New York Giants Offseason Roster Analysis

by Brian Umbaugh, @NFLRosters

New York Giants LogoAlthough the 2013 season and the subsequent preseason did not live up to their standards, the New York Giants had a strong feeling they would compete for the NFC East in 2014. The experts anticipated a strong running game, a decent though struggling passing game, and a formidable secondary. To make the playoffs, according to this SI Live article, the team had to start 3-2, then be 6-5 or 7-4 after 11 games. Indeed, the team finished 3-2 after 5 games. During the following “make or break” 6-game stretch that included a home-and-home with Dallas, games at Philly and Seattle, and tough home visits from the Colts and 49ers, they had to split. Instead, the Giants lost them all. When the smoke cleared, the team was 3-9 with a below average running game, terrible defense, and a star at WR. It was time to look forward to the next offseason. Can the team rebound from consecutive poor years to challenge in 2015? How can they use their $15.7 million in cap space to make the team better?

Giants Depth Chart

Offense

Quarterbacks

Eli Manning, Ryan Nassib, Ricky Stanzi

Eli Manning is one of those polarizing QB’s. He’s won two Super Bowls, but he’s rarely considered elite because of his pedestrian or worse regular season production. He often loses his confidence and poise, but he gets paid as though he carries this team. He requires quality parts around him, but that is harder to do as his salary cap number escalates. He has one year left on his deal for a charge of $19.7 million. Should they extend him? I suppose. He’s ranked 30th and 18th in the NFL over the last two years, but how do you ditch a multi-ring winner? If they do extend him, they could save a little money for this year.

Backups Ryan Nassib and new addition Ricky Stanzi get very few reps, so they have been hard to evaluate. Nassib is still highly regarded as the “QB of the future”, but if Manning is re-signed, Nassib may look elsewhere after 2016.

Running Backs

RB: Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Peyton Hillis, Orleans Darkwa, Chris Ogbonnaya (UFA)
FB: Henry Hynoski (UFA), Nikita Whitlock

The entire relevant set of running backs is under contract for 2015. However, neither starter Rashad Jennings nor backup Andre Williams was very effective in the running game. Was it the backs or the line? Well, both. According to PFF, all the Giants RB’s were average-to-below in all areas of the game. Since Williams is still learning, adding a new guy would be overkill. However, since the 2015 roster will have Williams and Jennings with Darkwa and Michael Cox providing depth, the Giants should cut the low upside of Peyton Hillis and gain almost $1 mil in cap space.

Fullback Hynoski is a UFA, the team should re-sign him. He’s a good blocker, even if he doesn’t provide much with the ball in his hands. Sign him with Hillis’s money and the cap is unaffected.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

WR: Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr., Rueben Randle, Preston Parker, Jerrel Jernigan (UFA)
TE: Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells (UFA), Adrien Robinson, Jerome Cunningham

Since the beginning of 2012, Victor Cruz has been average. With the exception of the occasional long TD, he doesn’t get a lot of yards after the catch, doesn’t tally a crazy amount of receptions, and doesn’t really scare opposing defenses. All that and more for the low, low price of $8.1 mil in 2015, not to mention the three years left on his deal. However, his salsa dance has already been forgotten in favor of the phenomenon that is Odell Beckham, Jr. OBJ was rated the #4 WR in the NFL as a rookie, and he missed the first four games due to injury. He’s a rare 1st round receiver in that he has paid immediate dividends.

Rueben Randle was also effective in the passing game, proving he can be a good #3 WR and even cover for the one of the starters in case of injury. The Giants may extend him if he can show some consistency. Parker and Jernigan were both below average, and since the Giants have a lot of depth, it is not necessary to re-sign Jernigan nor add any wideouts this offseason.

Tight end Larry Donnell was a fantasy darling in 2014, although his run blocking graded out terribly. He will be tendered as an ERFA and should return. Daniel Fells was also somewhat useful in the passing game, but was a lot better than Donnell as a blocker. He should be re-signed to pair with Donnell. Third-stringer Robinson’s abilities are similar to Fells, so this position seems set.

Offensive Line

L to R: Will Beatty, Weston Richburg, J.D. Walton, John Jerry (UFA), Justin Pugh
Top Backups: G Geoff Schwartz, G Adam Snyder (UFA), T James Brewer (UFA), C Dallas Reynolds (RFA)

The Giants’ offensive line is like using a set of gold-plated bookends to organize a set of Twilight novels. Tackles Beatty and Pugh were above average pass blockers, and Beatty was decent against the run, as well. However, the middle of the line had problems. Guards Richburg and Jerry were both in the bottom 10% of the NFL with regard to run blocking, and they were average at best in the passing game. Center J.D. Walton ranked 38th of 41 at his position, consistently falling short in both pass and run blocking. It was suggested that he was a positive free agent signing last offseason, but he had a spectacularly miserable 2011 before a serious injury in 2012.

The interior line is a great spot for the Giants to start adding some talent. John Jerry can easily be replaced by Geoff Schwartz, who had a decent season as a backup. Drafting a guard is a high priority because Walton should be shown the door. If they were to cut him, they could save $3 mil and move Richburg to center. Perhaps he would fare better with the experience and a position change.

Backup Adam Snyder, who had an average year with limited snaps, could be re-signed as insurance in case the newly drafted guard can’t start immediately. James Brewer can also be re-signed for depth, and backup center Dallas Reynolds can be given a low tender. This will be cap neutral if Walton is cut, because saving $3 mil would be enough to sign all three of the backups.

Defense

Defensive Line

DE: Jason Pierre-Paul (UFA), Robert Ayers, Mathias Kiwanuka, Damontre Moore, Kerry Wynn
DT: Johnathan Hankins, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson (UFA), Markus Kuhn, Jay Bromley

Jason Pierre-Paul caught a lot of flak last offseason after his 2013 campaign, in which he registered 2 sacks. He spent the last year of his contract chalking up 13 sacks and proving that he is worth re-signing. The Giants have a history of failing to do that, and there’s another caveat. JPP’s production this year was similar to Mario Williams and Robert Quinn, who each make $14-$16 mil annually. That’s the entire cap space, so that can’t happen. I expect the team will move on, but we can revisit at the end when we address other positions of need.

Ayers ranked #5 overall as a 4-3 DE, which is impressive, considering his part-time status. If JPP is indeed out the door, Ayers should be able to step right in. The other side will be manned by Kiwanuka and Moore. Kiwanuka got 2 sacks in 313 pass rush snaps, while Moore got 6 sacks in less snaps. Since they’re both an equal liability against the run, the team should start Moore. If Kiwanuka is not good enough to start for a $7.5 mil cap charge, they should cut him to save $4.8 mil.

2013 2nd round pick Johnathan Hankins ranked #7 at DT in 2014; he is equally excellent stuffing the run and rushing the passer. Since Cullen Jenkins is good enough to hold the other starting spot and Mike Patterson was terrible, Patterson should not be re-signed. The only DT who was worse than Patterson was backup Markus Kuhn, so it would be a good idea to build some depth via the draft.

Linebackers

ILB: Jon Beason, Jameel McClain, Terrell Manning, Uani’ Unga
OLB: Jacquian Williams (UFA), Mark Herzlich (UFA), Spencer Paysinger (UFA), Devon Kennard

Due to the injury to Beason, a lot of shuffling took place. McClain moved to the inside and six different linebackers played meaningful snaps. Unfortunately, half of those players are now free agents. None of them are stars, but there are some with potential. Kennard graded out the best, as he was fairly good at everything. Herzlich and Williams can play the run, but were poor in coverage. McClain got 3 sacks, but didn’t do well against the run or in coverage. Beason has had success in coverage, but hasn’t played much for a few years.

Beason is currently the best (and most expensive) option at MLB, with Herzlich on the strong side and Kennard on the weak side. McClain has had consecutive poor seasons, and the Giants could save $3.1 mil by cutting him. His flexibility between OLB and MLB is the only thing that may save him. If they were to cut McClain, they can use that to sign two of the OLB FA’s, Herzlich and Williams.

Defensive Backs

CB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara, Zack Bowman (UFA), Chykie Brown (UFA), Trumaine McBride, Mike Harris (RFA), Walter Thurmond (UFA)
S: Antrel Rolle (UFA), Quintin Demps (UFA), Stevie Brown (UFA), Nat Berhe, Cooper Taylor

It’s both coincidental and fortunate that the Giants’ three top corners according to PFF are the ones without “UFA” next to their names. DRC and Amukamara led the charge as above average in pass coverage, with Trumaine McBride also grading slightly above average. RFA Mike Harris ranked #4 on the team, and he can be inexpensively extended. Walter Thurmond would also be worth re-signing after spending 2014 on IR. With the eight CB’s under contract plus Harris, Thurmond, and ERFA Chandler Fenner, the other free agents are not needed.

The opposite is true at safety. Three safeties played over 500 snaps in 2014, and they’re all free agents. Rolle had a $9.2 cap charge for 2014, with Brown and Demps combining for $3.8 more. Rolle had a poor year after a decent 2013; go back further, and he’s all over the place. This inconsistency is not worth what it will cost to keep him. However, Stevie Brown is fairly consistent – his upside is just not as high. They should sign Brown to start opposite 2014 5th round pick Nat Berhe. Demps is a below average player and need not be re-signed. Brown may not be a long-term answer, so they should look to improve this position.

Special Teams

Kicker Josh Brown had a fairly decent year, making 21-23 field goals, including 4-4 from 50+. His kickoffs aren’t very deep, and he may not hold that job forever. Punter Steve Weatherford is just average, probably as a result of not getting much hang time, which causes extra return yardage. Long snapper Zak DeOssie graded poorly at his position and has one more year left on his contract.

Initial cap space: $16.5 millionadd in $825K of cap space from Cullen Jenkins restructure (2/15).

Re-sign: Hynoski ($745K), Donnell ($585K), Fells ($870K), Reynolds ($1.3 mil tender), Snyder ($970K), Brewer ($850K), Patterson ($970K), Pierre-Paul (franchise for $11.2 mil), Herzlich ($1.7 mil), J. Williams ($1.5 mil), Harris ($1.3 mil tender), Thurmond ($3.5 mil), Fenner ($585K), S. Brown ($3 mil) – with a net $3.6 million needed to sign draftees, these are projected to cause a cap deficit of approximately $11.1 million.

Let walk: Ogbonnaya, Jernigan, Ogletree, Jerry, C. Brown, Bowman, Rolle, Demps

Best cap cuts to clear up room: Manning extension ($5 mil), Kiwanuka ($4.8 mil), Walton ($3 mil), McClain ($3.1 mil), Hillis ($945K)

Biggest Team Needs: MLB, S, G, DT

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Other team analysis reports and depth charts can be found in the archive.