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Simply put, the Giants’ offense was one of the worst in the NFL in 2020. Ranking 31st in yards per game and points per game is never what a team wants to see on the stat sheet after 16 games.
It’s why GM Dave Gettleman was asked bluntly during his end-of-season presser what he would be doing to fix the unit. The talent pool on offense just didn’t stack up with the rest of the league, and it was quite clear each game. Of course, Saquon Barkley out since Week 2 of the season contributed to that. But more factors came into play as well.
Scoring 17.5 points per game on offense just isn’t going to cut it.
So Gettleman answered by saying he recognized more playmakers needed to join the offense and that group needed to pick up play if the development of this rebuilding team were to continue trending in the right direction.
But how exactly should he go about improving his roster on that side of the ball for next season? Well, let’s make a roadmap, one Gettleman could follow to see a clear, improved path for the offense in 2021:
Step 1: Evaluate Jason Garrett
When Garrett was announced as Joe Judge’s offensive coordinator following his departure from the Dallas Cowboys as head coach, many were intrigued to see him back in the OC role. He could focus primarily on the offense, in particular the development of Daniel Jones in his second year. Being a former quarterback and someone the Giants respected during his playing days with New York, Garrett was a safe choice.
Was he too safe?
The reason the Giants couldn’t score points is because they just weren’t getting downfield. Of Jones’ 413 pass attempts last season, 289 of them were 10 yards or less, per Pro Football Focus. That’s 70 percent. For some comparison, Bills QB Josh Allen and Texans QB Deshaun Watson were at 61 and 59 percent respectively, and were two of the best quarterbacks in the league this year.
If the Giants haven’t moved on from Garrett already, it’s hard to see them doing it now. But Gettleman, or anyone for that matter, needs to sit down with Garrett to see how this offense can be more creative instead of dinking and dunking the ball two of the three downs before needing to punt. Whatever formula is in place now…just isn’t it.
Step 2: Cut Nate Solder and Golden Tate
Gettleman needs to clear up some cap room if he wishes to have an active free agency and land a top dog for Jones to throw to. To do so, some necessary cuts need to be made.
Solder’s contract that he signed back in 2018 is a behemoth, and one that Gettleman might even regret because he made him the highest-paid offensive tackle in the game and the production wasn’t always worth it. The veteran sat out for COVID-19 related reasons this season but is a $16.5 million cap hit this season and $18 million in 2022. A pre-June 1 cut would leave $10.5 million in dead cap, but a post-June 1 cut would be $6.5 million. So, if the latter is the play, it saves $10 million. The former? $6.5 million.
As for Tate, the veteran has reliable hands and good route-running skill that has been on display the past two seasons. But at $10.852 million this season on the cap, it’s not worth it when other options are out there. There’s also the younger, cheaper options like Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard that can produce the same amount as Tate. The Giants could save either $6.15 million or $8.5 million depending on the cut designation.
There are others like Levine Toilolo who can also be cut to add more room.
Step 3: Restructure Kevin Zeitler’s contract
PFF had Zeitler has the highest-graded Giants offensive lineman in pass blocking at 68.7, so keeping him on board would be a given. However, his $14.5 million cap hit in the final year of his deal with the team isn’t a good one.
But what if the Giants give him an extension, which in turn would bring that cap number down for this year?
There’s the option of outright cutting Zeitler if the Giants believe in the youngsters Will Hernandez and Shane Lemiuex. But Zeitler is a veteran presence that the line could use for at least a couple more years. Keeping him on board while saving money in the process is a win-win.
Step 4: Sign Chris Godwin or Kenny Golladay
First, let’s get out of the way that Gettleman should be making a re-sign of Leonard Williams a priority after the monster season he had. Depends on what kind of money he’s asking for, but it’s most likely at the top of the list since they traded for him two seasons ago.
After that, Gettleman could be looking into the elite section of wide receivers, and there are plenty. Allen Robinson is on that list, and though he’d be a perfect fit for Big Blue, he’s been very publicly liking tweets about the Jets – another team with expected ample cap space.
Godwin or Golladay will be more than fine, too. Godwin is heading to Super Bowl LV with the Buccaneers, but Tampa Bay has a bunch of options to work with Tom Brady, so he may look around for better placements where he’s the No. 1 guy. After playing with the lowly Detroit Lions, Golladay is almost definitely finding his bag elsewhere after extension talks with the Lions didn’t work out.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is another name to watch in this market, but these two receivers would give an established top wideout to the offense that Jones will love when he drops back.
Step 5: Draft Florida TE Kyle Pitts
Hear me out with this one.
Evan Engram has a lot to prove on his fifth-year option this season. Yes, he made the Pro Bowl and was a leader in receptions among tight ends this year. But he knows his play was too inconsistent, especially when it came to critical drops that led to killed drives or even turnovers.
Pitts, on the other hand, is the top tight end in this 2021 NFL Draft class and some think it’s not even close. He’s extremely athletic and his pass-catching skills mixes him with a wide receiver, too. Sounds familiar?
A creative OC would recognize that Pitts and Engram could be a dual-threat nightmare for defenses with their athleticism, speed and playmaking abilities. And if the Giants don’t like what they see in Engram – or he’s asking for too much money when extension talks begin – they have Pitts to fall back on at his rookie price.
So picture this: Godwin or Golladay, Slayton and Shepard on the outside, Pitts and Engram roaming wherever they may be at tight end, and a hopefully healthy Barkley in the backfield. As long as they’re deployed properly and the scheme is one that keeps defense on their toes – the biggest key of them all -- this offense would be greatly improved next season.