The NFL offseason is in full swing. The bulk of free agency is over. And the Giants still have various questions to answer.
Let’s discuss some issues general manager Joe Schoen must address in the coming weeks and months.
Interior o-line problems. The Giants are set at the left tackle, right tackle, and right guard positions with starters Andrew Thomas, Evan Neal, and Mark Glowinski. But there are question marks at both center and left guard. 2022 starters Jon Feliciano (49ers) and Nick Gates (Commanders) recently departed in free agency.
So the Giants now have limited starting options for those two positions. With the bulk of free agency now over and essentially no chance Schoen addresses the issue with the No. 25 overall draft pick, the team might have no choice but to look in-house for answers.
The Giants currently employ a group of interior linemen including Josh Ezeudu, Ben Bredeson, Marcus McKethan, Jack Anderson, and Shane Lemieux. Wyatt Davis and Solomon Kindley are likely preseason cuts or depth pieces if they make the team.
In the event the Giants fix the issue internally, expect Ezeudu and Bredeson to be favorites for the job(s). With Anderson’s health, and experience in the system, giving him an edge in the battle to be the interior’s top backup. McKethan and Lemieux are coming off season-ending injuries, and the latter has played only two combined games over the last two seasons. So their futures are murky.
There’s also the real possibility Schoen uses a day-two draft pick on a notable depth piece who could grow into a starter down the road.
Defensive line depth. The Giants need additional depth on the defensive line behind starters Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. Schoen signed Rakeem Nunez-Roches to a three-year, $12 million deal last week, but that’s not enough. D.J. Davidson is coming off an ACL tear, while both Ryder Anderson and Vernon Butler could be preseason cuts.
Bringing back Justin Ellis on a similar deal as last year’s (one year, $1.27 million) could be a viable option, as he knows coordinator Wink Martindale’s system. But he’s 32 years old, so if the Giants want to go younger, using a pick in rounds 3-5 is also an idea to consider.
Andrew Thomas extension talks. Thomas, a 2020 first-round draft pick, has one year remaining on his rookie deal plus the potential fifth-year option. Schoen could exercise that option by May 1 and give the star left tackle another year to prove himself for a big payday. Or, he could extend him this offseason.
There’s a point to either argument.
Picking up the fifth-year option provides the Giants time to monitor Thomas’ play to figure out just how much he’d be worth in a new deal. It also allows the Giants to hold off on giving out any big-money extension for Thomas right now, which is convenient considering there are other extensions to address.
But extending him sooner than later could be more cost-effective for the organization. Right now, Thomas could go for upwards of $25 million per year. The Texans’ Laremy Tunsil, who’s four years older than Thomas, recently became the highest-paid tackle in NFL history with a new three-year, $75 million contract. So that annual value will be Thomas’ benchmark if he wishes to reset the market now.
Signing him next offseason, however, might bring a different result.
Cleveland’s Jedrick Wills could be under a new contract by then. The Chargers’ Rashawn Slater will be eligible for an extension at that point as well. Thomas’ price will certainly increase if he continues to impress and either of those two tackles resets the market.
Dexter Lawrence extension talks. Lawrence is in a little bit different of a contract situation, as he’s a 2019 draft pick entering the fifth year of his rookie deal. So if the Giants don’t extend him this offseason, they could risk letting him walk in 2024.
And Schoen should absolutely sign him sooner than later. Lawrence is coming off a career year and is establishing himself as a premier pass rusher in what’s a booming interior pass-rusher market. He will be expensive now, sure. But another solid year will make him even more costly.
A new contract for Lawrence could cost the Giants around $23 million per year. The Commanders’ Daron Payne just signed for $22.5 million per year, while the 49ers’ Javon Hargrave earned $21 million annually in a new contract.
Xavier McKinney extension talks. If the safety played a strong, full season last year, the Giants would absolutely be extending him this offseason.
But McKinney missed eight games due to a hand injury suffered during a bye-week ATV accident. So the Giants might need to further monitor his play before giving him his payday.
Schoen could extend McKinney mid-year if he has a solid start to the 2023 season. This would help the Giants verify the player they’re signing. It would also keep McKinney’s price lower than what it could be on the open market next offseason.
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