Following another double-digit loss performance, the New York Giants have many tough questions to answer in 2019.
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY—The first year of the Dave Gettleman–Pat Shurmur regime was a disaster, as the New York Giants finished 5-11, finishing dead last in the NFC East for the second year in a row.
The 2018 season marked the fourth time in the last five years that the Giants have finished with double-digit losses.
Now Giants ownership, along with Gettleman and Shurmur, is facing major questions about how to fix the roster and bring the Giants back to prominence.
Here are the seven questions looming over the Giants this offseason.
1. Will they bring back Eli Manning?
Eli Manning turned 38 on Jan. 3 and is entering the final year of his contract. Manning’s physical skills have regressed, but he showed that when he has time, he can still be an effective quarterback. His 66% completion percentage was the highest of his career.
But he also had 10 games where he threw one or zero touchdown passes. That simply isn’t good enough in today’s NFL.
Manning is due to make $23.2 million in 2019. According to Spotrac, the Giants would incur a $6.2 million cap hit if they cut him. That means Manning is going to have to restructure his contract if he wants to return for his 16th season.
2. How can they fix the defense?
As much flak as Manning and the offensive line received in 2018, the biggest issue with the Giants was defense. The Giants offense led the NFC East in scoring with 369 points, but the defense gave up a division-high 412 points. In addition, the Giants were 17th in total offense but 24th in total defense.
There are a plethora of issues on the defense. First, it’s imperative the Giants find a dominant pass rusher. The 30 sacks they registered were tied for the second fewest in the league.
They also need a free safety, as the Curtis Riley experiment was a disaster. The Giants are also thin at cornerback behind Janoris Jenkins, and they could use another linebacker, and a solid run stopper to make up for the loss of Damon Harrison.
3. Will Landon Collins be back?
In what was a down year by his standards, Landon Collins still led the team in tackles (96). Also, he was voted to his third consecutive Pro Bowl, despite missing the last four games of the season.
Collins, who turns 25 next week, is now an unrestricted free agent. He will be one of the most sought after pieces on the market.
The Giants could give him the franchise tag and bring him back for 2019 at around $11 million. But Gettleman may want to move on from a safety who struggles in coverage and finished the last two seasons on IR.
4. What will they do with the sixth pick in the draft?
The draft is months away, and right now nobody has a feel of what the Giants might do with the sixth pick. If they decide it’s time to draft Manning’s successor, they could take Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins—if declares for the draft—or Missouri quarterback Drew Lock.
If the Giants want to address the defense, they can go with Clemson edge rusher Clelin Ferrell, or Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver. Ideally, they would love to take Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, but he’ll be off the board by the time the Giants pick.
5. What upgrades can they make to the offensive line?
Centers Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley are free agents, along with right guard Jamon Brown, who made an immediate impact when the Giants acquired him in the middle of the season.
Bringing back Halapio, who’s recovering from a broken leg he sustained in Week 2, would be ideal, since he wouldn’t cost that much. The Giants would love to bring back Brown but he’s in high demand. Five teams put a claim in for him following his release from the Chargers in the middle of the season.
Chad Wheeler is under contract in 2019, but he is not the answer at right tackle. The Giants must find an upgrade at this position. If they can’t address this need in free agency, they may look to draft Wisconsin right tackle David Edwards in the second round, if he’s on the board.
If the Giants can acquire the right pieces to rebuild the offensive line, Saquon Barkley might lead the league in rushing next season.
6. Will they cut Janoris Jenkins or Olivier Vernon?
In order for the Giants to fill their numerous holes, they’re going to need some cap relief. Janoris Jenkins and Olivier Vernon have huge cap numbers in 2019. Vernon is due to make $19.5 million and Jenkins $14.75 million. The Giants would save $11 million by cutting Vernon and $7.25 million if they cut Jenkins.
There’s no way the Giants will bring back both and miss out on the cap relief they’ll receive in cutting at least one of them. Jenkins is 30 and Vernon is 28, but Jenkins is more likely to return in 2019 because he’s still a solid No. 1 corner, which is hard to find. Vernon is a decent pass rusher, but it’s easier to replace his production than that of Jenkins.
7. Do ownership and Gettleman acknowledge the Giants are in rebuild mode?
The Giants direction this offseason will be solely based on how John Mara, Steve Tisch, and Gettleman assess the roster.
Last season they believed that the team just needed a few tweaks to become a contender. But after finishing 5-11, with four of those wins against backup quarterbacks, the realization may have finally sunk in that this team is rebuilding and will take years to fix.
However, they still may be operating under the premise that a few quality free-agent signings and a strong draft class to go along with the progression of the 2018 draft class could be all the Giants need to contend in 2019.
Gettleman wouldn’t commit to Manning in 2019, and he said everything is on the table. We should get an idea of what the New York Giants GM believes about the state of the roster in the upcoming weeks.