New York Giants 2015 NFL Off-Season Preview

Positions of Need

Outside Linebacker

With Jacquian Williams and Mark Herzlich heading into free agency, the only linebackers the Giants have for 2015 are Jameel McClain, Jon Beason, and Devon Kennard. McClain and Beason are overpaid and could both be cap casualties. Beason can never stay healthy anyway. Kennard flashed in limited action as a 5th round rookie and could be ready for a bigger role in 2015, but the Giants still need help throughout their linebacking corps, especially on the outside.

Safety

Antrel Rolle, Quentin Demps, and Stevie Brown were the Giants’ top-3 safeties in 2014, but all three are free agents this off-season. Brown is the only one of the three who graded out above average and the only one who isn’t going into an age 30+ season, but he played the fewest snaps of the trio, getting benched for 8 games mid-season. The Giants’ safety position is very much in flux and they could easily have to add to it this off-season.

Offensive Tackle

William Beatty signed a 5-year, 37.5 million dollar deal two off-seasons ago and proceeded to grade out as Pro Football Focus’ 64th ranked offensive tackle out of 76 eligible in 2013. He was a lot better in 2014, grading out 14th at his position, but 2015 is the final season that he has guaranteed money and, with his history of inconsistency and injury, he might not be around much longer. On the right side, the Giants are expected to move Justin Pugh inside to guard this off-season. They could go offensive tackle at 9, plug their draft pick in at right tackle immediately, move Pugh to guard, and then eventually move their draft pick over to the blindside.

Middle Linebacker

As I mentioned under the outside linebacker blurb, the linebacker situation in New York isn’t great. Jon Beason was signed to a 3-year, 19 million dollar deal last off-season to be their middle linebacker, but he played just 4 games thanks to injury, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering his injury history. He’s now played in just 24 games over the past 4 seasons combined. In 2013, when he was healthy, he was Pro Football Focus’ 48th ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible. Jameel McClain was the replacement in 2014 and he too struggled, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 51st ranked middle linebacker out of 60 eligible. The Giants can save 3.53 million and 3.1 million on the cap by cutting Beason and McClain respectively and they could easily pull the trigger on one or both of those moves.

Guard

Weston Richburg and John Jerry were the Giants’ starting guards in 2014 and they struggled, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 62nd and 66th ranked guards respectively out of 78 eligible. Jerry is a free agent this off-season and won’t be back in a starting role, while Richburg, a 2014 2nd round pick, is expected to move back to his natural position of center for his 2nd season in 2015. Geoff Schwartz should be back from injury in 2015, after playing just 93 snaps in 2014, but his injury history isn’t exactly clean and they’d still need one more starter. As I mentioned under the offensive tackle write up, Justin Pugh is a strong candidate to move from tackle to guard this off-season.

Defensive Tackle

Johnathan Hankins had a breakout year in his first year as a starter in 2014 and the Giants also have 2014 3rd round pick Jay Bromley ready for a bigger role in 2015, but he was just a 3rd round pick and saw just 113 snaps as a rookie, so he’s completely unproven. Their depth at the position is suspect as well as Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson are going into their age 34 and age 32 seasons respectively. Patterson is a free agent, coming off a season when he was Pro Football Focus’ 73rd ranked defensive tackle out of 81 eligible, while Jenkins could be a cap casualty. They need to add young depth at the position this off-season.

Defensive End

The Giants have a minor need at defensive end that will become a major need if Jason Pierre-Paul leaves as a free agent. Robert Ayers had a strong season this year, but Mathias Kiwanuka is expected to be a cap casualty this off-season, owed a non-guaranteed 4.775 million in an age 32 contract year in 2015, after two straight poor seasons, while Damontre Moore hasn’t really shown much in two years since being drafted in the 3rd round in 2013.

Cornerback

The Giants signed Walter Thurmond to a one-year deal to be their nickel cornerback last off-season, a role he thrived in when healthy in Seattle. However, he played just 67 snaps in 2 games before going down for the season with injury. Injuries have been a huge problem for him in the past, as he’s played in just 36 of a possible 80 career games, and the Giants might not bring him back for a 2nd shot as a free agent this off-season. Depth is needed at the position behind Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara.

Key Free Agents

DE Jason Pierre Paul

After being eased in as a rookie, playing 410 snaps, JPP has graded out as a top-7 4-3 defensive end in 3 of the last 4 seasons. The only season he didn’t was 2013, when he missed 5 games and was limited to 583 snaps by back problems. However, when healthy, he’s one of the better 4-3 defensive ends in the NFL, getting consistent pass rush despite what sack totals might show and playing strong run defense. He should command a significant contract on the open market.

S Stevie Brown

Stevie Brown, a 2010 7th round pick, played just 151 snaps combined in 2010 and 2011, but had a breakout year in 2012, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 27th ranked safety. Unfortunately for him, he tore his ACL and missed his entire contract year in 2013 and was forced to settle for a one year deal back with the Giants to rehab his value. His 2014 season was a mixed bag. He graded out about average and played all 16 games, but he made just 8 starts and played just 559 snaps as he was benched for a stretch in the middle of the season. He shouldn’t get a ton of interest on the open market, as he’s still a one year wonder.

OLB Jacquian Williams

Williams has been a marginal starter over the past 4 seasons, since the Giants drafted him in the 6th round in 2011. He’s never played more than 622 snaps in a season and he’s graded out below average in 3 of those 4 seasons. The Giants could bring him back on a small deal given the significant issues they have in their linebacking corps, but he’s not guaranteed to be a starter in 2015, wherever he ends up.

S Quentin Demps

Demps is also a marginal player. He’s graded out below average in 5 of the 7 seasons he’s been in the league since he was drafted in the 4th round in 2008 and he’s never played more than 655 snaps in a season. This past season, he was Pro Football Focus’ 71st ranked safety out of 87 eligible on 641 snaps. He’ll look for work as a 3rd safety again this off-season.

CB Walter Thurmond

Thurmond was seen a potential hot commodity on the open market last off-season, after he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 33rd ranked cornerback in 2013. However, the league felt otherwise, wisely being wary of his injury history, and he was forced to sign a one-year deal with the Giants as their #3 cornerback. That turned out to be wise as Thurmond played just 67 snaps in 2 games before going down with a season ending injury. He’s now played just 36 of a possible 80 games in 5 seasons since the Seahawks drafted him in the 4th round in 2010. He’s never played more than 480 snaps in a season. He’ll once again have to settle for a one year deal this off-season.

G John Jerry

Jerry has started 61 games in 5 seasons in the league since the Dolphins drafted him in the 3rd round in 2010, including all 48 games over the past 3 seasons combined, but he’s never been particularly good. He graded out below average in all 4 seasons he was in Miami and ended up having to sign for near the minimum last off-season in New York, after being one of the guys involved in the Dolphins bullying scandal. Jerry ended up starting 16 games because of injuries, but he turned in the worst season of his career, as he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 66th ranked guard out of 78 eligible. Heading into free agency again, with a history of struggles and off-the-field controversy, Jerry will likely have to settle for a backup deal near the veteran’s minimum.

S Antrel Rolle

Antrel Rolle has been overrated for a while, grading out below average in 5 of the last 6 seasons, but now he’s going into his age 33 season and coming off of one of the worst seasons of his career, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 81st ranked safety out of 87 eligible. Any contract he gets this off-season won’t have any guarantees beyond 2015 and he won’t be a hot commodity on the open market.

DT Mike Patterson

Patterson could be at the end of his line, going into his age 32 season. He was Pro Football Focus’ 73rd ranked defensive tackle out of 81 eligible in 2014 and he’s graded out below average in each of the last 3 seasons, coinciding with a brain operation he had 3 years ago. If he gets picked up this off-season, it’ll be on a minimum deal with little guaranteed money.

Cap Casualty Candidates

DE Mathias Kiwanuka

Kiwanuka has had a significant role for the Giants in each of the last 2 seasons, but he’s been one of the worst 4-3 defensive ends in the NFL to have a significant role over that time period, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked 4-3 defensive end in 2013 and their 3rd worst in 2014. He hasn’t graded out above average since 2011, when he was still playing outside linebacker and before he signed a 4-year, 21.75 million dollar extension. He’s now going into his age 32 season and the Giants will almost definitely cut him, to save 4.825 million in cash and cap space, ahead of Kiwanuka’s contract year.

OLB Jameel McClain

McClain filled in for the injured Jon Beason at middle linebacker this season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 51st ranked middle linebacker out of 60 eligible. Those struggles shouldn’t have been a surprise as he’s struggled throughout his career. He’s graded out below average in 4 of 7 seasons in the league, including each of the last 3 seasons, playing both inside and outside linebacker. Now he’s owed a non-guaranteed 3.1 million in his age 30 season in 2015, so he very easily could be cut. It’s unlikely that both he and Beason are brought back at their scheduled salaries.

C JD Walton

Walton made all 16 starts at center in 2014 in his first season in New York, giving the Giants some much needed continuity on an offensive line that has had all kinds of shake ups over the past two seasons thanks to injury and poor performance. However, Walton graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 38th ranked center out of 41 eligible. This shouldn’t be a surprise because he ranked 31st out of 34 eligible centers in 2010, 35th out of 35 eligible (dead last) in 2011, and then played in just 4 games from 2012-2013 thanks to injuries. The Giants have an internal replacement in place in the form of 2014 2nd round pick Weston Richburg so Walton should be cut ahead of the 2nd year of a 2-year, 6 million dollar deal. The Giants would save 3 million in cash and cap space by doing so.

MLB Jon Beason

It’s been a never ending struggle for Beason to even get on the field over the past 4 seasons. Beason hasn’t played all 16 games since 2010, when he conveniently signed a 5-year, 50 million dollar deal, and he’s missed 42 of a possible 64 games over that 4 year stretch. He played in a combined 5 games from 2011-2012 with the Panthers and he was forced to renegotiate his contract down to a cheap one year deal for 2013. Beason was then moved to a two-down role, benched, and eventually traded to the Giants for cheap. With the Giants, he started 12 games, but graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 48th ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible. Desperate for linebacker help, the Giants re-signed Beason for 19 million over 3 years, but he proceeded to play in just 4 games thanks to injuries. The Giants can cut him this off-season, a move that would save them 5 million in cash and 3.533 million in cap space.

DT Cullen Jenkins

Jenkins seems to be nearing the end of his line. He played just 366 snaps in 12 games last season and now he’s going into his age 34 season. He’s graded out slightly above average in 2 seasons in New York, but the Giants don’t seem to think of him as much more than a backup and for a backup, especially an aging backup, he’s overpaid. The Giants can save 2.25 million in cash and cap space by cutting him this off-season and then they can find a replacement for about half the price.

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