Steps to Rebuilding the Giants Offensive Line
Here are some ways Dave Gettleman can quickly make the New York Giants offensive line better
Another off-season, another dialogue about how the New York Giants must improve their offensive line in order to compete.
The unit wasn’t ridiculed as publicly this past year — mostly because the entire team was bad — so it looked like the offensive line was just fitting in. But now new general manager Dave Gettleman is here, as is new head coach Pat Shurmur. Both men share philosophies, including the belief that the line is paramount to a team’s success.
The new general manager and head coach have made all the right moves … so fargothamsn.com
They’re not wrong. After all, what good is having weapons at the receiver position when your quarterback doesn’t have enough time to deliver the football?
This off-season presents the duo with an opportunity to make good on their beliefs, as the Giants are in need of a complete overhaul. A one-year rebuild sounds crazy, but isn’t as impossible as you may think. Hell, Shurmur is leaving a situation in Minnesota in which the line was essentially rebuilt in one offseason.
It’s not impossible, but it’s not going to be easy. Here are some ways the Giants can rebuild their offensive line, and hopefully compete.
Make Smart Decisions On In-House Free Agents
Unfortunately, the Giants have two starting linemen set to hit the open market.
Both center Weston Richburg and guard/tackle Justin Pugh are going to be free agents, which is bad news for a Giants offensive line that struggled when both were healthy.
Richburg struggled as a rookie, before finding his footing at center in 2015. He was one of the better centers in the NFC that year, but regressed substantially in 2017.
Examining some of the players who may be on the New York Giants’ radar in free agencygothamsn.com
Pugh is the better player, especially when you consider his versatility. Because of that versatility, he’s going to want a lot of money. And as much sense as retaining a good player and better leader would make, the money may prevent the Giants from doing so. After all, Gettleman has a history of not wanting to re-sign veteran players to big contracts if he doesn’t think they’re worth being part of the team’s future plans.
D.J. Fluker, an afterthought with the Chargers, added some punch to the run game last year. He wasn’t exceptional, but the unit was noticeably more productive and meaner with him in the fold.
Brett Jones is also a free agent, but he’ll almost certainly be retained, as he falls under the restricted category.
The Giants really can’t afford to overpay Richburg or Pugh. The only way I think that would make sense is if there’s a growing sense that Andrew Norwell will return to Carolina. In that case, retaining Pugh would make sense. After all, if the Giants let Pugh walk with no other viable options hitting free agency, they’d be in even worse shape than they are now.
The bottom line is neither Richburg nor Pugh are elite players. Pugh is certainly better, but he’s struggled staying healthy and is eyeing a large pay day.
Prioritize the line in free agency
Last year the Giants entered free agency with major concerns surrounding the offensive line. The unit was the team’s obvious Achilles heel, and it doomed them for most of the season. The free-agent market had a variety of names the Giants could’ve inked to contracts. But instead of spending money on a Rick Wagner or Andrew Whitworth, then-general manager Jerry Reese signed Brandon Marshall.
That kind of philosophy should be extinct, especially with Gettleman’s love of linemen of girth. Going after other positions, despite how enticing a player may be, should take a backseat to grabbing linemen.
However, this year’s class isn’t exactly ripe with talent in the open market. Nate Solder is set to hit free agency, and he’s an average left tackle. Jack Mewhort is also a free agent to be, but he has some injury concerns.
The top option is going to be Carolina’s Andrew Norwell, whom Gettleman originally signed as an un-drafted free agent. He should absolutely be the free agent the Giants covet the most. Although people may be turned off to Norwell because of the price, which is fair.
After exorbitant recent deals for offensive guards have completely reset the market, it’s a given that Norwell will command a lot of money. But that’s literally all free agency is for the most part. B- players get A+ money, and that’s just the way things are.
Norwell, however, is an elite guard who’s coming off an All-Pro appearance. With Gettleman having a history of building his offensive lines from the inside-out, signing Norwell would make sense.
Draft Plan: Quality and Quantity
Remember what I said earlier about the Giants having a glaring weakness on the offensive line entering last offseason? Remember when I said Jerry Reese’s big free-agency move was signing a wide receiver?
Well, Reese waited until the very last round to select an offensive lineman — knowing it was the biggest weakness on the team. I don’t want to kill Reese too much for that decision, as it was an incredibly weak draft class for offensive linemen.
Thankfully for the Giants, this year’s class significantly outshines last year’s. That should allow the team to find quality players in the mid-to-late rounds. Looking at Gettleman’s draft history, it’s apparent that his preferred place to take an offensive lineman is in later rounds.
- 2013: Edmund Kugbila, fourth round
- 2014: Trai Turner, third round
- 2015: Daryl Williams, fourth round
- 2017: Taylor Moton, second round
New York’s strategy entering the draft should be much like their free-agency plan: prioritize the offensive line over positions that don’t need as much improvement. That means taking a talented tackle should come before taking a talented receiver.
I am not advocating for the Giants to use their first-round pick on an offensive lineman. However, I am saying it makes a whole lot of sense to use at least two picks to try to rebuild the line.
For the past two years, there’s been a smidgen of hope that the Giants may make a trade to acquire an offensive tackle — mainly Joe Thomas or Joe Staley. Alas, that wasn’t the case, as both years saw the aforementioned Reese fail to pull the trigger.
The not-so-well-kept secret is that good tackles are hard to come by, which is why they don’t often hit free agency. When a team has a good one, they’re likely not going to let them walk. Despite that, striking a deal is always a possibility. After all, everybody’s got a price.
Following the draft, the Giants should assess their current situation as it pertains to the offensive line. If Ereck Flowers is still penciled in as the week one starter, then something has gone wrong. In that case, Gettleman needs to be proactively seeking trades — even if that means surrendering future draft picks.
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At the time of this writing, it’s tough to tell who will be available via trade in the summer. But even if the names aren’t clear now, there’s no denying some team will be willing to make a trade.
The Giants should look south to Philadelphia for guidance. General manager Howie Roseman’s aggressive approach, which saw his team acquire Tim Jernigan and Jay Ajayi, worked wonders. The Eagles are a perfect example of how teams can use an aggressive approach to obtain key players.
An aggressive approach can pay off, and it’s what the Giants need to do if they enter the preseason without a substantial upgrade at the left tackle position.
Talk Giants with Ryan on Twitter: @ryandisdier