Dexter Lawrence is the Giants’ contract extension priority at the moment, and understandably so. He has earned his payday, the sub-Aaron Donald defensive tackle market has been set by Jeffery Simmons and Big Blue can invest in the position with Leonard Williams likely off the books after this season.
But general manager Joe Schoen has proven he can walk and chew gum at the same time. So while he hammers out Lawrence’s deal, he should also get serious about the next objective — the long-term employment of left tackle Andrew Thomas.
The Giants have two years of team control left with Thomas. So he has been an afterthought this offseason behind Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley and Lawrence. Which makes sense; those players should be the focus. But then again, striking a deal with Thomas now could mean much more to the Giants in the long run than working things out with those players.
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Schoen only needs to look across the way in the NFC East for proof. In 2013, Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith was named second-team All-Pro during a breakout third season — just like Thomas. Dallas rewarded Smith immediately, making him the highest-paid lineman in the league the following summer.
Nine years later, Smith has made seven more Pro Bowls and earned three more All-Pro nods (two on the first team) at an annual salary of $12.2 million — currently 25th among left tackles. The total value of Smith’s deal is still in the top-5 at the position. But only because he — until recently — maintained an elite performance level. It is a good problem to have if a cornerstone player manages to earn his non-guaranteed money year after year, no?
The Giants may not be able to get the incredible long-term deal the Cowboys lucked into with Smith. But that should be the goal. Especially given the neighborhood Thomas resides in. The Buccaneers’ Tristan Wirfs, the Chargers’ Rashawn Slater and the Lions’ Penei Sewell will all be due extensions around the same time as Thomas. The market could explode. It’s best to buy in now than later.
You cannot underestimate the importance of a left tackle. It would be unfair to heap all the blame on him, but it would be dishonest to not state the obvious: Ereck Flowers played a big part in getting a lot of people fired here. And Nate Solder did not do much better. The Giants finally have the guy in Thomas. They should pay him ASAP, even though they do not have to. Because it would be very good business.
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James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.