For those waiting breathlessly for the Giants to make a move on their offensive line — sign someone, anyone! — the best advice is to take a breath so as not to turn blue.
If the season started today — five words forming a truly useless phrase — the right side of the Giants’ offensive line would be Brett Jones at guard and Bobby Hart at tackle. The left tackle still would be Ereck Flowers. And now, proceed to panic.
Or not. The season is months from starting and the NFL is only two days into free agency. The NFL Draft is not for another seven weeks. No, it does not appear as if the Giants will make a big splash on their offensive line. But they will be adding players, you can be sure the level of competition on the roster will rise and a new starter, or two, will emerge.
There is interest in D.J. Fluker, cut earlier this week by the Chargers. Fluker, 25, is a former first-round pick — he was taken No. 11 overall in 2013, selected eight spots ahead of Giants guard Justin Pugh. Fluker never played to that lofty draft status, but he has started at both guard and tackle and is massive (6-foot-5, 339 pounds). He has a visit scheduled with the Giants and could be signed quickly, if the price is right.
The Giants are playing it frugal — they have to, considering their salary cap situation — and they certainly can be viewed as stubborn when it comes to keeping Flowers at left tackle, but they are not stupid. The front office and coaching staff has no intention of going into 2017 with the same five starting offensive linemen, a group that did not distinguish itself in 2016. Weston Richburg at center and Pugh at left guard are keepers. Everything after those two is up for discussion.
Still, Flowers is not going anywhere. He is a 2015 first-round draft pick, the ninth overall selection, and general manager Jerry Reese is not going to discard him because the fans want him out or because metrics conclude he is no good. Teams stick with high draft picks, often longer than they should, and the Giants are no different. They believe he can and will get better. What his ceiling is, no one knows and, most likely, the Giants are worried it might not be very high, considering his regression in 2016. But he will be in the starting lineup this season, at left or right tackle, unless they truly go rogue and move him inside to right guard. The addition of Rhett Ellison as a blocking tight end instantly helps with damage control at both tackle spots.
In free agency, pretty good to very good players already have cashed in with contracts not commensurate with their performance. Matt Kalil got a five-year, $55.5 million deal with the Panthers. Yikes. Kevin Zeitler (five years, $60 million from the Browns) is now the highest-paid guard in league history. No wonder Pugh, entering his fifth season and in search of an impending contract extension, posted eyes-staring emojis when re-tweeting details of the contracts of Zeitler and another guard, Joel Bitonio, who received a five-year, $51 million extension from the Browns. Pugh also tweeted one word — “Sheesh” when re-tweeting Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s five-year, $41.25 extension from the Chiefs.
The more money handed out now, the better for Pugh, as his price tag continues to rise. It is the same for Richburg. Setting the current roster cannot be done in a vacuum. The Giants must look ahead and project what their future investments need to be on the offensive line.
What is left to sort through after Fluker? At guard, T.J. Lang of the Packers is the best option but he is coming off hip surgery. Ryan Groy (Bills) is a restricted free agent but could be signed for no compensation. At tackle, there is Ryan Clady, Sebastian Vollmer, Austin Pasztor. The Giants showed some interest in Menelik Watson, a part-time starter for the Raiders the past three years, but he signed Friday with the Broncos. The Giants could bring back John Jerry, an unrestricted free agent. Marshall Newhouse is now a former Giant, having signed a two-year deal with the Raiders on Friday.
This is reputed to be a weak year for offensive linemen in the NFL Draft, meaning with the 23rd overall pick, the Giants might not be able to get a player capable of stepping immediately into the lineup. Perhaps they can, though. These dire projections are never sure things.
To be sure, the Giants’ offensive line in 2017 will be different. How much better, well, that is anyone’s guess this far away from the live action.
Published at Sat, 11 Mar 2017 07:13:59 +0000