Should the Giants investigate upgrading the OL via trade?
With what we’ve seen through two pre-season games, it wouldn’t hurt to window shop.
The Giants made zero upgrades to their already dismal offensive line this past summer. With few good or affordable free agents available, Jerry Reese decided to gamble on the addition of two key tight ends and the individual improvement of his bookend tackles instead. Through two pre-season games, the Giants offense looks slightly different (less 11-personnel sets), but the offensive line looks just as bad as last year. Ereck Flowers, while looking slightly better, is still getting destroyed by speed rushers around the edge and has gotten away with numerous holding calls. The right side of the line with Hart and Jerry look like they haven’t improved, which is incredibly worrisome considering the edge rushers they’ll be facing this season ( Graham x2, Kerrigan x2, Miller, Bosa, Houston, Mack, Aaron Lynch).
Above all, I don’t think anybody could have seen the continued regression of Weston Richburg. Through two pre-season games, he earned a PFF grade of 68.3 (59.5 grade against PIT, 71.4 grade against CLE), ranking 16th among all centers this pre-season.
So, what are the Giants to do? Do they go into the 2017 season as is, risk getting their franchise QB killed, and pray that their quick hitting WCO can get the ball out fast enough? Or does Jerry Reese sack up and finally address the weak link he’s failed to address for the last two seasons? Let’s take a look at some potential trade targets.
Giants get: Joe Staley
49ers get: A future fifth-round pick
Although a lot of things have turned sour in San Francisco since Jim Harbaugh left town, left tackle Joe Staley’s ability has mostly remained in tact.
To be fair, Joe Staley’s time as an elite-level left tackle is over. In fact, the most memorable thing he’s done since the Niners were legitimate contenders was get posterized by DeMarcus Ware’s now-famous fake spin move.
However, while Staley may not be the best tackle anymore, he would still be a massive upgrade for the Giants. In 2016, Pro Football Focus gave Staley a grade of 81.1. That’s not tremendous, but to put Staley’s score into perspective, it’s important to remember PFF gave Ereck Flowers a grade of 50.2.
While Flowers struggles with his footwork, Staley is still above-average. The former college tight end remains an athletically gifted tackle, possessing the tools to keep speed rushers at bay. His footwork is fluid, and he’s a fundamentally sound tackle. This below GIF is a good example of Staley’s ability. Against Seattle’s Cliff Avril, he’s able to get his hands on Avril before the edge rusher can get his hands on Staley. That allows Staley to neutralize the potential pressure.
A caveat with Staley is his age. He’ll be 33 at the end of August, which means he isn’t a long-term solution, and I get why people would be upset with the Giants trading a future draft pick for him. However, very, very seldom do teams acquire a franchise left tackle via trade. The obvious reason for that is because teams don’t let that kind of player go too often.
Staley would also be an immense improvement in the run game. PFF gave Staley a run-blocking grade of 82.5. His athleticism helps him make an impact when he pulls, and he has enough leg speed to get out and make a difference in screen plays. That’s a very valuable weapon for an offense to have, albeit a severely underrated one.
While no longer a premiere left tackle, Staley has been consistent throughout his entire career, more or less. If the Giants were to trade for him and throw him at left tackle, they’d be able to rest easy knowing he wouldn’t be a liability.
Honestly, the Giants could even throw Staley at right tackle if they wanted to. New York faces a plethora of elite rushers from the right side this year, so maybe having Staley over there would make more sense.
The Giants trading for Staley would further solidify the idea that they’re in win-now mode. As a one or two-year lease when the Giants are clearly in win-now mode, adding Staley for a late-round pick would be worth it.
What makes Albert appealing is that the Giants would only have to give up money to acquire him. While Albert would be an improvement for the Giants, it’s tough to imagine he would be a huge one.
Last year, Albert finished with a PFF grade of 49. That’s really, really bad. How bad exactly? It was worse than the grade Ereck Flowers received. To be honest, watching Albert’s tape from 2016 has a lot of Flowers-esque plays.
Albert disappointing shouldn’t necessarily register as a shock, though. Remember, Albert wasn’t necessarily guaranteed a starting spot on the Jaguars’ offensive line. He was battling with rookie Cam Robinson, before he abruptly stepped away from the game.
Of course, Albert’s retirement didn’t last long. He tried to un-retire, before being released by the Jaguars. A player un-retiring isn’t shocking. But according to ESPN, Albert decided to un-retire when he realized he would owe the team money if he stayed at home.
Albert is at least somewhat appealing because he does have enough versatility to slide inside and play guard. That’s good for any team, but especially one with an offensive line in as much flux as the Giants. Albert was predominantly a guard in college, so he has the experience to will in there.
Like the aforementioned Staley, age is an issue with Albert. He’s going to be 33 by mid-November, so he’s not going to be a stalwart either. Health is also an issue with Albert. Whereas Staley has only missed three games since 2011, Albert’s missed 20. Even worse, Albert hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2011.
I don’t know about Albert. The fact that he can’t stay healthy, paired with his apparent apathy about putting on pads this year isn’t encouraging. Consider him the anti-Staley. With Stanley, you know you’re getting a solid player who can do a lot, and is a leader to boot. With Albert, you’re not even sure if he’s going to be fully committed.
He did make the Pro Bowl in 2015. But he’s no longer that caliber of player, because if he was, why would the Dolphins trade him for a seventh-round pick?
If the Giants determine their only viable option is Albert, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them opt to roll with what they have. Signing Albert would more perpetuate the line’s issues than solve them.
Giants get: Joe Thomas
Browns get: A future second-round pick
Things have been incredibly bleak for Joe Thomas in Cleveland: the man is loyal to a huge fault. Thomas has been with the organization since they selected him third overall in 2007, and since then has blocked for 18 different quarterbacks. Joe Thomas is also one of five players in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons.
They say best ability is availability, but Joe Thomas takes that to the next level, throwing in some reliability: of all active players, he has the fourth longest start streak with 160 games at OT. So not only has Thomas played at an elite level for his entire career, well, he has played his entire career.
At 32, Joe Thomas is still an elite tackle in the NFL. If the Giants were to somehow acquire him, combined with Justin Pugh, the Giants would have one of the best blind duos in the league. Hey, I guess if Ereck Flowers moves to the right side to face murderer’s row, at least Eli will see the pressure coming.
In 2016, Thomas posted an overall PFF grade of 88.5, good for the 6th best tackle grade. Compare that to Flowers’ grade of 50.2 and you can immediately see the upgrade.
The biggest question remaining is whether or not the Browns would be willing to even move Thomas. Chances are, they aren’t. It was just reported that DeShone Kizer will start the Browns third pre-season game and that the Browns are looking at all options when it comes to Osweiler — even a trade. They’ll want a LT as good as Thomas to protect their future QBs blind side, especially as they rebuild. If they are willing to part with Thomas for a second round pick, Jerry Reese should be quick to pull the trigger.
Giants get: Richie Incognito
Bills get: A future fourth-round pick
If you throw out your perception of Richie Incognito from the Jonathan Martin saga and look purely at football ability, you’ll realize that Richie Incognito is one of the league’s elite guards. Tackles aren’t the only thing the Giants need, they also need a competent guard to improve the Giants currently dismal run game.
In 2016, Incognito posted an 86.6 grade at the LG position, good for sixth best among all guards in the NFL. The best part? The Bills are having a fire sale!
The Bills got rid of Sammy Watkins and have been rumored to be shopping elite runningback LeSean McCoy. If the Bills can collect some draft picks in a deal for Incognito, why wouldn’t they?
What does Incognito bring to the Giants? Well, for one, versatility. Though Incognito plays LG, he can also play RG. Between Incognito and Pugh, the Giants would have two strong guards right up the middle to assist C Weston Richburg and improve the Giants run game. What if the Giants felt more comfortable playing Incognito at LG? Well, let’s go over some scenarios.
- LT (Pugh) — LG (Incognito) — C (Richburg) — RG (Jerry/Fluker) — RT (Flowers/Hart)
- LT (Flowers) — LG (Incognito) — C (Richburg) — RG (Jerry/Fluker) — RT (Pugh)
- LT (Pugh) — LG (Incognito) — C (Richburg) — RG (Flowers) — RT (Hart)
There are a lot of interesting scenarios here. The one I favor the most is scenario two: Pugh can kick out to RT where he’ll be better equipped to face the speed rushers that Flowers and Hart are unable to handle.
Giants get: Zach Fulton
Kansas City get: A future sixth-round pick
A name not many people are talking about is Zach Fulton. Fulton is the perfect, ‘Jack of all trades, master of none,’ candidate. As a backup on Kansas City, Fulton has played all over the line. He’s gotten live game action at RG and C, but through this pre-season has practiced all over the line.
While Fulton definitely isn’t as talented as some of the other options listed above, he’s still much younger (only 25) and has experience all over the line. With the incredible lack of talent across the Giants offensive line, I imagine Ben McAdoo will need to play around with a number of different formations the rest of the pre-season and even into the regular season. Having a guy who can do it all makes this much easier, and at least gives the Giants options.
If Fulton is available via trade, he likely won’t be expensive, and could very well be worth the investment of a late round pick.