The Giants will have plenty of salary-cap space next offseason. They also should have plenty of roster needs. In the past, that combination has led to wild free-agent spending sprees.
Will history repeat itself? Joe Schoen has been all about fiscal responsibility in his first year as general manager, so it seems unlikely that he’ll throw big money at top free agents next offseason.
Schoen’s more likely approach will be targeted strikes. The bulk of the roster-building process will occur via the draft, but Schoen could mix in the occasional big contract to address a need with a proven veteran.
So who could Schoen land next offseason when the purse strings are loosened? Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of potential targets in free agency. Note that the Giants’ need levels below are based on the expectation of how much they’ll spend on the position in free agency; remember, the draft will be the primary path to rebuilding the roster. Also, some of these scheduled free agents won’t be available next offseason due to extensions and franchise tags, but this at least offers an early idea of who the Giants could target.
Projected need level: Low
Potential free-agent targets: N/A
Of all the Giants’ quarterback options for 2023, signing a free agent is the least likely. If Daniel Jones takes a major leap, the Giants will retain the 25-year-old with the franchise tag or an extension. If Jones doesn’t prove to be the long-term answer, the Giants will move on with Tyrod Taylor as a veteran stopgap and, ideally, a potential franchise quarterback selected in the first round of the draft.
Going all in financially for a quarterback like Jimmy Garoppolo wouldn’t make any sense at this point in the Giants’ rebuild. And a younger reclamation project like Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold wouldn’t fit since the Giants are already committed to Taylor as a bridge quarterback, and if Jones flops, the Giants likely will be picking high enough to draft a top quarterback prospect.
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The Giants are in line to have the top running back on the market next offseason, Saquon Barkley. If they choose to let Barkley walk, it’s hard to envision them pivoting to another high-paid back. It’s far more likely that Schoen will target a cheap veteran like Singletary in free agency while aiming to land a No. 1 back in the middle rounds of the draft.
The Giants will need to upgrade their wide receiver corps if they move on from Kenny Golladay. It’s hard to imagine Schoen repeating the same mistake Dave Gettleman made with Golladay by spending top dollar in free agency to fill that hole, so forget about D.K. Metcalf or Deebo Samuel.
The most economical way to add a No. 1 receiver is through the draft, and that’s an avenue Schoen will likely explore. But if Golladay and Sterling Shepard are gone, the Giants may want to add a veteran. A player like Chark would fit into the second tier of receivers with the potential to be the deep threat the Giants thought they were getting with Golladay.
The new regime has gone exceptionally cheap at tight end this year, but that could be the result of the team’s tight cap situation. The Giants could target a mid-level tight end when they have money to spend next offseason. A player like Hooper would give the Giants a legitimate receiving threat at tight end to complement rookie fourth-round pick Daniel Bellinger.
In a perfect world, the pieces are in place for the Giants’ offensive line to finally become a strength. But even if things aren’t perfect, it’s impossible to imagine the Giants shopping for a free-agent tackle next offseason after using top-10 picks on Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal within the past three years. Additionally, Mark Glowinski is locked in at right guard through at least the 2023 season.
So any additions to the offensive line next offseason will qualify as tinkering as opposed to overhauling. Between 2020 fifth-round pick Shane Lemieux and 2022 third-round pick Joshua Ezeudu, the Giants should have a serviceable, cheap left guard next season. That leaves center as the one position they will likely need to address, although Lemieux or Ezeudu could possibly transition to that spot.
The Bills spent big on free-agent center Mitch Morse (four years, $44.5 million) early in Schoen’s tenure as assistant GM. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Giants follow a similar path, especially if they’re starting over with a young quarterback. If they don’t target a top center like McCoy, they can find another cheap veteran like Jon Feliciano or turn to a younger in-house option.
It’s tough to predict this need level. As of now, the Giants are mostly set on the defensive line, with Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence signed through 2023. But if the Giants cut Williams for cap savings next offseason, this position will become a bigger need.
My hunch is that the Giants will dump Williams after the season based on the finances ($18 million cap savings with $8.3 million in dead money). They can find comparable production from cheaper alternatives like Payne or Hargrave.
This is like offensive tackle. Ideally, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari will develop into game-wrecking pass rushers. But even if they aren’t dominant, the Giants figure to ride with their recent early draft picks instead of making a splash signing to unseat them.
The Giants have a stable of young, cheap edge rushers. If all of those players develop, this position could be exceptionally cost-effective. If reinforcements are needed, the Giants should be able to add a complementary piece like Fowler or Jenkins at a reasonable rate in free agency.
Blake Martinez, who is returning from a torn ACL, will be a free agent after the season. Beyond him, the Giants have a bunch of Day 3 draft picks at inside linebacker. The Giants likely won’t break the bank at this position, but they could target a veteran like Walker or Perryman to provide stability at a spot with so many young players. Retaining Martinez might be their best option if he returns to form this season.
The Giants are well aware of the price of top cornerbacks. They cut James Bradberry this offseason due to his $21.9 million cap hit, while Adoree’ Jackson is scheduled to have a $19.5 million cap hit next season in the final year of his contract. The Giants could cut Jackson for $9 million in cap savings, but it seems unlikely that they’ll further weaken such an important position for cap purposes.
More likely, the Giants could be in the market for a top cornerback to join Jackson. This is the one position where the Giants could spend big bucks — unless a young corner like Aaron Robinson surprises this season. Elite cornerbacks don’t reach the market often, so the Giants would have to follow the model of giving top dollar to good players, like when they signed Bradberry and Jackson. The draft is a more economical avenue to land a true No. 1 corner, but the Giants’ other needs could take priority in the first round.
The Giants need Xavier McKinney to continue his ascension in his third season. If he does, he could cash in with an extension next offseason. The Giants still could stand to add at safety unless they’re content with re-signing Julian Love to a modest extension or if fourth-round pick Dane Belton develops. The Giants don’t figure to pursue Jessie Bates if the Bengals fail to extend the young star, but there will be attractive options available on the market like Amos and Poyer.
Projected need level: Low
Potential free-agent targets: N/A
Kicker Graham Gano is signed through the 2023 season. Ideally, the Giants will keep punter Jamie Gillan and long snapper Casey Kreiter on minimum-level deals. Otherwise, they’ll fill those positions with cheap alternatives.
Coming Thursday: An overview of how the Giants are expected to proceed next offseason.
(Photo of Blake Martinez: Dennis Schneidler / USA Today)