EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The New York Giants spent the two months leading up to the draft in a somewhat unexpected dip into the free agency market that filled holes at wide receiver and cornerback, and narrowed their positional needs.
So with the No. 11 pick overall, the Giants (6-10) would likely take an edge rusher or an offensive lineman, probably someone to play on the right side.
While it makes sense, don’t count on it. Most draft picks after the first few can change drastically with either a trade or an unexpected choice, and general manager Dave Gettleman never gives an inside look at the Giants’ plan.
All that is certain is the Giants made a ton of moves in preparation for the draft and Joe Judge’s second season. Salary cap space was created by cutting guard Kevin Zeitler, wide receivers Golden Tate and Cody Core, and linebacker David May. The contract of tackle Nate Solder, who opted out of last season, was reworked.
With the money, the Giants signed 16 free agents, highlighted by the additions of playmaking wide receiver Kenny Golladay and cornerback Adoree Jackson. Most of the free agents got one-year deals, but Golladay (five years, $72 million) and Jackson ( three years, $39 million) were big investments.
They are not without risk. Golladay, who had 1,000-yard seasons in 2018 and ’19 and caught 16 touchdowns overall, was limited to five games last season by a hip injury. Jackson has played in 14 games over the past two seasons because of foot and knee issues. They passed the team physicals before signing, but missing time is always a caution sign.
Those concerns could put the Giants in the market for either a wide receiver or cornerback in the first round. Alabama receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle could be available at No. 11 along with South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn.
If the choice does turn out to be an edge rusher or offensive tackle, the competition is tight. There are so many edge rushers the Giants might wait until the second round, especially with Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin all returning, and Ifeadi Odenigbo signed as a free agent. Tackle Rashawn Slater of Northwestern might be a lineman who catches the Giants' eye because he can play guard or tackle.
Gettleman said the Giants met in February and compared their draft board and free agency board in deciding which would help them filling holes in the roster. Kevin Abrams, the vice president of football operations and assistant general manager, said the Giants planned to be aggressive in free agency in a year when they felt most teams would be cautious because of salary cap issues.
“We had our targets and, as the market played out, it became apparent to us that of the targets that we wanted to go and pursue who was going to be available at the right price for us.”
The Giants had 10 draft picks last season and nine of them played. New York has six picks this year, so don’t be surprised if Gettleman looks to add a couple more. A trade could land an extra pick, or two.
The Giants can get by this season without taking a lineman. Solder and/or Matt Peart, a third-round pick last year, could take over at right tackle. Will Hernandez, who lost his starting job at left guard to Shane Lemieux after contracting COVID-19, could be moved to right guard. New York also signed Jonotthan Harrison and Zach Fulton as free agents.
The Giants have depth needs for the lower rounds. They could use a running back to groom. Saquon Barkley is coming back from a major knee injury so former Raider Devontae Booker was signed for two years. Wayne Gallman, who replaced Barkley after the injury, remains a free agent. New York also can use a defensive tackle to stuff the middle after seeing Dalvin Tomlinson sign with Minnesota as a free agent. If there was a constant in the draft last year, Judge wants players with speed, versatility and an ability to put the team first.
Being among the worst teams in the NFL in recent years has had its perks for the Giants. In the past three drafts, they have had five first-round picks. Still, there are no guarantees.
While New York netted Barkley, quarterback Daniel Jones, defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence and tackle Andrew Thomas, they also managed to take cornerback DeAndre Baker with the 30th pick in 2019, the last of three first-rounders that year. He lasted a year before legal problems led to his being released.
The Giants had two first-round busts in cornerback Eli Apple in 2016 and tackle Ereck Flowers the year before. Tight end Evan Engram (’17) shows flashes and flops.
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