Now that the Super Bowl has been played and free agency is approaching in a month, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will be looking at the top three needs for each team. Today, the New York Giants are the focus. The Giants have the 10th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and a few key players will hit the free agency market this year, most notably defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, cornerback Prince Amukamara, and defensive end Robert Ayers.
New York Giants 2016 Off-Season: Top 3 Needs
The Giants were once an organization that prided itself upon the accomplishments of a fearsome defensive line, but those days are long gone. New York’s defensive line is in shambles at the moment and this unit will be the top priority throughout the off-season. Jason Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers, and Cullen Jenkins are free agents, and all three started in 2015. Depth players George Selvie, Markus Kuhn, and Barry Cofield are free agents as well, but their production in 2015 was not impressive anyway. Johnathan Hankins is the only returning starter, but he’s a very good defensive tackle and the defense sorely missed him after he suffered a pectoral injury in early November. Youngsters Jay Bromley and Owa Odighizuwa are two other players who will return and should be able to make an impact in 2016. Finally, Kerry Wynn, Montori Hughes, and Louis Nix are the remaining players who might return next season for depth.
This position must be addressed in free agency, and there’s a strong possibility that it will be addressed in the draft as well. Obviously the decisions on Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers will determine how much the Giants will have to invest in free agent defensive ends from other teams. William Hayes and Mario Williams are two names that the Giants should consider if they lose either of their free agent defensive ends. Cullen Jenkins is probably going to retire, so a veteran defensive tackle like Nick Fairley would be a nice acquisition. In the draft, Shaq Lawson will be a tough player to pass up if he is available in the first round.
The linebacker situation is just as miserable as the defensive line situation. Jon Beason retired and Jasper Brinkley is a free agent. Devon Kennard is a solid starter on the strong side, but he had some injury issues in 2015. J.T. Thomas also had some injury troubles, but he is not much more than an average starting outside linebacker anyway. Jonathan Casillas will return as a solid backup weak side linebacker and Mark Herzlich will return mainly because of his special teams abilities. Uani’ Unga had a few moments in 2015, but he isn’t much more than a decent backup at middle linebacker.
This is another position that could definitely be addressed in both free agency and the draft. Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith are two talented playmakers at linebacker that are definite possibilities in the first round of the draft. In free agency, Danny Trevathan could fill the hole at middle linebacker and provide the Giants with a playmaker on the inside for the first time in a while.
Offensive Line (Right Side)
As I discussed a few days ago, Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, and Weston Richburg are the foundations of a potentially feared offensive line. However, the Giants still have gaping holes on the right side of the offensive line. Nobody wants John Jerry and Marshall Newhouse on the field at the same time ever again, so something must be done. Bobby Hart is one young offensive lineman already on the team who could possibly start at either right guard or right tackle next season.
Ideally, the Giants will draft a talented guard and sign a right tackle in free agency. This would allow Bobby Hart to continue to grow rather than forcing him to start in his second season. Joshua Garnett is a second-round guard who would fit with the rest of the starters well and Mitchell Schwartz is probably the best right tackle available in free agency.