EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants general manager Joe Schoen showed his cards for the first time when free agency opened last week. And he wasn’t kidding when it came to how the Giants were going to be built.
The Giants will try to lay their foundation through the NFL draft, as Schoen insisted they would do when he was hired in January. They are going to take their lumps this year (something he wasn’t quite as willing to admit publicly) as they get their finances in order and begin to reshape a roster arguably in the worst shape it has been in this century.
It’s not a flashy or sexy plan, but it’s the right thing to do — even if it’s likely to come with a lot of losses in 2022. In fact, it is four years late. This should have been the approach in 2018, except former GM Dave Gettleman and ownership had other nonsensical dreams.
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But at least it’s happening now, and Schoen noticed upon arrival that this type of rebuild is necessary if the Giants want to put together a contender, because right now their roster says they are one of the league’s worst teams.
Oddsmakers have the Giants tied with the fifth-longest odds to win the Super Bowl after the first week of free agency at +10,000, according to Caesars Sportsbook. It goes to show the perception of this organization and roster.
Sure, nobody likes to use the dreaded R-word (rebuild). Too bad. Calling this anything else is semantics.
Schoen and the Giants are basically starting from scratch, by design. They did very little this year at the top of free agency. Their biggest signings were a backup quarterback (Tyrod Taylor) and an offensive lineman (Mark Glowinski) the Indianapolis Colts contemplated benching last season. Not exactly the type of moves to get a team over the top, which is good, because this team needs to build from the bottom.
The Giants even cut useful defensive back Logan Ryan because they didn’t think he was a fit in the new program. That move barely even provided financial relief, with a cap savings of $775,000.
Top cornerback James Bradberry is a candidate to be traded because of an untenable $21.9 million cap hit. Another quality player soon to be gone. The Giants are so desperate to get something in return for the Pro Bowl cornerback they are willing to eat some of his $13.5 million salary in a trade, a league source told ESPN.
Clearly, building for the long term is Schoen’s priority. And it’s just as clear that this is the correct decision. Another draft pick would help for the future. It doesn’t mean that Schoen and the Giants don’t want to compete this year. They do. It’s just that their eyes are looking forward more than usual.
“I’m not a big tear it up, rebuild — I think you can truly build a roster when you can compete for today and build for tomorrow,” Schoen said upon his arrival. “We’re going to do the draft, free agency. Whatever avenue we can, we’re going to continue to build a competitive roster and we want to see progress.
“We’re going to continue to build with the long-term in mind as we build it.”
The Giants’ biggest moves this offseason will come from their nine draft picks, including two of the top seven selections and five in the top 100. They will be young and thin with Schoen shopping on the cheap, trying to fill holes with inexpensive moves.
Barely in the black with Bradberry still on the roster, the Giants signed Ricky Seals-Jones last week to a contract for the veteran minimum. He’s currently expected to be their starting tight end. They added veteran offensive lineman Jon Feliciano for one year at $3.25 million. He might be their starting center after spending most of his career at guard.
The exception to their frugal spending came at quarterback, where Schoen and coach Brian Daboll were intent on adding a veteran backup who had experience as a starter and could possibly push Daniel Jones. The Giants don’t want to be embarrassed again if things go wrong with Jones, who has missed games because of injury in each of his first three NFL seasons.
They made a run at Mitch Trubisky before guaranteeing Taylor $10.9 million for two years. It makes him a fairly compensated backup this season and, potentially, a cheap bridge for next year if they move on from Jones.
“It was just a great fit for me and where I was at in my career,” Taylor said.
It is hard to see this all going seamlessly this season. There will be growing pains. The Giants are going to lean on their draft class, and teams that expect so much from their rookies shouldn’t anticipate winning too many games.
But the real test will be next offseason, specifically how ownership reacts after another rough season. Co-owner John Mara has again preached patience and doing things the right way. But the frustration of losing always seems to kick in every few years.
The Giants are tied with the New York Jets for the worst record in the NFL over the past five years. They went 4-13 last season. How much better can this year possibly be with minimal additions and some big subtractions?
“I expect us to be a heck of a lot better than four wins next year,” Mara said last month after overhauling the organization and hiring Schoen to get them back on track. “But again, I haven’t given him any specific number that [Schoen] has to achieve. Get the right coach, build the right program and let’s see some progress at the end of the season.”