By Curt Macysyn
As the New York Giants (3-8) have shown in the past two weeks, they can be competitive with NFL playoff contenders like the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. The play might be improving, but fans of Big Blue must be tiring of the constant cliches about “playing hard” as the losses pile up. It is an undeniable fact that New York did not have the depth to compete this season, and the starters in several key positions for the G-men were simply not good enough.
Regardless of whether or not Head Coach Tom Coughlin stays or goes, the fact still remains that a roster upgrade at several positions remains critical, no matter who is calling the shots in 2015. so here are five fixes that could help the Giants see the post season next year.
1. Sign free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh
Clearly this will be a controversial move, but keep in mind that Suh’s transgressions have come between the white lines. The ugly truth for New York is that no one in the NFL fears their defense. In fact, most offenses probably savor the fact that they are going against a defense that is best described as milquetoast. Suh would become a dominant force in the interior of the New York Giants’ defense, and in addition, he would begin to recreate its identity, which has slowly eroded over the past three years. Players like Suh very rarely make it to free agency anymore, and this signing could be the equivalent to New Orleans signing Drew Brees in 2006.For a benchmark, look at Gerald McCoy’s contract with the Tamp Bay Buccaneers, but with more guarantees.
2. Draft a running back in the second round of the NFL draft
Long gone are the days where running backs ruled the roost in the NFL. In fact, we have not seen a first-round selection of a running back in the past two drafts, but second round picks Giovani Bernard, Le’Veon Bell, Montee Ball and Eddie Lacy are all NFL Starters who were selected in round two of the 2013 NFL draft. The Big Ten alone has four or five candidates to go in the second round of this draft, including Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin), Tevin Coleman (Indiana), David Cobb (Minnesota), Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska) and Jeremy Langford (Michigan State). If Marc Ross does not like Big 10 backs, then there are Duke Johnson (Miami), Samaje Perine (Oklahoma) or Cameron Artis-Payne (Auburn). This team desperately needs play-makers, so find a tailback, with speed, who will compliment the west coast offense.
3. Find the one player who can solidify the offensive line
This area represents the most delicate aspect of the rebuild because in almost every other area, the team should draft and sign players with an edge and have play-making ability. Using that standard alone, they cannot go wrong because this team lacks passion. Because of the Geoff Schwartz injury, we may not have a good enough sample size for evaluating the entire unit, but certainly some conclusions can be drawn. Despite what some folks write, Will Beatty is the least of the Giants’ problems, and may be one of the only moves that Jerry Reese has gotten right. Center J.D. Walton has attained a (-7.1) grade from Pro Football Focus, good for 28th in the league at center, which cries out for an upgrade. Given the lack of production, it would make sense for rookie Weston Richburg to compete for the starting center position next year. Signing an offensive tackle will cost a fortune, so hopefully the thigh injury has caused Justin Pugh’s decline in play. All things being equal, a good free agent target would be offensive guard Steve Schilling of the Seattle Seahawks, so he can man the left guard spot on the line. As a good salary benchmark, the team is paying Adam Snyder $3,000,000 this season, and he has been unable to finish a game. If they cannot acquire anyone in free agency, then New York may have to use its top ten pick on an offensive lineman, since they can no longer be bottom feeders stocking these positions.
4. Cut defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka and linebacker Jon Beason
Both players have been major disappointments for the Giants this season, but for different reasons. Kiwanuka has played poorly, with an awful (-18.3) grade from Pro Football Focus. Cutting the veteran defensive end from Boston College would save $5 million in salary cap room, and that move is an absolute no-brainer. There will be talk of retaining Beason, and how the defense played better with him in 2013, but that move is not worth it. New York needs to cut its losses and start anew at the linebacker position. In fact, the only linebackers that the team should retain are Jameel McClain and Devon Kennard. Designating Beason a post-June 1 cut saves the G-men $5 million in cap room, according to OverTheCap.com. The are several nice options at linebacker via free agency including: Dan Skuta (San Francisco), K.J. Wright (Seattle) and Pernell McPhee (Baltimore), all of whom could help Big Blue in 2015. If the Giants can sign a free agent offensive lineman at a reasonable price, then the first round draft pick can be spent on an impact linebacker or defensive end.
5. Extend Eli Manning;s contract by three years
Franchise quarterbacks are not a dime a dozen, and this Manning has two Super Bowl victories under his belt. Yes, he is the highest paid player on the Giants, but finding a replacement in the short and long term will be difficult at best, unless you are willing to take a chance on Jameis Winston. Manning still looks spry, and his arm does not show any signs of weakness, so he appears to have four to six years left in him. If the Giants extend Manning for three years, then the team will open up more valuable cap space so they can sign Ndamukong Suh and other key parts to the rebuild. If the team decides to let Manning have a 2015 “contract year”, the team only loses because a quarterbacks price tag always goes up and never goes down. Manning has shown that given time to throw and weapons to throw to, he still can be an effective passer.
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Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.