The Giants‘ magical season finally came to a close Saturday night. Head coach Brian Daboll’s crew suffered a nightmarish 38-7 loss to the division-rival Eagles. The Giants were no match for quarterback Jalen Hurts and a powerful Philly offense.
So the Eagles are headed to the NFC title game while the Giants enter a very important offseason. General manager Joe Schoen needs to figure out which positions to target in both free agency and the draft, and overall, the direction this franchise needs to take.
But Schoen also must worry about his current players with expiring contracts, of which there are more than a few.
What could the Giants’ do with each of their impending free agents?
Must retain (3): QB Daniel Jones, RB Saquon Barkley, LS Casey Kreiter
Jones has proven himself the quarterback of at least the near-future, regardless of what occurred in Philly. He was better than ever this past year in what was a make-or-break season and deserves a new contract. Whether it be a three- or four-year deal (or more), expect Schoen and Jones’ camp to agree on an extension in the coming months.
As for Barkley, the Giants should only be bringing him back on the franchise tag, projected to be roughly $10 million. It’s tough to imagine Schoen committing multiple years to a running back already entering his sixth season.
Kreiter has proven to be an integral part of the kicking unit and one of the main reasons why placekicker Graham Gano has succeeded in East Rutherford. He obviously won’t render an expensive deal given he’s a long snapper, so the Giants could certainly afford his services.
Would be nice (5): CB Fabian Moreau, S Julian Love, OL Nick Gates, DE Jihad Ward, WR Richie James.
The Giants need to improve in the secondary and both Moreau and Love already have experience in Wink Martindale’s system (if the defensive coordinator stays). While Moreau was a nice surprise this past season and allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete under 60% of throws when targeting him, Love is a versatile leader.
But either player is replaceable, and it could be less costly to address either spot in free agency or the draft. Expect Schoen to possibly draft a defensive back in the early rounds anyway.
As for Gates, you can’t question his unmatched toughness to return to the field just a year in change after his gruesome 2021 leg injury. And the Giants might need to keep him around if they let another offensive lineman, Jon Feliciano, walk. But it’s not like Gates is this high-impact, high-value player the Giants absolutely need to keep.
Ward’s another nice player who would have experience in the system as long as Martindale stays. He provides nice value as more of a run-stopping edge defender, but there will be alternative options in free agency and the draft.
Finally, with James, there was at least some showing of progress down the stretch, plus he provides special teams value. So there’s a chance the team brings him back.
Goners (10): RB Matt Breida, WR Darius Slayton, WR Sterling Shepard, WR Marcus Johnson, C Jon Feliciano, OLB Oshane Ximines, DT Justin Ellis, DT Nick Williams, S Tony Jefferson, P Jamie Gillan.
Breida was always just a backup and the Giants should search for a younger option in the offseason. Shepard has never been able to stay on the field, Slayton is inconsistent and replaceable and Johnson didn’t provide much value during the second half of the season.
Feliciano, 30, is only getting older and had a rough first year in New York. He committed six penalties (tied for sixth-most among centers, per Pro Football Focus) and allowed three sacks (tied for ninth-most). In order to protect Jones and improve what was a so-so offensive line, the Giants need a rock-solid interior. Feliciano doesn’t fit the bill.
Ximines was essentially buried on the depth chart behind Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari (when both were healthy) and only played 7% of the defensive snaps against the Eagles on Saturday. It was sort of surprising to see the Giants retain Ximines for 2022, so don’t expect them to do the same this time around.
Ellis and Williams are backups at best, Jefferson is merely a special teamer, and Gillan can easily be replaced. The Scottish Hammer was just 19th among punters with a 46.81 punt gross average, per PFF.
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