Ranking the Giants’ top 10 pending free agents by importance
The New York Giants face a pivotal offseason with many difficult decisions to be made as they attempt to build on their 2022 success.
General manager Joe Schoen will have his hands full as he attempts to stretch the $44 million worth of available cap space to cover all of his roster needs.
Schoen will start by attempting to retain his own impending free agents. Here is a list of the Giants’ top 10 unrestricted free agents and what the team may do with them.
Note: Players are ranked from most important on down.
1. Quarterback Daniel Jones
The re-signing of Daniel Jones is perhaps one of the most debated roster decisions in all of football right now. The Giants want him back and he wants to come back, but the usual roadblocks — mainly money — stand in the way.
Jones is rumored to be asking for $45 million per season. The Giants likely have a lower figure in mind. If push comes to shove, they’ll start by slapping the franchise tag on him, which is worth $32.4 million for this season.
From there, they can work on a longer-term deal with Jones and hopefully bring him into the fold at a reasonable number.
2. Running back Saquon Barkley
Another player who wants to remain in blue. The Giants and their fans want Saquon Barkley back but again, only at a price that makes sense.
Barkley can command anywhere from $10-14 million per annum on the open market. That’s too rich for the Giants’ blood, especially if the Jones negotiations don’t go their way.
Looking at the positional value of running backs these days, it’s tough to justify giving Barkley a monster second contract given his injury history and the fact that the running back-by-committee approach has been successful throughout the league.
3. Safety Julian Love
Julian Love has improved with each season and is now one of the Giants’ top defensive players. He led the team in total tackles last season (by a lot) and his versatility will be difficult to replace.
But Love is likely to command anywhere from $8-10 million per year. The franchise tag is out of the question as that would cost $14 million.
The Giants have intimated that Love is a priority but, as stated, there’s only so much money to go around.
4. Center Jon Feliciano
Jon Feliciano was signed as a one-year stopgap to help acclimate the team to Brian Daboll’s offense. That year is over, however.
Centers are hard to come by in this league and unless the Giants find a starter in the draft or another option in free agency, Feliciano could be back. And probably should be back.
5. Punter Jamie Gillan
Jamie Gillan’s ability is not in question. His performance in 2022 was not his best, however.
Much of that can be blamed on the revolving door of players the Giants used last season which diminished the quality and continuity of special teams.
We figure he’ll be back this year unless another team blows him away with a big contract.
6. Wide receiver Darius Slayton
Darius Slayton likely isn’t high on the Giants’ list right now and Richie James — who is not on this list — could be a higher priority this offseason depending on the numbers.
Slayton is one of Jones’ favorite targets and the Giants could bring him back on a cheap deal as their receiver ranks are still among the worst in the NFL.
7. Offensive lineman Nick Gates
Nick Gates made a miraculous comeback from a serious leg injury last year and his story is compelling.
But is he an answer to the Giants’ interior lineman issues? Many think this will be determined by Gates’ market. It’s possible he gets a few offers this spring.
If that’s the case, the Giants might re-sign him to a market-friendly deal. But don’t forget, the Giants have a slew of young linemen they are high on such as 2022 drafts Joshua Ezeudu and Marcus McKethan.
8. Long snapper Casey Kreiter
This is a huge position on an NFL roster and it helps to get it right.
Casey Kreiter is a top long-snapper and the Giants, unless they have another player in mind, are likely to keep him in the fold.
9. Running back Matt Breida
It would be nice for the Giants to be able to fit Barkley back into their plans, but it takes a village for teams to have a solid running game.
The Giants were fourth in the NFL in yards per attempt at 4.9, but a lot of that can be attributed to Daniel Jones’ efforts.
The Giants will be needing running backs no matter how this offseason shakes out and Matt Breida is a reliable, versatile back to have.
10. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard
Sterling Shepard and has suffered some serious leg injuries over the past few years and it’s hard for a team to plunk down a ton of resources on him right now.
Schoen said that Shepard is one of his favorite players, which could mean the Giants are willing to keep rolling with Shepard regardless of his injury history.
When healthy, Shepard is the Giants’ best route runners and a favorite target of Jones.