Those who live paycheck-to-paycheck or struggle to make the mortgage or car payments each month know what it is like to dwell on finances. If you do not have it, it is difficult to find it and, often, impossible to purchase anything of value without it.
Welcome to NFL free agency 2022 for the Giants, a franchise that has overdrawn on it’s account, necessitating cost-cutting measures to get themselves out of the red and into the black.
So, there will be no spending spree Monday when the negotiating window for free agents opens. The Giants will do what they can, when they can. Be prepared for a less-than-robust haul.
“Very calculated,” new general manager Joe Schoen said, characterizing what his expected course of action will be as the laborious task of paring the roster to create salary-cap space got underway. “We’ve got to have contingency plans and kind of the if-then scenarios. We went through a lot of those. If we don’t get to where we have money that we can do something in free agency, then it’s going to be hard.
“We want to be competitive today and also build for tomorrow. I think if we’re able to do this the right way, I think there’s a real possibility that we’re going to be able to do that.”
The Giants will find their way under the league-mandated salary cap of $208.2 million, but with not much room to spare. This means the first wave of free agency will likely unfold with the Giants, if not as spectators, then certainly not uber-aggressive — waiting to see how the market shakes out, watching as big-ticket players come off the board and sign with teams that can afford them.
There are 22 of their own unrestricted free agents, and almost all of them will wind up elsewhere. The most notable are outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, tight end Evan Engram, guard Will Hernandez, safety Jabrill Peppers and tackle Nate Solder. Carter, who had all five of his 2021 sacks in his last four games, figures to be the most likely to return — only if the market for him is not hot.
Looking back on how the Bills grew into a Super Bowl contender when Schoen was the assistant general manager, there was a prescient decision on a franchise quarterback (Josh Allen), smart trades (wide receiver Stefon Diggs), some cautious free-agent signings ( receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley, tight end Tyler Kroft,) but mostly Schoen and his boss, Brandon Beane, fortified the roster with terrific drafts: Allen, Tre’Davious White, Matt Milano, Dion Dawkins, Devin Singletary, Gabriel Davis.
Assessing the Bills’ free-agent plans for this year, Beane said, “I wouldn’t see us being like big spenders or anything like that.”
That is the formula Schoen envisions for turning the Giants into contenders.
“Free agency, it’s an unknown commodity when you’re signing somebody from outside the building and you don’t know their injury history, you don’t know how they learn, you don’t know what they do off the field,’ ‘Schoen said. “You can’t go ask those questions to a competitor because they might be trying to sign them back as well. You can’t necessarily do all the research you need to do.”
The top-tier free agents will go elsewhere. Any offensive lineman set to strike gold — Brandon Scherff, Ryan Jensen, Austin Corbett, perhaps Trent Brown and even Joe Noteboom — will be too rich for the Giants to touch. The offensive line needs bodies though, and second or third-tier types such as Jon Feliciano (Bills), Ike Boettger (Bills) or Bradley Bozeman (Ravens) could be options down the road — Daboll is familiar with Feliciano and Boettger from their time together in Buffalo.
With the release of Devontae Booker, there is a need for depth at running back behind Saquon Barkley. Mike Kafka, the new Giants offensive coordinator, was with the Chiefs last season when Darrel Williams filled in admirably for injured Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon. Williams, 26, undrafted out of LSU, had 1,010 yards from scrimmage last season and could be a significant factor as part of a tandem with Barkley.
Edge rushers command big bucks, and it will be extremely difficult for the Giants to find much help here. Would Schoen and Daboll take a shot at Jerry Hughes after their years together with the Bills? He will turn 34 in August, is exceedingly durable and could be a pass-rush specialist. He has 58 career sacks, but had just two in 17 games last season.
One of the reasons Giants ownership felt it was untenable to keep Joe Judge as the head coach for a third season was the possibility of disharmony with a new general manager who likely would have no previous experience with Judge. Schoen and Daboll were together for four years in Buffalo and should be in lockstep regarding how they want to construct the roster.
“Yeah, look, we speak the same language,” Daboll said. “Alignment is really important in terms of a coaching staff and a scouting staff. There’s mutual respect. We were together for four years, so I’ve seen some of the stuff they’ve done on the scouting end of it back in Buffalo, and some of the stuff that we’ve done on the coaching end and then we’re just trying to teach our staffs the way we want to do it, most importantly for the New York