New York Giants NFL Offseason Preview: Saquon Barkley Futures, James Bradberry in Doubt

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — The 2021 season was a disaster for the New York Giants. They essentially spent the offseason operating like a serious contender, spending big on free agents like wide receiver Kenny Golladay, cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and tight end Kyle Rudolph, only to go 4-13. Quarterback Daniel Jones did little to show he is the long-term solution at the game’s biggest position in what most considered a breakout year. Jones will return, but his future and how the Giants handle the position going forward remains a work in progress under a new regime.

With little cap space, former general manager Dave Gettleman spent last season restructuring deals to keep the Giants under the salary cap. He has left new general manager Joe Schoen with a mess to clean up.

Schoen has already gone on record that he wanted to free up $40 million in cap space and build during the draft. He also said the Giants won’t be great players this year in free agency as they get their finances in order.

But they have two top-10 picks and nine picks overall in the draft.

Projected Salary Cap Space: $-10,512,631

Top free agents: TE Evan Engram, S Jabrill Peppers, OLB Lorenzo Carter, G Will Hernandez, OT Nate Solder

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Possible court candidates: The money has to come from somewhere and cornerback James Bradberry, scheduled to count an absurd $21.9 million against the salary cap, saves them $12 million. Receiver Sterling Shepard is also expensive ($12.5 million vs. cap) and probably won’t be ready for the start of the season while he rehabs a torn Achilles tendon.

What you need to know: The Giants have some big decisions to make this offseason. They have until May to take the fifth-year option on Jones’ rookie deal. It seems likely that they will pass as he has yet to show any real consistency in his first three seasons as the starting quarterback and that would mean guaranteeing him over $20 million by 2023. It seems inevitable that they will let Jones play this year and if he has a great season, that is going to present him with a good problem.

The fifth-year option for running back Saquon Barkley is a situation Schoen inherits. He guarantees Barkley $7.2 million for this season. There has already been speculation that it might be in the best interest of the team and the player to move him in a trade this offseason. It would give Barkley a fresh start and provide the Giants with more financial flexibility.

Best Off-Season Stage: Schoen fills the gaps on the offensive line with smart offers. He hits big on both top 10 picks and trainer Brian Daboll can work magic on him with Jones. Suddenly, the Giants have a competent offense and will be in shape to be players again next year in free agency, as they resemble a well-run playoff contender.

Worst case out of season: The Giants take it with the chin this offseason. They let go of several of their best players, perhaps Bradberry, Shepard and middle linebacker Blake Martinez, to get by financially. They’re not players in free agency, and 2022 looks like another rough season before Schoen gets them back on track.

Preview of the NFL draft, from ESPN analyst Jordan Reid: With two top-10 picks, the Giants could go multiple directions in the 2022 draft. Offensive and defensive lines are the biggest areas of concern. Spending both picks could be options, as trench upgrades should be high on Schoen’s priority list.

Main needs: EDGE, OL, LB

Better options: No. 5 and 7

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New York Giants NFL Offseason Preview: Saquon Barkley Futures, James Bradberry in Doubt