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

Sign or pass: What Giants should do with pending free agents

New York Giants general manager Joe Schoen is entering his second offseason with the club and after a roaring start, he’s ready to turn the Giants into perennial winners.

It won’t be easy. Like last year, Schoen will be faced with several difficult decisions when it comes to retaining players. It appears to be a foregone conclusion that quarterback Daniel Jones will be back but at what price is the only question.

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Schoen suggested the team will let the ’emotion’ of this season die down before making key decisions because it’s never a good idea to ‘shop hungry.’

That aside, here is a quick list of impending free agents the Giants will have to make decisions on.

Sign: Julian Love

Julian Love led the Giants in tackles this season and has improved every season he’s been in the league. He has become a top safety and the Giants have already had preliminary talks with Love’s reps.

“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,” Schoen revealed last week.

“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.”

Wait: Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton

Sterling Shepard hasn’t played a full season since 2018 but that hasn’t dulled Schoen’s opinion of him. At his season-ending presser, Schoen was gushing his praise for the veteran wideout to the point where it’s almost a slam dunk that he’s coming back.

That, of course, depends on how much the Giants are willing to pay him and if he is deemed physically able. The Giants are in need of receivers and leaders and Shepard checks both boxes.

But this signing should not be on the short list of necessities. It will be interesting to see what Shepard’s market is after two consecutive seasons lost to serious injuries.

Darius Slayton will have a market. He continues to have a high yards-per-reception average but has been inconsistent at times. He had a highly-visible drop in the playoffs that didn’t help his value but he’ll be in the NFL somewhere next year. It remains to be seen if that will be with the Giants.

Too expensive? Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley is part of the Giants’ identity and a fan favorite. No question the fans will be upset if the soon-to-be 26-year-old is not re-signed.

That is something Schoen has to weigh over the next six weeks. He was non-committal when talking about Barkley last week, only saying the limited salary cap space would dictate events.

Barkley will cost approximately $10-12 million per year but he currently wants more. Can the Giants afford that? Considering many of the top teams use the running back “by committee” approach, such as Buffalo — Schoen’s former employer — they simply might cite financial constraints in not re-signing Barkley.

The Giants have to consider what their offensive identity will be and if they want to continue being Saquon-centric. That could work if they score big at wide receiver and tight end in the draft this spring.

Tough calls: Nick Gates, Jon Feliciano

There’s no question how the Giants feel about Nick Gates, whose story should have won him Comeback Player of the Year this season. But, as Schoen said after the emotion dies down, is Gates a candidate to be re-signed?

We’ll see. He is a gamer and leader but was not brought in by this front office. Fans will want him back but, listening to Schoen, he likes his two draft picks (Joshua Ezeudu, Marcus McKethan) who ended the season on IR, and has Shane Lemieux and Mark Glowinski under contract.

Jon Feliciano was signed to a one-year deal to be a stopgap at center/guard. That year is over. If Schoen can’t upgrade, he could be back.

Easy calls: Richie James, Matt Brieda, Jamie Gillan, Casey Kreider, Fabian Moreau

Fabian Moreau should be a candidate for return. He held his own as a spot starter this season. It shouldn’t take much to bring him back and throw him in the secondary mix.

Solid special teamers are hard to find, so we’re predicting the Giants keep Richie James Jr., Jamie Gillan, and Casey Kreider, the long snapper.

James was also a surprise contributor on offense. At a salary of about $1 million, he’s worth bringing back. Gillan had his moments but he’s worth bringing back as well.

Brieda is a solid backup running back who gets positive yards and is perfect for any role the Giants want him to play whether it be a change-up to Barkley or a cog in a by-committee backfield.

Eh... Oshane Ximines, Jihad Ward, Nick Williams, Justin Ellis, Marcus Johnson

I can see the Giants having interest in Jihad Ward, Nick Williams, and Justin Ellis but the cost will be the driver. Ward was brought in to help smooth over the transition of the team to Wink Martindale’s system. He may not be needed any longer but Wink loves him.

The Giants might want to address defense through the draft and see what else is out there.

Oshane Ximines won’t likely be back for several reasons. He wasn’t drafted by Schoen and he has been inconsistent.

Marcus Johnson was deep on the wide receiver depth chart even in the worst of times. If they bring him back, that means they were unsuccessful in beefing up their WR corps.

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