A new era has dawned at Met Life Stadium for the New York Giants, but many of the old problems remain. Last month, the Giants sought to chart a new direction by hiring a pair of former Buffalo Bills, Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll, as general manager and head coach.
But the two men, for all their impressive credentials in helping turn the Bills into an AFC power, are now facing the reality that any rebuild of the Giants will not be a quick fix.
The Giants are in “cap jail” as the March free agency period approaches. They rolled over the league’s lowest amount of un-used 2021 cap space, a virtual non-existent $13,986, leaving them $5.7 million over the cap before making any roster cuts, which should come fast and furious as the team looks to create some room for free-agent signings.
That said, there should be some bargain-basement deals to be had in NFL free agency for players that could make significant contributions. Here are some thrifty targets the Giants need to get started in the winning direction:
5. Trent Brown, Tackle, New England Patriots
If the team is going to commit to Daniel Jones at quarterback, they can help him immediately by shoring up the offensive line. Some help will almost certainly come in the form of at least one of their two top-7 NFL Draft choices, but sprinkling in a veteran like Brown to work with the draftee(s) could go a long way toward maturing the line.
Adding someone of Brown’s stature might also free the Giants up to spend some of that early draft capital on other areas of need, instead of forcing themselves into an offensive line pick they aren’t certain is worth a top-7 selection.
4-2. Linebackers De’Vondre Campbell, Green Bay Packers; Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys; Kyzir White, Los Angeles Chargers
The Giants were an absolute mess at linebacker last season, but in these three free agents, there is a chance to catch some lightning in a bottle at pennies on the dollar. Campbell had a breakout season in 2021, but it came in his sixth year in the league. Was last season the real thing, or a fluke? Not knowing the answer should drive down his salary expectation, which should allow the Giants to make an offer.
Vander Esch has the talent, but can’t stay healthy. That will also keep him in the discount bin. But if he manages to stay on the field for a full 17 games next year, he could be a smash acquisition for a team lacking any reliable talent at the position.
White is another player who excelled in 2021 but lacks a long track record to fully cash in on his free-agent status. But he is young enough that his breakout season could be just the start of bigger things to come without having to break the bank to land him.
1. Marcus Maye, Safety, New York Jets
Maye is another player who dealt with a major injury situation in 2021, but has the talent when healthy to be an impact player. The Giants are expected to let Jabrill Peppers leave via free agency, so the need will be there to replace him. In his six games before his Achilles’ injury, Maye was having his best season as a pro, with 46 tackles. He has the talent, and if he has made a full recovery, he should be able to find his form once again.
Maye will almost certainly take a one-year deal to show teams he’s fully recovered. The incentive will be there to continue playing at a high level. He could be a bridge that helps another of the 10 early draft picks develop before taking over Maye’s role in 2023.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference