Giants coach Joe Judge insisted he has players in the final year of their contracts who come to his office “every day, begging to come back” next season. And who knows, with 22 players on the roster scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in March, maybe there are a few?
If it is, though, those players are in for a rude awakening because the Giants won’t have much salary cap room this offseason, and most of those players aren’t worth using it on, even if they did. Much more likely, those players know that the Giants’ meaningless finale on Sunday against Washington will be their last game in a Giants uniform.
Here’s a look at some of the bigger and more familiar names heading towards free agency, and whether there’s a chance for any of them to return:
TE Evan Engram
He’s never been reliable, and fans don’t love him, but he’s been a pretty good receiving tight end on some awful offensive teams. He was also a Pro Bowler last year. Laugh if you want, but that’s a good indication of how he’s regarded around the league. He won’t be the most desired TE on the market, he might rank sixth, but don’t be shocked if someone gives him $8 million per season. And that won’t be the Giants.
The torn ACL he suffered in October complicates his future. The Giants seem to love him, but likely wouldn’t have been able to afford him given how much safeties are getting on the market. Now the 26-year-old has to know his best bet is a one-year deal to prove he’s healthy so he can try to cash in next year. The Giants might offer his best shot to do that.
The Giants might revamp their entire offensive line other than LT Andrew Thomas, if they can. Letting Hernandez go is a lock. The 2018 second-round pick, who lost his job halfway through last season before returning to the starting lineup this year, has been a big disappointment following a promising rookie year.
RT Nate Solder
Great guy, but never played up to the four-year, $62 million deal he signed in 2018. He’ll end up getting about $41 million of that and it all feels wasted. He’s gone, and at 33 he might be done.
He looked like he was starting to put it all together before he tore his Achilles early last season. Now, after a very slow start to this season, the former third-rounder (2018) is starting to play well again. But it’s too little too late, unless he wants to return for a really small, one-year deal to be a rotational player next season.
If the, um, price is right he could be brought back for depth, if only because the Giants just don’t have a lot of money to bring in a ton of new linemen. But he can’t be the starting center next season. That’s got to be a healthy Nick Gates or someone selected in the draft.
FB Eli Penny
He’s a good special teamer, a decent fullback and has OK receiving skills. He hardly plays on offense, though. Still, he’s worth bringing back on a minimum salary deal.
WR John Ross
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman forgot his old saying that “Hurt guys get hurt” before he threw $2.25 million at the speedy, but always hurt Ross, who has 11 catches in 12 games. No reason to throw more money at him.
QB Mike Glennon
Seriously? No. They have to have a better backup behind a starting QB who gets hurt a lot and who is on his own hot seat for next season.
G Matt Skura
He filled in admirably, if not well, when he arrived in September after injuries and retirements crushed the Giants’ line depth. He’s another decent depth option, considering the Giants can’t afford much else. But no reason to go above the minimum.
LB Jaylon Smith
Signed three weeks ago, quickly took a linebacker spot from Reggie Ragland, and … he hasn’t been terrible. He’s only 26 and trying to get his career back to where it was when he got a five-year, $63 million contract from the Cowboys less than three years ago. Maybe there’ll be a better opportunity somewhere, but if he’s OK with a “prove it” deal, he’d be part of a nice rotation with Tae Crowder and a healthy Blake Martinez next season.
DT Danny Shelton
The Giants thought they had something when they brought in this former first-round pick (and former Patriot). But they got nothing. And they won’t pay for more of that.