It’s hard to believe that the Giants finished 7-9, considering their 0-6 start, but they were surprisingly good down the stretch, winning 7 of their last 10 games. What was the difference? Well, after a -16 turnover margin in their first 6 games, they had a turnover margin of +1 in their final 10 games. That shouldn’t be surprising considering turnover margin tends to be an inconsistent thing. Also helpful was that the Giants got strong play from some unlikely sources on defense, including cornerback Trumaine McBride and once declining defensive end Justin Tuck.
Eli Manning still finished the season with very poor stats, completing 57.5% of his passes for an average of 6.93 YPA, 18 touchdowns, and 27 interceptions, but he should be better in 2014. Another player who should be better in 2014 is Jason Pierre-Paul, who was a shell of himself in limited action this season thanks to injuries. Given that, the Giants have a good chance to be a playoff contender again in 2014, but there are some issues.
One is that they have a lot of key free agents and very little cap space with which to bring them back. They can create more cap space fairly easily, but they’re still going to have a tough back bringing all of their guys back. On top of that, there’s concern about Eli Manning’s age as he goes into his age 33 season. Sure, he could improve over a career worst season, but there’s a chance, at his age, that his best days are behind him.
On top of that, the Giants’ 7-9 record from 2013 is a little misleading. They finished the season 26th in rate of moving the chains differential, at -4.85%, and their point differential was -89. They played 8 games against eventual playoff teams and the only two they won were against Matt Barkley and the Eagles and Scott Tolzien and the Packers, two 3rd string quarterbacks. Their other 6 games were losses and by a combined score of 206-65. Depending on what the makeup of this team ends up being, they could compete in 2014, but they have work to do.
The Giants obviously have offensive line problems. Tackle isn’t that big of an issue because William Beatty is a talented, well paid left tackle when healthy and because Justin Pugh really came on as a 1st round rookie at right tackle late last season. Guard, however, is a big issue. Kevin Boothe struggled at left guard and the journeyman will be a free agent heading into his age 31 season this off-season. Chris Snee, meanwhile, hasn’t been the same over the past few years thanks to injury and will probably be a cap casualty. His cap number will be 11.3 million for next season and the Giants can save 6.8 million on the cap by cutting him, going into his age 32 season. He could also retire. Either way, they could easily need two new starters at guard this off-season. One option is moving Justin Pugh to guard, but I think he’s more valuable at right tackle and one of the only real good thing they had on this line last season, so moving him doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Three of the Giants’ top four cornerbacks will be free agents this off-season and all 3 have some issues. Corey Webster is coming off a significant injury in 2013 and a terrible season in 2012 and he’s going into his age 32 season. Terrell Thomas was alright on 588 snaps last season, but he didn’t play at all in 2011 and 2012 because he tore his ACL twice. Trumaine McBride, meanwhile, played well last season on 621 snaps, but he also didn’t play at all from 2011-2012. The journeyman can’t be trusted. Chances are, the Giants will need a new starter opposite Prince Amukamara this off-season.
Jason Pierre-Paul played only 583 snaps in 2013 and struggled by his own standards this season. That being said, he’ll probably be healthy again for 2014 and back to his normal high level of play, but they need help opposite him. They drafted Damontre Moore in the 3rd round in 2013, but they love having depth at the position and Justin Tuck is a free agent going into his age 31 season, while Mathias Kiwanuka will probably be a cap casualty, after grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked 4-3 defensive end this season.
The Giants’ top two tight ends are both free agents this off-season, Brandon Myers, a pass catching tight end who disappointed catching 47 passes for 522 yards and a 4 touchdowns, and Bear Pascoe, a blocking type. They’ll probably need to replenish the position.
The Giants were so desperate for linebacker help that they traded for Jon Beason mid-season. That didn’t really pan out, as he finished as Pro Football Focus’ 47th ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible. That was to be expected, considering he missed 28 of 32 games from 2011-2012 with injury and was demoted upon his return to Carolina earlier this season. He’s a free agent so they should take this opportunity to upgrade the position.
Mike Patterson and Linval Joseph are both free agents this off-season, while Cullen Jenkins could be a cap casualty or moved to defensive end. That would only leave them with inexperienced 2nd round pick Johnathan Hankins at the position. They could definitely need some depth at the position depending on who returns and who they decide to keep.
David Wilson has carried the ball 115 times in 2 seasons since being drafted in the 1st round in 2012. He was a backup in 2012, carrying it 71 times and then he carried it only 44 times in what should have been a breakout year in 2013. He was plagued by fumble problems when on the field, losing 3 fumbles on those 115 careers, and suffered a potentially career threatening neck injury that has his future in doubt. Andre Brown took over as the lead back upon his return from his own injuries and stabilized the position, doing a good job picking up the yards that were blocked. However, he has no explosiveness, with a season high run of 23 yards over 139 carries and he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry on the season. He also has an injury history and is a free agent this off-season. He’ll probably be brought back, but the Giants would be wise to bring in another running back through the draft.
In his first career as the Giants’ kicker, Josh Brown made 23 of 26 field goals. He’s also a career 81.9% kicker. That being said, he’s a free agent this off-season so the Giants will need to replace him if they can’t retain him.
Key Free Agents
DT Linval Joseph
A 2010 2nd round pick out of East Carolina, Linval Joseph has developed into a very solid defensive tackle, grading out 21st among defensive tackles in both 2012 and 2013. He’s a better run player than pass rusher, but he’s a decent pass rusher and he’d be an asset for any defensive line. I don’t think he’s quite at franchise tag level, so the Giants will probably let him test the market unless he agrees to a team friendly deal. He’ll be one of the most sought after defensive linemen on the market.
WR Hakeem Nicks
Hakeem Nicks’ tenure in New York had some ups and downs. He had a strong rookie year, after being taken in the first round in 2009, catching 47 passes for 790 yards and 6 touchdowns and then developing into a 1000+ yard receiver in 2010 and 2011, when he caught a combined 155 passes for 2244 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also was an integral part of the Giants’ Super Bowl team in 2011. However, in 2012 and 2013, he struggled with injuries and didn’t break the 1000 yard mark in either season. He caught a combined 109 passes for 1588 yards and 3 touchdowns, often appeared not to be on the same page with Eli Manning, and caught a low percent of his targets (56.2%). Also, Eli Manning had a 3 to 10 touchdown to interception ratio when thrown to him over the past two seasons. After paying Victor Cruz last off-season and with Rueben Randle waiting in the wings, the Giants and Nicks are probably parting ways this off-season. Still, he had 311 catches for 4622 yards and 27 touchdowns in 5 seasons. Nicks could be a nice buy low option on the open market.
S Stevie Brown
After bouncing around the league to start his career, Brown, a former 7th round pick, finally broke out in 2012 with the Giants, picking off 8 passes and ranking 26th among safeties on Pro Football Focus. However, he tore his ACL before the 2013 season and didn’t play a snap. Now heading into free agency, he could be a nice buy low signing for a team and will probably re-sign with the Giants on a prove it deal, which he could turn into a big multi-year deal next off-season.
DE Justin Tuck
Justin Tuck was great from 2008-2010 and had a fantastic playoff run in 2011, but he really was not the same player in either the 2011 or 2012 regular season. He graded out 3rd, 6th, and 9th among 4-3 defensive ends on Pro Football Focus in 2008, 2009, and 2010 respectively, but in 2011 and 2012, he was around average in both seasons. He had a strong contract year in 2013, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 7th ranked 4-3 defensive end, but he’s someone you should be wary about giving a big contract as he goes into his age 31 season.
RB Andre Brown
Andre Brown was a 4th round pick of the Giants in 2009, but battled injury problems and bounced all around the league. He eventually caught on as the #2 back in New York in 2012 behind Ahmad Bradshaw, rushing for 385 yards and 8 touchdowns on 73 carries, a 5.3 yard per carry average. With Bradshaw gone in 2013, Brown had a chance to be the lead back with David Wilson, but broke his ankle in the pre-season. Fortunately for him, Wilson suffered a serious injury, allowing Brown to be the starter upon his own return from injury and he really stabilized the position, picking up yardage that was blocked. Unfortunately, that’s about all he did as the plodder averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and had a long of 23 yards. He’s a valuable running back, but I don’t think he’s a starting type. He’ll probably be back with the Giants on a short-term deal as they seek insurance for Wilson.
TE Brandon Myers
Purely a possession receiver who isn’t a strong blocker or explosive after the catch, Myers actually had a strong season in 2012 with the Raiders, catching 79 of his 101 targets, though for only 806 yards with a long of 29. Still, his 2013 was a disappointment by those standards, as he never really fit into the Giants’ system, catching just 47 passes for 522 yards and 4 touchdowns. He’ll probably be looking at one year deals again this off-season and won’t be guaranteed a starting job.
CB Trumaine McBride
Trumaine McBride didn’t play a snap in 2011 or 2012 and didn’t play at all this season until week 4, but he was a starter by week 5 and really helped stabilize the Giants’ secondary. He finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ 24th ranked cornerback and 13th in coverage grade, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 43.8% of his passes in the direction of his coverage. It’ll be important not to buy high with McBride, but he’s definitely worth bringing back on a short-term deal.
S Ryan Mundy
A career reserve, Ryan Mundy played a career high 667 snaps for the Giants this season and wasn’t bad. The 2008 6th round pick is already going into his age 29 season, but has shown that he’s deserving of a chance at a starting job. At the very least, he’s a solid 3rd safety who could provide adequate depth when injuries strike.
G Kevin Boothe
Kevin Boothe has been a starter for the past 3 years for the Giants. In spite of strong play in 2012, he struggled mightily in both 2011 and 2013 and should be upgraded this off-season, as he heads into his age 31 season. Boothe will probably be looking at one year deals with teams looking at him as interior offensive line depth. He has experience in both guard and center and was primarily a reserve up until 2011.
CB Terrell Thomas
Terrell Thomas didn’t play a snap in 2011 or 2012 thanks to back-to-back torn ACLs and some thought his career was over. He defied the odds this season, playing pretty well on 588 snaps. Only going into his age 29 season, the 2008 2nd round pick still has some football left in him, provided he can stay healthy. He’s obviously an injury risk, but he’ll get attention on the open market.
MLB Jon Beason
The Giants were so desperate for linebacker help that they traded for Jon Beason mid-season. That didn’t really pan out, as he finished as Pro Football Focus’ 47th ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible. That was to be expected, considering he missed 28 of 32 games from 2011-2012 with injury and was demoted upon his return to Carolina earlier this season. He’ll be looking at one year deals going forward most likely.
DT Mike Patterson
A talented starting defensive tackle in Philadelphia, Patterson was limited to 5 games and 136 snaps in 2012 after brain surgery. He defied the odds and made a comeback in 2013, playing all 16 games and playing pretty well on 413 snaps. He’s going into his age 31 season, but he could still draw interest as a rotational defensive end this off-season.
CB Corey Webster
A solid starter for a while in New York, Webster was torched with regularity in 2012, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 4th worst ranked cornerback. After restructuring his contract, Webster barely played in 2013, playing 170 snaps, thanks to a serious injury he sustained early in the season. Now going into his age 32 season, he’s going to have a hard time finding work this off-season.
G David Diehl
Going into his age 34 season, David Diehl has announced his retirement and it’s coming at a good time. There was a time where he was a good offensive lineman and he has more than 25 starts experience at every offensive line position except center. However, the aging Diehl has struggled mightily over the past few seasons, especially as he’s been playing through some injuries. Diehl made 11 starts at guard this season and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 7th worst guard. In 2012, he struggled on 487 snaps at right tackle after losing his starting job. In 2011, he played left tackle and left guard and struggled at both spots. He was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked guard on 10 starts and 8th worst offensive tackle on 6 starts. His composite grade was the worst of any offensive lineman. In 2010, he was the 10th worst ranked tackle in 10 starts and also struggled in 2 starts at left guard. He hasn’t played well since 2009 and probably didn’t have any football left in him.
K Josh Brown
In his first career as the Giants’ kicker, Josh Brown made 23 of 26 field goals. He’s also a career 81.9% kicker. He’ll be kicking somewhere next season.
Cap Casualty Candidates
G Chris Snee
Chris Snee hasn’t been the same over the past few years thanks to injury and will probably be a cap casualty. His cap number will be 11.3 million for next season and the Giants can save 6.8 million on the cap by cutting him, going into his age 32 season. He also might just retire.
DE Mathias Kiwanuka
Mathias Kiwanuka struggled mightily this season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked 4-3 defensive end, and he’s going into his age 31 season. The Giants can save 9.15 million in cash over the next 2 seasons by cutting him and would save 1.8 million on next year’s cap.
S Antrel Rolle
Antrel Rolle graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 10th ranked safety this season, but he could still be cut, a move that would save 7.25 million on the cap. He’s struggled in the past, grading out negative from 2009-2012, including 2nd worst in 2011 and 10th worst in 2010. He’s also going into his age 32 season and the Giants have two good in house safeties in Will Hill and Stevie Brown, provided the latter is re-signed as a free agent.
C David Baas
David Baas is a mediocre center at this stage of his career and he’s going into his age 32 season, after missing 13 games last season. Cutting him would save 1.775 million on the cap and 4.75 million in pure cash for the Giants next season.
DT Cullen Jenkins
Cullen Jenkins played solid football last season, but he’s going into his age 33 season in 2014 and the Giants can save 1.933 million on next year’s cap by cutting him. His 2.6 million dollar salary for 2014 doesn’t seem unreasonable, but non-elite players over the age of 32, 33 always need to be prepared to be cut if they are on multi-year deals.