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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
John Fennelly

7 questions facing the Giants this offseason

The New York Giants just completed a successful 9-7-1 season which saw them qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Their progress under first-year head coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen can be seen as ahead of schedule but that doesn’t mean they are about to rest on their achievements. There’s still plenty of work to be done.

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Here are seven questions facing the Giants this offseason.

The Daniel Jones situation

Schoen told us this week that the Giants are very much interested in bringing back the four-year veteran who showed marked improvement this season.

“We’re happy Daniel’s going to be here,” Schoen said. “We’re happy he’s going to be here. Hopefully, we can get something done with his representatives. That would be the goal — to build a team around him where he can lead us to win a Super Bowl.”

The Giants don’t want to use the franchise tag on Jones if they don’t have to. Teams can begin designating the tag on players beginning February 21 with a deadline of March 7.

The one-year franchise tag value for quarterbacks this year is projected to be approximately $32 million. That money is all guaranteed.

The Giants will do their best to avoid that scenario and attempt to ink Jones to a long-term deal with a much lower annual cap hit.

Will Saquon Barkley be back?

The Giants would love to have Barkley back, but in listening to Schoen this week at his presser, the price has to be right.

“We had productive conversations,” Schoen said of his dealing with Barkley’s reps, which took place in November. “We were off on the value. We said we would circle back up at the end of the season and continue those conversations, but at that time of year, we weren’t really that close.”

Barkley turns 26 in February and still has plenty of gas in the tank, but a rebuilding team such as the Giants might see paying up for a running back as a luxury.

The trend in the NFL right now is the ‘backfield by committee’ approach. Scheon and Daboll employed that most recently during their time in Buffalo.

Barkley’s Pro Bowl status and popularity with the fans could change their thinking, however.

The other free agents

The Giants have a slew of players scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency in March, many of whom were inked to one-year deals last year.

You already know about Jones and Barkley but there are others who the Giants will seek to retain. One player is veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who Schoen called “one of my favorite players.”

Shepard was on the books for $10.2 million this year and blew out his ACL early in the season. That was on the heels (no pun intended) of a devastating Achilles injury last season. They can bring him back a team-friendly deal to help augment their receiver room.

Nick Gates made it all the way back from that near career-ending leg fracture two seasons ago and his story is inspiring. That may not be enough to tilt the scales in his favor. The Giants need a natural center. Jon Feliciano is also a free agent. He could be in trouble, too.

The two players to keep an eye on are safety Julian Love, who led the team in tackles this season, and wide receiver Darius Slayton, a favorite target of Jones.

“He’s a guy — I know he mentioned it yesterday — that we talked to in the bye week. And we weren’t able to get something done with Julian,” said Schoen.

“Julian knows how we feel about him. We had a good exit interview with him yesterday. Again, as we start to get into the offseason planning, we’ll talk to the coaches. We’ll see where he fits in. And if we can get something done, that’ll be good.”

The coaching staff

It has been well documented that two of the Giants’ top assistant coaches — offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale — are interviewing for head coaching gigs around the league.

The Giants made significant progress under both men in the one year they were here. Losing one, or both, would be a major blow to the continuity of their rebuilding process.

That’s the price of success these days. Martindale has only interviewed for the Indianapolis Colts job, which could be filled by Jeff Saturday, who is the interim coach there.

Kafka’s market is a bit warmer with Houston, Indianapolis, and Carolina showing interest.

The market may not shake out until after the Super Bowl as many of the candidates are still concentrating on their duties in the conference championship games.

The Giants will have to have a succession plan in place should either coach — or other assistants — get poached away this offseason. More to come.

The offensive line

The Giants began the year with just one position — left tackle — spoken for. That was aptly filled by Andrew Thomas, who responded with an All-Pro season. The other positions are still in flux.

Heading into this season, they have to be thinking about another upgrade. They need a center as Jon Feliciano and Nick Gates are serviceable but are not centers by trade.

The interior line was a revolving door. Mark Glowinski showed some consistency at guard but injuries to Shane Lemieux and rookies Joshua Ezeudu and Marcus McKethan made for an unsettling situation. The team turned to Ben Bredeson for relief and he played well at times. But the Giants will look to tweak it here.

The Giants used the seventh overall selection in the draft on Alabama tackle Evan Neal. The Giants penciled in Neal at right tackle and hoped his natural ability would carry him.

It didn’t go well at times. Neal’s pass protection needs a load of work. He is susceptible to the speed rush and that has to be concerning to the Giants. He can, however, run block and pancake people with his massive frame. It remains to be seen what the next step is with Neal if he can’t improve in protecting the passer.

Increasing the arsenal

The Giants scored over 30 points in a game this year just once and that came late in the year against the sorry Indianapolis Colts. They need to figure out how to put more points up on the scoreboard.

To be fair, they had a score of injuries to key players (again), losing wide receivers Sterling Shepard and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson to season-ending knee injures hurt, as well as missing tight end Daniel Bellinger (eye) for several games.

They got some relief in free agents Richie James Jr. and Isaiah Hodgins and a bounce-back year from Darius Slayton. It was a nice story but they will need more going forward to compete with the Philadelphias and San Franciscos of the world.

Then there’s Kenny Golladay, who has completely vanished on the field. His cap hit is over $21 million again this year but his dead cap figure is lower ($14.7 million). They might have to bite the bullet here.

Wide receiver and tight end are surely on the Giants’ wish list this offseason and the draft is the likely place they will look.

Linebackers needed

Inside linebacker is a glaring need for the Giants. It showed in their games against the Eagles, who ran roughshod over them twice.

The Giants’ current depth chart at inside linebacker is as follows: Jarrad Davis, Micah McFadden, Carter Coughlin, and Darrian Beavers.

Schoen mentioned the rookie Beavers, who blew out his knee in preseason last summer, as a player they are high on. They may be counting on him to compete for the job.

Davis, a former first-round pick for Detroit, showed some ability but he’s headed to free agency. The rookie, McFadden, had some plus moments and Coughlin is basically a special teamer.

The Giants were also rotating in Landon Collins and Jaylon Smith in certain alignments.

The bottom line is, they need both a banger/run stopper/off-ball linebacker badly. Maybe two.

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