Dave Gettleman, Pat Shurmur and the Giants’ pro personnel and scouting staffs already are hard at work in East Rutherford and on the road trying to shape their 2019 roster.
And their first task is to assess their own roster and determine needs to guide offseason evaluations of college prospects, actions in free agency and the trade market, and their direction in April’s NFL Draft holding the No. 6 overall pick.
Here is a position-by-position depth chart and breakdown, from our suggested priorities for Gettleman to his least urgent issues, that should guide the Giants in their quest to improve.
No. 1: QUARTERBACK: Eli Manning, Kyle Lauletta (free agent: Alex Tanney)
The decision to keep or cut Manning, 38, will define this offseason. Manning is due to make $23.2 million on the final year of his contract. Nothing is guaranteed for Lauletta, 23, in year two, and Tanney is a restricted free agent. Plus, the Giants might trade for a QB, draft one or do both. So basically this entire group’s fate is up in the air. Nick Foles, Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum, Jacoby Brissett, Dwayne Haskins and Daniel Jones are just some of the names to consider as potential Giants targets.
No. 2: OFFENSIVE LINE: LT Nate Solder, LG Will Hernandez, RT Chad Wheeler, T Brian Mihalik, C Evan Brown, G Nick Gates (free agents: RG Jamon Brown, C Jon Halapio, C Spencer Pulley, C/G John Greco)
Halapio (injured reserve) is expected back as the starting center on a modest one-year deal as an exclusive rights free agent, but the Giants need upgrades at right guard and right tackle. They could re-sign Brown (unrestricted) and apply a low tender to Pulley (restricted), but neither is guaranteed. Dolphins free agent right tackle Ja’Wuan James is an option. And West Virginia tackle Yodny Cajuste (third among 2019 tackles, per The Draft Network) and Boston College guard/tackle Chris Lindstrom (second among interior linemen) are among prospects to watch.
No. 3a.: DEFENSIVE LINE: Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, RJ McIntosh (free agents: Kerry Wynn, Josh Mauro, Mario Edwards, John Jenkins, Kristjan Sokoli)
The defense is difficult to rank because the Giants have needs almost everywhere. I start on the interior because the top of this draft is loaded with interior talent, Gettleman has a history of drafting D-linemen high and the Giants’ young interior got pushed around too often this season. Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, Houston’s Ed Olivier, the Clemson duo of Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins, and Michigan’s DT/DE Rashan Gary (Paramus Catholic) are the headliners. Keep an eye on Gary, whom the Giants scouted in person last fall: he’s versatile and would improve both the pass rush and run D. Wynn is valuable but could find bigger money elsewhere.
No. 3b.: OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: Olivier Vernon, Kareem Martin, Lorenzo Carter, Connor Barwin (free agents: Jordan Williams, Avery Moss)
Vernon is expensive ($19.5 million salary cap hit), but the Giants should keep him because he’s the only true difference-making talent they have on the edge. The draft has some fierce edge rushers such as Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, Kentucky’s Josh Allen and Florida’s Jachai Polite. The Chiefs’ Dee Ford is headed toward free agency, but it would be crazy for Kansas City not to lock him up. The Giants’ Martin carries their ninth-highest salary cap hit for 2019 at $5.5 million. That’s a tough number to swallow after his 1.5 sacks in 2018. Moss could be back despite spending the 2018 season on the practice squad.
No. 3c. FREE SAFETY: Sean Chandler, Kamrin Moore (free agent: Curtis Riley)
The Giants need to address this position badly. Riley can’t come back after that embarrassing Week 17 non-effort avoiding a tackle of Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin. Keep this free agent name on your radar: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The former Packers and Washington safety is a great friend and former teammate of Giants Pro Bowl strong safety Landon Collins.
No 3d.: CORNERBACKS: Janoris Jenkins, Grant Haley, Sam Beal (free agents: B.W. Webb, Tony Lippett)
Like Vernon, Jenkins ($14.75 million) is expensive but the best the Giants have at a key position. Gettleman needs Beal to be healthy in 2019. The GM used the Giants’ 2019 third-round pick in last summer’s supplemental draft on Beal (Western Michigan), and he promptly required shoulder surgery and missed the whole year. Webb (unrestricted) would be a good re-sign for depth, and the Giants could draft here, too. Notre Dame’s Julian Love, who received a second-round grade from the College Advisory Committee, is an option.
No. 3e. INSIDE LINEBACKERS: Alec Ogletree, B.J. Goodson, Tae Davis, Ukeme Eligwe (free agent: Nate Stupar)
Ogletree missed this season’s final two games with a concussion suffered on a devastating Week 15 block by Titans QB Marcus Mariota that Ogletree never saw coming (the kind of hit that gets defenders fined but everyone celebrates as a great hit by a QB!). But Ogletree’s play was terrific in the stretch before that. Could he be joined by another Georgia product, Thomas Davis, 35, whom the Panthers are releasing? If Gettleman and Davis have smoothed over any misunderstandings from the end of the GM’s Carolina tenure, it’s possible. LSU’s Devin White heads the interior LB class.
No. 4: STRONG SAFETY: Michael Thomas (free agent: Landon Collins)
Re-signing Collins definitely is a priority; I’m just not worried about the Giants getting it done. The co-captain could play on an $11.5 million-or-so franchise tag or sign a long-term deal. Either way, I expect Collins to be the Giants’ strong safety in 2019.
No. 5: TIGHT END: Rhett Ellison, Evan Engram, Garrett Dickerson (free agent: Scott Simonson)
Engram and Shurmur found more of a rhythm incorporating the former first-round pick into the offense late in the season. We’ll see if that translates to the Giants valuing and using Engram in 2019. Expect Shurmur, though, to seek at least one more solid blocking tight end as support for Ellison’s key role in the offense. The Saints’ Josh Hill will be a free agent.
No. 6: WIDE RECEIVER: Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Jawill Davis (free agents: Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard, Corey Coleman, Bennie Fowler, Alonzo Russell)
Coleman is a restricted free agent who was valuable as a returner and came on as a wideout. Russell Shepard was big on special teams, too, and made plays on offense when healthy. If the Giants do enter 2019 with a healthy Beckham and Sterling Shepard on a contract year, though, I don’t know how they proceed at the third receiver position. They need a reliable downfield threat. Chris Hogan (Patriots) and Tyrell Williams (Chargers) are free agents. Latimer made a case with two big catches, including a TD, in the season finale.
No. 7: SPECIAL TEAMS: P Riley Dixon, PR Quadree Henderson (free agents: K Aldrick Rosas, LS Zak DeOssie, CB Antonio Hamilton)
The Pro Bowler Rosas will be back as an affordable exclusive rights free agent. Henderson (injured reserve) is a capable return specialist but isn’t used on offense. Hamilton, a restricted free agent, was an excellent gunner the Giants should tender to retain who also maybe deserves a shot on D. DeOssie, 34, is an unrestricted free agent. The Giants signed young former Packers long-snapper Taybor Pepper to a reserve contract.
No. 8: RUNNING BACK: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Paul Perkins, Jonathan Stewart (free agent: Eli Penny)