giants had trouble across the line this season, the roughly $32 million in cap space is likely not going to be enough to attract a marquee tackle. In all likelihood, if they want to make a change at tackle, they will have to look to the draft or the lower end of this free agent class.

However, at guard, the Giants have the opportunity to secure a real playmaker. Veteran guards like Jahri Evans, Evan Mathis, and Ronald Leary are readily available this summer, ripe for the picking for New York.

Luckily, the Giants left it to their neighbors to set the market for them. The New York Jets‘ four-year, $29 million deal with Brian Winters, a decidedly mediocre guard, establishes a price point for guards this season.

Though the Giants have a lot to take care of on offense this season, signing a strong guard could work wonders for this team. Undoubtedly, the missing piece from the New York offense in 2016 was the run game, and a ferocious, hard-headed guard could seriously remedy that.

Furthermore, a talented guard should help alleviate the pressure on Eli on passing downs. While the pressure from opponents rarely came from the interior this season, a talented guard could help mitigate some of the more talented edge rushers the Giants face with double teams.

Considering the Giants have to face the likes of Von Miller, Justin Houston, Michael Bennett and Joey Bosa next season, I think it’s safe to say they can use all the pass protection help they can get.

Additionally, the value the Giants can get out of a guard at this price is simply too good to pass up. For the same cost as what Jason Pierre-Paul earned this season, the Giants could have one of the top guards on the market and secure one of the top interior lines in the league.

For a team looking to rejuvenate their run game after a dismal season, this seems paramount.

In a 2017 NFL Draft loaded with defensive talent and skill positions, linemen will come at a premium on the free agent market. Unfortunately, for Giants’ fans, that’s exactly what their team needs.

While a tackle is likely out of the question, at least from a free agent perspective, a guard should be well within reason for the Giants. Considering the likely departures of John Jerry and Marshall Newhouse, signing a guard should move from “within reason” to “top priority.”

There’s a bevy of very talented, veteran guards on the free agent market this season for New York, it’s just a matter of if the Giants want to spend their money to sign one.

Billy Nayden is an SMU Mustang from Connecticut born and raised on New York sports. Avid fan of nearly every sport from MMA to handball. His heart is in NYC, but Billy has seen games on multiple continents, and has frequented arenas ranging from high school gyms to world class meccas.