The offensive line is a position the New York Giants could look to upgrade this offseason with several big name players hitting free agency.The 2016 New York Giants possessed an offensive line that was without much question the team’s achilles heel. Whether it was in pass protection or run blocking, the unit simply didn’t perform at a level needed for a championship run.
Ereck Flowers regressed in his sophomore season and a return to the right side seems to be a distinct possibility. Left guard Justin Pugh played well, but missed significant time due to a knee injury. Bobby Hart also struggled at right tackle, leaving the Giants with several questions on the o-line.
RELATED: Fixing the Giants' running game
Tackles that can dominate and protect a quarterback’s blindside don’t often hit unrestricted free agency, and that’s apparent with this offseason’s class. Finding an upgrade at tackle is most likely going to be addressed internally or through the draft. However, several interior lineman are available in free agency.
The Giants desperately need to establish a run game to set up play action and eliminate short, quick and predictable passes. Let’s see who GM Jerry Reese could target to bolster the offensive trenches.
Option number one for the Giants is former Titans’ guard Chance Warmack. Pro Football Focus ranked Tennessee’s offensive line as the best unit in the league last season. Given the resurgence of DeMarco Murray, strong rookie campaign from Derrick Henry and the growth of Marcus Mariota, it’s easy to see why they were so highly rated.
However, Warmack was rated as a 46.6 on a scale of 1-100 by PFF. Just 25 years old, there’s reason to believe that the young guard can improve. Right guard was a position that was a revolving door for the Giants last season, and Warmack could add youth and depth on the line. Though, there are other options at guard.
Kevin Zietler, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals, could also be on Jerry Reese‘s wish list. He was the highest rated free agent guard by PFF at 87.1 and could immediately step in at either guard position. Just 27 years old, he’s entering his prime and would represent an immediate upgrade on the line. Additionally, one of Zietler’s teammates could also be a Big Blue target.
Protecting Andy Dalton‘s blindside for the past several seasons was Zietler’s teammate Andrew Whitworth. The former all-pro could be a short term solution for the Giants while they search or try to develop another left tackle.
At 35 years old, signing Whitworth is a high risk but high reward scenario. Though much older than you would prefer at left tackle, he is the highest rated free agent by PFF at 91.3 and solves a huge problem in pass protection. Eli Manning won’t play forever, and with a defense that looks ready to contend for the near future, a win now player like Whitworth could be worth the risk for a team that will have lofty aspirations heading into 2017.
If the Giants decide to go a different route and build from the inside out, there are other guards they could pursue. Larry Warford performed admirably for the Lions last season (rated 82.0 by PFF) and at age 26, represents another immediate upgrade on the interior. Dallas’ Ronald Leary will also hit the free agent market and will likely be highly sought after given the domination of the Cowboys’ offensive front.
The New York Giants have a window of opportunity to make a run at a fifth Lombardi trophy over the next few seasons. Eli Manning might only have a few good seasons left, and if he is to lead his team to the promised land, he’ll need some time to throw the football. The Giants will also have to establish some sort of running game to add balance to their attack.
Addressing the o-line is the obvious missing puzzle piece from an otherwise solid roster. Jerry Reese has his work cut out for him this offseason, but has several options to improve the team’s weakest unit.