The needs are there, clear and concise. With NFL free agency kicking off this week, perhaps the Giants can fill these two glaring holes on their roster.
They need a first-rate wide receiver. And they need a feared edge rusher. Can both of these items get crossed off the shopping list by selecting and securing these commodities on the open market?
The short answer: No.
“Well, there is a draft, right?’’ Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said. “So, you don’t necessarily have to buy them both. We’re just going to see how it plays out, see what guys are worth and what the expense costs are, and just keep moving forward.’’
That is the key here: Keep moving forward. The Giants might not fill either of their two major holes in the coming weeks. They do not have much money to spend and probably are not interested in team-building through purchasing power, as a general rule.
A year ago, Gettleman and first-year head coach Joe Judge had money to spare and struck quickly — plucking from the market an expensive cornerback, James Bradberry, and a $10 million-a-year inside linebacker, Blake Martinez. Those two signings were smash hits in every way. The Giants do not have the salary-cap space to make a similar impact this time around.
Of course, if Kenny Golladay were signed, he would immediately move in as the No. 1 receiver. You got $20 million a year to fit him in? Shaq Barrett, if he does not re-sign with the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, would be the pass rusher to perfectly complement Leonard Williams’ push in the interior. These sound great, but are not feasible acquisitions for a team that had to cut a proven offensive lineman, guard Kevin Zeitler, in order to get under the salary cap of $182.5 million.
The Giants head into free agency about $4 million under the cap. If they can get Williams signed to a long-term deal and significantly bring down Nate Solder’s unwieldy ($16.5 million) cap number, they could effectively add more than $20 in cap space. The Giants will make their signings, creating more ripples than splashes. It remains to be seen if they can find the cap space to add even one big-ticket contract.
Judge comes from the Patriots way of doing things, in which draft was king and free agency was largely an accompaniment. This does not mean he is adverse to spending, if the money is there and the player is the exact right fit.
“Look, I’m always a long-term picture guy,’’ Judge said. “I think you have success by continuously building your team through the draft, by developing your players, by adding the right players in free agency that not only fits you schematically, but fits you personality and culture-wise in the locker room. I think the one thing to keep in mind as we go through this free agency point of the year, and, look, it’s very exciting, and there’s a lot of press and media and it’s all over TV, but the reality is it’s not fantasy football: You can’t just grab a player, put him on your team and think everything’s going to work out.’’
Judge is self-aware. He knows his approach is not for everyone. Bradberry, Martinez and later Logan Ryan were signings that 100 percent aligned with what Judge wants from veterans joining the program. He does not appear to be the type of head coach willing to take leaps of faith or great risks, no matter the skill-level of the player.
“There’s things that we do here that, look, we don’t make it easy on our players and coaches, that’s by design,’’ Judge said. “The guys we have in this locker room have bought in, we have a lot of fun here through doing that, but we have a way of doing things. That’s not for everyone, to be honest with you.’’
This year’s draft — with no scouting combine, limited in-person interaction with prospects and getting-to-know-you through remote access — is in some ways an uncharted frontier, with teams less familiar than ever with the players they are about to select. This is not the case with veterans on the open market, which could prompt the Giants to try to sign in bulk for depth purposes on the roster.
“The uncertainty really doesn’t play into unrestricted free agency,’’ Gettleman said. “Those are players that are in the league, scouting them is not the issue.’’
It is difficult to foresee the Giants making a big run at their own free agent, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, who as a premier run-stuffer is likely to command in excess of $12 million per year. This would be a loss, accentuating the need for gains elsewhere.