@DanGrazianoESPN: Mathias Kiwanuka is the most obvious New York Giants cap casualty this offseason, as it's been a long time since his production matched up with his salary and they can save $4.85 million by cutting him. Also looming as potential cuts are linebacker Jon Beason and center J.D. Walton, though Walton's not overpriced and the decision on him could come down to how much other work they're able to do on their offensive line this offseason. Beason's case is an interesting one. They obviously like him and believe he makes a difference to their defense. And he's guaranteed $900,000 in salary this year anyway. But the $7.37 million cap number is unwieldy, and they'd save about $3.53 million by cutting him. They could try to talk him into a pay cut, but if they really believe Jameel McClain functioned as a capable replacement, then it's not crazy to move on from Beason at this point.
@DanGrazianoESPN: Obviously, a lot depends on what they do in free agency. And even after that, the Giants do have a tendency not to target specific positions but to go with the best possible player at their spot. If you're looking for a basic framework, my sense is that the market will send them toward offensive linemen in free agency and defensive players in the draft. Given where they're drafting, they could have a chance at a top-flight pass-rusher or a stud safety like Alabama's Landon Collins at No. 9. And while they don't tend to draft linebackers, they do have a significant need at that position, so maybe they'll try for one of those in the second or third round. And even if they do sign a bunch of offensive linemen in free agency, they could (and maybe should) find a tackle or a guard in the second or third round with an eye toward the long term.
@DanGrazianoESPN: It was something of a surprise that the Giants spent big on cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in March, even as part of their big free-agent frenzy. But it does show you where their priorities are focused right now, and I think if they did spend big on a marquee free agent this year it would be on the back end of their defense, possibly a safety like Devin McCourty or Da'Norris Searcy. They will make offensive line a priority, but since they consider themselves set at left tackle with Will Beatty, they're unlikely to bring in any "marquee" names on the line. (Guards and right tackles aren't generally marquee names.) The only two safeties on the roster right now are Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe, and there's some question about whether they'll bring back free agent Antrel Rolle, so this is a place where they have significant resources to spend.
@DanGrazianoESPN: I do not think taking a top quarterback such as Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston would be a good use of the Giants' first-round draft pick this year, even if one of those guys fell to No. 9. The Giants' roster is not in strong enough shape to allow them to double up major resources on the quarterback position, where they're heavily committed to Eli Manning this year and likely to extend his contract into the future. If they believed they were moving on from Manning after this year, then you could maybe make the case for taking Mariota in the first round. But let's be honest -- Mariota or Winston would do well to ever be half as good an NFL quarterback as Eli Manning already is. The Giants know this, and with Manning still in his prime, they're not interested in cutting bait and turning the franchise over to an unproven commodity at the most important position.
Thanks for all of your questions. Enjoy the Pro Bowl.
"It's been a guy that I've looked up to for a long time," Beckham said after Friday's Pro Bowl practice at Scottsdale Community College. "A guy who's been at the top and a guy who's been all the way down at the bottom and still remained the same the entire way through.
"Skills like that is something that I admire in a person -- someone who goes through such controversy and adversity and is still able to overcome it."
But Beckham never thought Mathieu would give up.
"Just says a lot about the person and his character," Beckham said. "It's something that I expect from him. I expect nothing but greatness from him. That's what he gives every time."
Beckham experienced some of that adversity during his rookie season in 2014.
He missed the first four games with a hamstring injury but recovered to lead all rookie receivers with 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games. His injury, coupled with the knee injury Mathieu suffered in Week 14 of 2013, kept them from working out together during last offseason.
The two New Orleans natives kept in touch and would "chop it up back-and-forth," Beckham said. They also share a similar style: Like Mathieu, Beckham has the top of his hair dyed blonde.
"I don't know if it's really [a tribute] to him," Beckham said. "It's our little style, so it just works out."
While the Giants plan to have Will Beatty back as their starting left tackle, Weston Richburg back as either a guard or (they hope) their starting center, Geoff Schwartz healthy and back to play one of the guard spots and Justin Pugh back as either a guard or right tackle, don't be surprised if the Giants add multiple pieces on their offensive line. Part of their issue there the past couple of years has been a lack of depth, and they don't want to keep getting caught short on the line.
With that in mind, here's a very short, partial list of potential offensive line targets in free agency:
Joe Barksdale, Rams tackle: This is a 6-foot-5, 326-pound giant who just turned 27 three weeks ago. He graded out as Pro Football Focus' No. 10 tackle (and No. 3 right tackle) in run-blocking in 2014. If the Giants' plan is to get a mauling right tackle who would allow them to move Pugh inside to a guard spot, this is a guy to watch -- assuming the Rams let him hit the market, which is no certainty.
Bryan Bulaga, Packers tackle: Grades out better in pass protection, but he's no slouch as a run-blocker. Former first-round pick turns 26 in March and could leave Green Bay if the bidding for his services gets out of their preferred price range.
Doug Free, Cowboys tackle: He has rebounded from a rotten 2012 with two strong seasons at right tackle for Dallas, and was a big part of the league's No. 2 rush offense in 2014. But Free is 31 and therefore a bit older than the Giants' preferred free agents tend to be.
Orlando Franklin, Broncos guard: He has played tackle and guard in his career, and the Giants like that versatility in their linemen. Franklin is 27 years old, which makes him appealing as well.
Mike Iupati, 49ers guard: Turns 28 in May. Graded out as PFF's No. 2 run-blocking guard in 2014. Likely to be in demand.
Clint Boling, Bengals guard: He is quite young, as his 26th birthday is not until May. At 6-foot-5, 310, he's a bit smaller than those first two guards I listed.
Mel liked the Giants' draft in the first place, giving it a "B" immediately after it was over. Since this is an Insider piece, I'm not going to tell you here what the re-grade is. But considering they got 12 rookie-of-the-year-caliber games from first-rounder Odell Beckham Jr., 15 starts from second-rounder Weston Richburg, a team-leading 721 rushing yards from fourth-rounder Andre Williams and 4.5 sacks from fifth-rounder Devon Kennard, you can assume the grade improved upon consideration of the season's worth of evidence.
The Giants desperately needed a strong 2014 draft, after years of unproductive ones, and the early returns indicate that this could be the most productive since Jerry Reese became GM in 2007. If Williams can be a starting running back, Kennard a starting linebacker, Richburg the team's center of the future and Beckham the kind of star performer he was as a rookie, there will be no doubt.
NEW YORK -- If you believe the assertion that you can tell how much something really bothers someone by how much they squawk, then the way a couple of former Patriots responded on television this week to a few taunts that former Giants place-kicker Lawrence Tynes tweeted after New England routed the Colts 45-7 in last Sunday's AFC title game was telling.
Retired cornerback Ty Law scowled and said, "Who is this dude?"
He's a kicker, Law and former Pats wide receiver Troy Brown were reminded.
"A kicker? Next subject," Law scoffed.
"Don't count. Next subject," Brown agreed.
"Go soak your foot," Law added.
For Tynes, who's built a burgeoning reputation as a Twitter smart aleck since leaving the Giants for Tampa and getting knocked out of the league in 2013 by a serious staph infection, the social media blowback he caught in the first 36 hours after his tweets proved he'd hit a sore spot. Tynes insists, "I actually have great respect for how much winning the Patriots have done, all the division titles they've won" -- even if he did also tweet that "maybe the Pats will have a chance now that they're not playing the G-Men."
Pats supporters and former players don't want any reminders of New York's role in interrupting Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the franchise's coronation as the best NFL coach, quarterback and NFL dynasty of all time.
Team Irvin will be coached by Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who'll be familiar with his roster. The only Cowboy selected by Team Cris Carter was long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur.
Beckham is (obviously) playing in his first Pro Bowl after a dazzling rookie season in which he missed the first four games due to a hamstring injury but still managed to catch 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Pro Bowl is at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday in Glendale, Arizona, and will be broadcast on ESPN.
So at this point assume something close to $19 million in cap room and expect them to push it over $20 million with roster cuts, pay cuts or other contract adjustments. That would give the Giants enough cap room to operate their offseason even if they don't extend the contract of quarterback Eli Manning.
If the Giants do extend Manning this offseason, what would that deal look like? He has averaged $16.25 million a year on the six-year, $97.5 million deal he signed just prior to the 2009 season. Given his production in recent years, it's easy to say they should just extend him for the same money. But given the way quarterback contracts have gone since then, with guys such as Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco averaging more than $20 million a year on new deals and Jay Cutler, Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford coming in around $18 million a year, it's legitimate for Manning to ask for more.
For the sake of argument (JUST AS AN EXAMPLE), let's give him Romo's deal -- six years, $108 million with a $25 million signing bonus. Takes him to age 40 if he plays it out, but we all know those last couple of years aren't guaranteed. If they structured it the way Dallas structured Romo's deal, they'd knock another $11 million off this year's cap by rolling this year's salary into the new deal and giving Manning a low base salary in 2015 in exchange for the signing bonus. They'd be on the hook for big guaranteed salaries in 2016 and 2017 but nothing after that, and the length of the deal would allow them to restructure that big guarantee in Year Two if they wanted to do it.
I don't know what the Giants' plans are for this. I know they're considering all options, and I know they'd like to keep Manning around for the rest of his career. I know the options on the market aren't any better than Manning, and I believe an extension for Manning is the right way for the Giants to go -- whether now or a year from now. As for the timing: Yes, they can operate their offseason with a fair amount of flexibility if they don't extend Manning this year. But they could have a much more effective and helpful offseason if they do.
Tedy Bruschi, the former Patriots linebacker who's now an NFL analyst for ESPN, has no trouble remembering the game, painful though it may be for a member of that year's Patriots to recall.
"I can't think of a game in Super Bowl history with more on the line than there was that day," Bruschi said Monday in a phone interview. "This was THE SUPER BOWL, all caps. The one that would trump all the others. A chance to go 19-0, be the only team that ever did that, call ourselves the greatest team of all time? No question about it. But the better team won. They were definitely the better team."
"I definitely feel the right team won," Bruschi said. "The way we played, the way they played, they should have won. And that's just the respect I have for the NFL game. To sit here and say we were the better team, or we'd have beaten them nine out of 10 times, come on. What a slap in the face it would be for me to say that."
Bruschi can recall several moments from the game that made him think things weren't going to go the Patriots' way -- the David Tyree helmet catch, of course, but also a dropped interception by Asante Samuel, another pass that went off Brandon Meriweather's hands, an Ahmad Bradshaw fumble that Bradshaw improbably recovered, etc. The kinds of things, Bruschi said, that used to go the Patriots' way when they started winning Super Bowls. But he says it would be a mistake to lay that loss on a few bad bounces.
"They came at us with that power running game with [Brandon] Jacobs and Bradshaw and the fullback, [Madison] Hedgecock," Bruschi said. "Physical offensive line, they had a defensive line, powerful. It validates what really wins football games. We had the highest-scoring offense in the history of the NFL, and we ran into a more physical team that day and lost."
Truly believing the other team was better doesn't help Bruschi deal with the loss, though. What the Patriots lost that day went well beyond one game or even one title. They lost the chance to lay claim to the title of greatest team in NFL history. Bruschi took it so hard, he put off retirement plans.
"I couldn't finish my career with that taste in my mouth," he said. "If we had won that game, I would have retired. No doubt in my mind. But after we lost, I had to come back and play another season."
Bruschi is a Patriot for life, and he recognizes that people will say Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have a chance to go exorcise some demons in the desert in a couple of weeks. But he doesn't think that's really the case.
"I know Tom wants to go out there and right the wrong," Bruschi said. "But if they go out there and win that Super Bowl, it doesn't fix anything for me. I'll be ecstatic and I'll be proud of the organization, but the big one was lost. Nothing's going to change that."
Obviously, the results were mixed, as you'd expect. Some of these guys never played for the team. Some of these contracts continue into 2015 and beyond. Here's a look back at the deals the Giants signed last year and how they look after Year 1:
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (5 years, $35 million): Played hurt most of the year, but within that framework more or less gave them what they hoped for. He's not going anywhere, as he has a $1.25 million guarantee for this year on top of prorated signing bonus and roster bonus money. Their hope is that he gets and stays healthy and performs like the elite player they're paying him to be.
LB Jon Beason (3 years, $17 million): This looked like way too much at the time, though the Giants believed Beason was critical to their defense after they acquired him via trade in 2013. A springtime foot injury never healed, and Beason played in only parts of four games before going on injured reserve. Even though he has $900,000 in guaranteed salary coming in 2015, he's a candidate for release or restructure as his next two years' cap numbers ($7.37 million and $6.57 million) are out of line with his production.
G Geoff Schwartz (4 years, $16.8 million): Signed to play left guard, Schwartz injured his toe in camp and played in only two games all year. The one positive is that he played right tackle in those games, demonstrating versatility that could help the Giants structure their offensive line going forward. With $1 million in guaranteed salary plus a $475,000 roster bonus for 2015, he gets a mulligan and a chance to show he can hold up over a full season at some position on the line.
C J.D. Walton (2 years, $6 million): The Giants were happy with the way he picked up the new offense and helped others learn it. But with 2014 second-rounder Weston Richburg slated for center long-term, Walton is a potential cap casualty. They'll save $2.5 million if they cut him.
LB Jameel McClain (2 years, $4.5 million): Something of an afterthought signing in the way of the Rodgers-Cromartie one, McClain ended up playing middle linebacker in Beason's place and leading the team in tackles (as a 4-3 middle linebacker should). If they keep Beason, they could decide McClain is extraneous and save $3.1 million against the cap by cutting him. But he seems like a useful enough piece to keep around for one more year even as a starter on the outside.
DE Robert Ayers (2 years, $3.75 million): Most of this deal's money is in this second year, with a $1.23 million salary, $500,000 in prorated signing bonus and a $500,000 roster bonus due on March 12. Assuming they move on from Mathias Kiwanuka, the Giants have a place for Ayers as a starting defensive end. But he's coming off his own serious injury, so it's no sure thing. And even if he's back, they could seek to reduce the cost, though it's reasonable enough that they don't have to.
CB Walter Thurmond (1 year, $3 million): He said he turned down multiyear deals in the hope of having a big year and cashing in this spring. But he played in only two games before his season-ending injury. The Giants would like him back, assuming low cost in free agency.
CB Trumaine McBride (2 years, $2.875 million): A broken thumb ended his season early, but at $1 million in salary for 2015 he's a valuable piece for the Giants in their secondary.
S Stevie Brown (1 year, $2.75 million): Benched early in the year, rebounded a bit, now a free agent. Could bring him back as long as the cost is minimal. The Giants don't have a starting safety on the roster right now.
K Josh Brown (2 years, $2.5 million): Gave them no reason to regret or alter this deal.
RB Peyton Hillis (2 years, $1.8 million): Concussion issues could force him to retire. Minimal cap cost to the Giants ($945,000) if he is back.
LB Spencer Paysinger (1 year, $1.431 million): Pushed into a part-time role due to the development of Jacquian Williams and Devon Kennard. No real reason to bring him back.
S Quintin Demps (1 year, $1 million): Signed to return kicks, played a bunch of safety when Brown got benched. He and the team wish he'd played better. Free agent. They'll likely look elsewhere.
FB Henry Hynoski (1 year, $1 million): To the (somewhat minimal) extent that the Ben McAdoo offense uses a fullback, Hynoski is a fine one.
DT Mike Patterson (1 year, $920,000): Decent rotational player. Played in all 16 games. Giants like him, cost is low, but he'll turn 32 in September and is no lock to return.
G John Jerry (1 year, $795,000): Signed as a backup, Jerry surprisingly started all 16 games at right guard following the retirement of Chris Snee. But like everyone else on the line, he struggled greatly in the run game. They'll likely seek to upgrade.
CB Zack Bowman (1 year, $795,000): Played in all 16 games, had two interceptions. Didn't hold up when asked to step in as a starter, but that wasn't what they signed him for. As part of the overall cornerback plan, he makes sense to bring back on a minimal deal.
OT Charles Brown (1 year, $795,000): Injured early, and when he finally got into a game it was as a sub for Justin Pugh against the 49ers. He was awful in that game and was cut the following week.
WR Mario Manningham (1 year, $795,000): Never looked healthy in camp, got hurt again at the end of it, placed on IR before season started.
QB Curtis Painter (1 year, $795,000): Lost the backup QB job to Ryan Nassib in camp, was released.
TE Kellen Davis (1 year, $795,000): Released at the end of camp. Ended up on the Lions.
KR Trindon Holliday (1 year, $700,000): Training camp hamstring injury landed him on IR before the season ever started.
WR Travis Harvey (1 year, $420,000): Didn't make the team out of camp.
QBs Josh Freeman and Rusty Smith: Remember? The whole thing about Eli Manning was going to have to miss spring practices following ankle surgery and they needed quarterbacks to take reps. Remember how people actually thought Freeman had a shot to stick? Good times. Good times.
The New England Patriots just won the AFC Championship Game, hammering the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 and earning a trip to Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona.
Not impressed: former NFL kicker Lawrence Tynes, who helped the New York Giants win two Super Bowl titles -- both against Bill Belichick, Tom Brady & Co.
Ouch. And he added the (nonfunctional) Glendale hashtag, which references the Giants' first Super Bowl vs. the Patriots -- you know, the one New England entered 18-0 and ...
If we could type fire emojis in this space, we would.
More awesome stories
Wouldn't it make the most sense to move pugh inside and get a f/a tackle..then draft picks can be defense.. #nygmail.. - brett vollant (@BLV2180) January 15, 2015@DanGrazianoESPN: I do think it would make sense to move Justin Pugh to guard and find a big-time, mauling, run-blocking right tackle. I have thought that for a couple of years now, and based on the comments the Giants' decision-makers made on the radio earlier this week, it sounds as though they believe it now as well. And your plan -- to find a tackle in free agency and not leave it for the draft -- is likely to be the one they pursue. I believe in the value of building the line through the draft, but at the No. 9 pick it does not appear as though there's going to be a must-take tackle for the Giants this year. There are some interesting tackle names on the free-agent market (Doug Free? Bryan Bulaga? Joe Barksdale?), and it's possible the Giants have their eye on one of them. If they can't upgrade at right tackle, they're fine with Pugh there and could beef up at guard again instead. But it sounds to me as though they'll be in the tackle market, yes. And I think they should be.
@DanGrazianoESPN what are the chances we bring back both JPP and Rolle? #nygmail - Jason De Rozario (@THE_REAL_JayDee) January 14, 2015@DanGrazianoESPN: It's certainly not impossible that the Giants could re-sign free agents Jason Pierre-Paul and Antrel Rolle, but the chances depend on a number of things. First and foremost is price. If Pierre-Paul is determined to max out as a free agent (which I believe he is), then the Giants would either let him leave or franchise him. If they franchised him, there would be less money for Rolle, who also believes he's worth a lucrative free-agent deal and could leave if they lowball him the way they did Justin Tuck last year. Their best chance for keeping both is that at least one of them gives some sort of "hometown discount." They're not likely to get that from Pierre-Paul. But as a 32-year-old safety, Rolle might not find the market for which he's hoping and could decide staying with the Giants at their price is the best option for finishing his career.
@DanGrazianoESPN Will Cruz's return help or hurt Odell's production and who is the odd man out in the wr rotation? #nygmail - Kerry Loomis (@kerryloomis) January 14, 2015@DanGrazianoESPN: A return to full health for wide receiver Victor Cruz is not guaranteed. But if he does make one then his return to the offense would help Odell Beckham Jr. and the rest of the offense immensely. I do not think Beckham's role would change at all, and if he continued to play at the level at which he played in 2014, he would continue to pile up targets and catches. But offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo had big plans for Cruz before his season-ending injury last year, and having Cruz back as the slot receiver could make things even easier for Beckham as defenses had someone else who required their attention. Cruz is a guy the Giants feel they can use in a role similar to the one in which the Packers use Randall Cobb -- move him around the formation, line him up in the backfield, etc. And having Beckham as the threat he represents on the outside would enable them to maximize those options. Cruz and Beckham played only one full game together in 2014. As for the "odd man out," good question. Assuming Rueben Randle as the No. 3 (which I think is a fair assumption), they have a fair bit of depth with guys such as Marcus Harris (assuming he comes back from his injury), Corey Washington and Preston Parker and Kevin Ogletree if they bring those guys back. They were surprised by what Parker delivered for them this year, and they view him and Ogletree as good fits for their offense. Wide receiver could be a position of good depth for the Giants if Cruz does return.
@DanGrazianoESPN #nygmail to take next step with new O, do Giants need a better passing threat TE? - Steven Haderer (@stevenhaderer) January 14, 2015@DanGrazianoESPN: I don't think so. If we go back to the Packers comparison (which I think we should always do when talking about the new Giants offense), they really haven't had a high-impact passing-threat tight end recently, right? Jermichael Finley for a time, maybe, but not lately. The Giants (a) don't like to spend big resources on tight end and (b) really like Larry Donnell as a high-ceiling developmental player. They believe that another productive offseason will help Donnell make another leap and emerge as a major threat in their passing game. But even if he doesn't, they showed this year that he can be useful as-is, and as we discussed above, they might have more than enough options at wide receiver.
Thanks for all of your questions.