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Fixing the Giants: ‘Invictus’ offers offseason plan

Let’s fix the Giants. Or try to, at least.

Fixing the New York Giants. Easy question, much more difficult a task. Perhaps rebuilding the Giants might be a bit more apt, given that their foundation has effectively crumbled. I’ve done this in some form or another over the past five years. It usually starts out like:

  • Part 1: Establishing the Core
  • Part 2: Cutting Players
  • Part 3: Free Agency
  • Part 4: The Draft

This year, we’ll have one massive part. Let’s get to it, we’ve got a lot to talk about.

Firstly, the core.

How do I define what my core is? That's simple. I have a tried and true (well, not really sure if "true," per say, but it works for me) formula for defining what the foundation of a team is. I've got three simple rules:

1) Must be under the age of 30 unless working as a special teams specialist. Your core must be young.

2) Must be under contract for the 2018 season at least. You can't be a core player if you aren't going to be on the team. The only exceptions are recently called up practice squad players that can be easily retained.

3) Must show upside and should not be overpaid. This is all subjective, and a player can be handsomely paid, but they need to prove worthy of a contract or at the very least show upside that in the future they can possibly uphold that contract.

Youth. Upside. Under contract. With that being said, let's define our core:

Offense: Evan Engram, Wayne Gallman, Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Rhett Ellison

Defense: Landon Collins, Avery Moss, Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Goodson, Darian Thompson, Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon, Andrew Adams, Romeo Okwara, Damon Harrison.

Clearly a slant towards the defense. One point of contention is probably Olivier Vernon, but when healthy, he’s a pretty useful player. I think Vernon upheld his contract in 2016-2017 and can do it again.

A big name that I did NOT include was Jason Pierre-Paul. I think he’s got a lot of mileage and I’m not sure if he’s going to get any better or at least uphold his paycheck. Who knows. What’s shocking is that the offense has no offensive linemen in this core. Nobody knows what Chad Wheeler will be. Ereck Flowers is, well, Ereck Flowers. Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg are free agents. Speaking of free agents, let’s take a look at their cap situation:

Creating cap space

The Giants are not in a great cap situation. They currently are slated to have $29,928,863 in cap space for 2018 (assuming a salary cap of $178 million). That’s good for only 19th most in the league. It’s safe to say, just in terms of right now, the Giants are NOT in a position to compete for top flight free agents at this time. Not when teams like the 49ers and Browns have more than $100 million in space. It’s troublesome, because the Giants have a lot of work to do, without the resources to do it. So they’ll have to do some trimming from their own roster to bolster the space that they have. Let’s explore some of the options.

Eli Manning

This will be THE most hotly contested debate over this offseason. Will ownership and the new head coach and GM keep Eli Manning on? There are upsides and downsides to keeping him. The Giants definitely are short on cash, so now the question becomes, do they dump their 2 time Superbowl winning champion? Let’s take a look at the numbers. He’s got two years left on his contract:

Year Base Salary Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings

2018 $10,500,000 $22,200,000 $12,400,000 $9,800,000
2019 $11,500,000 $23,200,000 $6,200,000 $17,000,000

Keep or Cut? Invictus says ... KEEP.

Looking at the way his contract is structured, this becomes a very simple question. Is Eli Manning’s leadership and tutoring/mentoring value worth approximately $10 million dollars in savings? Maybe. I just can’t swallow that almost $12.5 million in dead money. That’s such a significant portion of the cap space relegated to, well, nothing, that I think it makes sense keeping Eli Manning in as mentor for Davis Webb or anybody else that might be signed/drafted. It’s pretty clear from the structuring, however, that 2018 will be Manning’s last year with the Giants, as he would provide $17 million in savings for 2019.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

DRC is an interesting case study. He is still playing at a high level but he will be 31 years old, and his play style is mostly based off his length and speed combination. As you age, that speed declines. There have already been several hints that the Giants may be getting ready to move on from him. There was, of course, the team imposed suspension this year. But more subtly, the team has been playing him more at safety, where his speed can be hidden and playing more Ross Cockrell in the slot. Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Year Base Salary Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings

2018 $2,000,000 $8,500,000 $2,000,000 $6,500,000

Keep or Cut? Invictus says ... CUT.

Pretty simple move here. You’d rather cut somebody a year too early than a year too late. $6.5 million for a CB that may be in decline is a no-brainer. And no, I don’t think he’s going to be successful as a safety.

Brandon Marshall

When the year began, the addition of Brandon Marshall was thought to be a genius move. It was supposed to be a masterful way of putting the New York Giant into overdrive and help them contend for a championship. Needless to say, that did not happen in the slightest. So, what to do with Marshall?

Year Base Salary Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings

2018 $5,000,000 $6,156,250 $1,000,000 $5,156,000

Keep or Cut? Invictus says ... CUT.

Marshall suffers from the same fate as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He will be three years removed from a quality season and that $5+ million saved on his behalf will help the rebuilding Giants get younger at the wide receiver position.

John Jerry

At this point, the only reason to keep John Jerry is if he comes relatively cheap as a backup.

Year Base Salary Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings

2018 $3,050,000 $4,125,000 $1,600,000 $2,525,000

2019 $3, 050,000 $4,125,000 $800,000 $3,325,000

Keep or Cut? Invictus says ... CUT.

When examining this contract, one important concept becomes evident. That concept is that the player is John Jerry.

Dwayne Harris

Harris has been a useful special teams player for quite some time now for the Giants. He got quite the contract for them and it looked like he tailed off in 2016. This past year he had some sort of a renaissance season. Will that be enough to keep him around in 2018?

Year Base Salary Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings

2018 $3,225,000 $4,050,000 $1,600,000 $2,450,000

2019 $3,225,000 $4,050,000 $800,000 $3,250,000

Keep or Cut? Invictus says ... CUT.

As useful as Harris is, there are plenty of young, hungry players ready to take the mantle for return duties. Plenty more that are there to hustle in his stead as well. At this point, Harris is something of a luxury and one that the Giants simply can’t afford.

After a thorough review of the contracts that the Giants have, this would be the ones that I really thought hard about. It’s no surprise that out of these five players, four were cut. The Giants need to optimize their cap space and eliminate any bad contracts that they have. I unfortunately got rid of some useful players like Rodgers-Cromartie and Dwayne Harris, but the Giants need to get young and they need a better distribution of talent. With these moves, the Giants’ cap space balloons to $45,202,632, which ain’t half bad.

Signing free agents

Let’s now take a look at some free agents to spend our money on. First, let’s establish our own free agents that we’d like to sign.

Ross Cockrell

Gotten in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cockrell was more or less the 2nd best corner on the Giants during the 2017 season. He provides depth at both outside corner and in the slot. I would give him a 3 year deal worth $12,000,000 with $6,000,000 guaranteed and a $2,000,000 signing bonus.

Year Salary Cap Number

2018 $2,000,000 $2,666,667
2019 $4,000,000 $4,666,667

2020 $4,000,000 $4,666,667

Justin Pugh

Pugh is an interesting case study. He’s injured more often than I would like. I’m not sure in real life if David Gettleman would go after Pugh. I think he’d rather go after Andrew Norwell. In my scenario, the fact that Pugh can play both left guard and right tackle are crucial. I think Pugh is a good tackle and his ability to play both spots deserves to get paid. I don’t know if he’ll take a one year prove it type deal, but I’d be willing to give him a 4 year contract. Spotrac (great site, by the way) gives Pugh an annual valuation of $6 million per year. Given the paucity of good OL this year, Pugh is going way over that on the open market. I’d give him a 4 year deal worth $39,500,000 with $14,000,000 guaranteed. $8,000,000 will be a signing bonus.

Year Salary Cap Number

2018 $7,000,000 $9,000,000
2019 $11,000,000 $13,000,000

2020 $9,000,000 $11,000,000

2021 $4,500,000 $6,500,000

Devon Kennard

Given that Jonathan Casillas, Devon Kennard, Akeem Ayers, Kelvin Sheppard, Mark Herzlich and Keenan Robinson are all free agents this year, the Giants need to retain some of their own. Kennard likely fits the best in James Bettcher’s defense and his pass rushing expertise will hopefully unleashed to it’s fullest potential. I’d give him a 2 year deal worth $7,000,000 and $4,000,000 guaranteed with a $2,000,000 signing bonus.

Year Salary Cap Number

2018 $2,000,000 $3,000,000
2019 $3,000,000 $4,000,000

D.J Fluker

The big man showed some flash before he fizzled out on injured reserve. Definitely not the way that he wanted to go out in a contract year. I will say that the offensive line looked a lot nastier and the run game a lot more successful with Fluker in there. He looks like a Gettleman “Hog Mollie” (still haven’t figured out what it means yet). He gets a one-year deal from me for $3 million as a prove it deal to try again.

Year Salary Cap Number

2018 $3,000,000 $3,000,000

I would also retain Brett Jones as an RFA as our now starting center since I’m not going to re-sign Weston Richburg, who simply becomes to rich for my taste. All in all, with all of that, the Giants come out with $27,535,965 to spend in the rest of free agency. Let’s get to it.

Nigel Bradham, OLB Philadelphia Eagles

The “big” fish that I’m going to be targeting is Nigel Bradham. Yes, he’s a Philadelphia Eagle. That makes it all the sweeter if the Giants can lure him away. James Bettcher is going to need a WILB, and Bradham would fit perfectly next to B.J. Goodson. He’s going to cost a pretty penny, however. Let’s give him a four-year deal worth $21.5 million with a $4 million signing bonus and $9 million guaranteed.

Year Salary Cap Number

2018 $5,000,000 $6,000,000
2019 $6,000,000 $7,000,000

2020 $3,500,000 $4,500,000

2021 $3,000,000 $4,000,000

Xavier S’ua Filo, OG Houston Texans

The Giants will add an offensive lineman from free agency this year. My vote would go to Xavier S’ua Filo, a second-round lineman drafted by the Houston Texans a few years ago. He didn’t really fit in with the Texans but would certainly be a good fit here. He could slot in and compete for the LG position. At the very least, he’d be solid depth for the Giants. Two year deal worth $9 million with a $1 million signing bonus and $2 million guaranteed.

Year Salary Cap Number

2018 $3,500,000 $4,000,000
2019 $4,500,000 $5,000,000

E.J. Gaines, CB St. Louis Rams

The Giants quietly have a pressing need for CB. Eli Apple has forced his way into the conversation as Jerry Reese’s worst first round pick and I just cut DRC above. Gaines has been very effective and can play any position in the backfield. He would be a reasonably priced option. Let’s give himfour years, $26 million with $9 million guaranteed and a sweet $6 million signing bonus.

Year Salary Cap Number

2018 $4,000,000 $5,500,000
2019 $5,000,000 $6,500,000

2020 $7,000,000 $8,500,000

2021 $4,000,000 $5,500,000

Alex Okafor, EDGE New Orleans Saints

Finally, the last free agent that I would go after would be Okafor, who played with Bettcher in Arizona. He’s been quite under the radar. He had 4.5 sacks with New Orleans last year but had a season with 8.0 sacks not too long ago. He would be a good reclamation project for the Giants. Give him 2 years, $5 million with $1 million guaranteed.

Year Salary Cap Number

2018 $3,500,000 $3,500,000
2019 $1,500,000 $1,500,000

This would put the Giants at $8,535,965 left in cap space for 2018 and allows them to easily sign their draft picks and have a rainy day fund. Speaking of draft picks ...

The draft

Finally, after adding free agents, now comes time for the draft. It’s not every year that the New York Giants get to pick second in the NFL draft. They need to take advantage. This is what I would do.

Round 1: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

This is pretty straightforward. The Giants need to come away with a franchise quarterback in this draft. Full stop. Rosen is the most ready quarterback, one with the best accuracy, and has displayed leadership capabilities that have become evident once you hear his teammates talk about him. There are questions about his personality fitting in New York City, but not from me.

Round 2: Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan

Another straightforward selection. A theme this offseason will likely be to address the offensive line. Okorafor is one of my favorite prospects this year. While watching Taylor Moton last year, Okorafor repeatedly stood out and was the reason why Moton was relegated to the right side. This is a player that can certainly win the position against Ereck Flowers and would give the Giants a bonafide left tackle. He is my OT2 behind Connor Williams, and probably somewhere in the late first round to early second round mix with guys like Orlando Brown and Mike McGlinchey.

Round 3: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

While the idea of Saquon Barkley is an enticing one, it’s an idea that I’m getting to be less fond of. A big reason why is the sheer talent of this year’s running back class. I’d probably say that Barkley, Derrius Guice, Ronald Jones II, Sony Michel, Rashaad Penny, Mark Walton, Royce Freeman, and Nick Chubb could all go in the first three rounds.

Nick Chubb is a really good player that got overshadowed by Sony Michel in the title game, but he’s got a great blend of explosion and power. If you noticed, I didn’t re-sign Orleans Darkwa. Chubb is an upgraded version.

Round 4: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

As you can see, I’m really loading up on the CB position. Re-signing Ross Cockrell and signing EJ Gaines, the Giants will still need someone to develop. Alexander has good length at 5-foot-11, 198 pounds. He can play inside or outside. His play fell off a little this past year, but was in consideration to be as high as a second round pick.

Round 4 (Assuming Comp Pick for Johnathan Hankins): Wyatt Teller, OG Virginia Tech

I’m going to let my good friend ‘Raptor’ tell you why Teller is a good fit:

“He has gotten rave reviews throughout Senior Bowl practices for his power and technique in drills and team periods. We have also heard that he has drawn the eye of the Giants over the course of the week. It isn’t surprising, considering Dave Gettleman’s draft tendencies regarding offensive linemen at Carolina -- that is, big bodies, long arms, and big hands. Teller checks all of those boxes with the potential to add more mass and power in an NFL strength and conditioning program.”

Round 5: Jerome Baker, OLB, OSU

Some think that Baker is a first or second round pick. Watching Ohio State, I’m not so sure. Early Day 3 is probably more his draft range. He’s 6-foot-1, 225 pounds which would automatically disqualify him for the Giants were Jerry Reese still in charge. Dave Gettleman is a guy who drafted Shaq Thompson.

Baker is quick and can play on all three downs. He doesn’t react as fast as I thought he would based on his athletic profile. As a run and chase linebacker in the 3-4, though, he could be a draft day steal.

Round 6: Kendrick Norton, DE, Miami

For the final draft pick, we’re going to add some depth to the defensive line. Norton was a fire hydrant against the run. The 6-foot-3, 305 pound player looks very similar to Ziggy Hood for me, and would be a pretty good upside pick in a possible 5 technique role.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it. The Giants have a lot of work to do, and I don’t envy the job Dave Gettleman has. The biggest decision to make is with the QB position. Keep Eli? Draft a QB at 2? Big questions that will transform this franchise.

For me, I’m definitely drafting a QB. I prefer Josh Rosen as my top player, with Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold close behind. I do think there’s a ton of work to do at offensive line. I think Gettleman goes for Andrew Norwell, but I decided to play it differently. What do you think?

This post first appeared on Big Blue View, A New York Giants Community, please read the originial post: here

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Fixing the Giants: ‘Invictus’ offers offseason plan


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