The final whistle of the Super Bowl marks the end of the 2021 season. That solidifies all draft positions and gets us looking to free agency as the next chance for teams to make significant changes to their rosters. In this series, I’ll break down the needs and goals of every team as it relates to the 2022 offseason. Included will be cap space, cut candidates, positions of need, and plenty of other useful stats and notes as we prepare for free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft. Special thanks to Over the Cap, Pro Football Reference, Pro Football Focus, and Ben Baldwin’s RBSDM.com for all of the useful stats they track and house.
Giants 2021 Recap
With the NFC East looking like one of the weakest conferences entering the 2021 season, Giants fans had convinced themselves that their team could be the one to capitalize. Even when Daniel Jones was on the field, those dreams quickly turned into nightmares. Jones went 4-7 as a starter and never scored more than two touchdowns including his rushing work. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was fired after a nightmarish 26 games with the Giants. Then, after Jones was shut down because of a neck issue, the wheels truly fell off. With Jake Fromm and Mike Glennon starting, the Giants lost six consecutive games to close out the year. They scored more than 10 points once in that stretch. Head coach Joe Judge was relieved of his duties after a dreadful end to the season. After four losing campaigns, GM Dave Gettleman scurried into retirement, paving the way for a new era in Giants football.
Key Offensive Stats
- Points per game: 15.2 (31st)
- Dropback EPA: -.15 (31st)
- Passing yards per game: 188 (31st)
- Rush EPA: -.13 (27th)
- Rushing yards per game: 99 (24th)
For the offense, 2021 was a tale of two teams, though neither was up to par. Through 12 weeks, the Giants ranked 25th in EPA per dropback. Then, without Jones, the team’s dropback EPA fell to -.427. If that would have taken place over a full season, it would have been the worst mark in the past 20 years. To make things worse, Saquon Barkley was banged up all year and never looked like himself. He averaged 3.7 yards per carry and broke a run of 15 or more yards on just 21.6 percent of his attempts.
Key Defensive Stats
- Points per game: 24.5 (23rd)
- Dropback EPA: .05 (16th)
- Passing yards per game: 226 (15th)
- Rush EPA: -.001 (32nd)
- Rushing yards per game: 129 (25th)
The defense was supposed to be New York's backbone but that parachute failed to activate. With the offense backing the defense into corners every week, the Giants' atrocious run defense became a nagging issue. Teams dominated them on the ground, negating any value their corners could have added. Pro Football Focus ranked the Giants as the No. 17 coverage team on the back of a few key players. Safety Xavier McKinney and corner Adoree’ Jackson, who was brought in as a free agent last spring, were top-20 players at their positions according to PFF.
Giants 2022 Offseason
Total Draft Value
Notable Free Agents
TE Evan Engram, RG Will Hernandez, LG Matt Skura, C Billy Price, RT Nate Solder, DE Lorenzo Carter, S Jabrill Pepper, DT Austin Johnson
TE Kyle Rudolph ($5 million in savings), WR Sterling Shepard ($4.5 million), CB James Bradberry ($12.1 million), LB Blake Martinez ($8.5 million), P Riley Dixon ($2.8 million)
Notes: New York's total draft value is the sum of the value of every pick they own using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger NFL Draft Trade Value Chart. The values are only estimates until the NFL announces compensatory picks. Cap savings are listed assuming the player is cut before June 1st.
The Giants have a hellish cap situation. They rank 27th in cap space at the turn of the league year and most of their cut candidates force them to eat a considerable amount of dead money. Even if things turn around on the field, they are about to reach the end of Jones’ rookie contract, only furthering the strained cap space. The big selling point for hope will be a pair of top-10 picks, which could give them two rising stars on affordable deals.
The Giants have four starters on the line set to hit free agency. The good news is that AnDrew Thomas was the only difference-maker of the group and he remains on his rookie contract. Matt Peart filled in at left and right tackle last year and played well enough to get a shot at a starting role on the right side. That leaves a pair of guard spots up for grabs.
Along with both guards, Billy Price is a free agent and his mediocre play won’t warrant a re-signing. Former breakout UDFA lineman Nick Gates suffered a fractured leg that is threatening his career, all but exhausting the last option the Giants had at center.
Though linebacker may not be the most valuable potion in football, the Giants could still use an upgrade. Tae Crowder played the third-most defensive snaps for the team and was ranked dead last at linebacker by PFF. Martinez could be off the roster to clear cap space in a few weeks. At least one addition is needed if he is cut while a pair of upgrades is what the unit deserves.
With Garrett and Judge gone after an embarrassing tenure, the Giants turned to Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to be their next coach. His hiring was inevitable after Bills assistant GM Joe Schoen landed New York’s GM job. Last year, Daboll dialed up play-action for Josh Allen at a top-five rate. He also let Allen use his cannon of an arm to push the field, allowing him to reach a top-10 average depth of target. More deep shots would be a welcome change for Jones, who threw deep at the lowest rate in the league despite averaging 14 yards per attempt on those throws. Even though Jones won’t turn into Allen overnight, still expect to see an uptick in pass attempts from him. The Bills finished first in pass rate on first downs, third in pass rate over expectation, and second in pass rate when within one score of their opponent last year.
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham walked for a new gig in Vegas and was replaced with Don Martindale. Martindale was fired by the Ravens after their defense imploded last year. Martindale led Baltimore to three top-three finishes by points allowed before injuries shattered his roster in 2021. Martindale’s defenses were among the highest in blitz rate and he disguised his extra pass-rushers well, leading to solid pressure statistics. The Ravens were also dominant against the run, never finishing outside of the top 10 in rushing yards allowed. Martindale will keep the Giants' 3-4 defense intact while attempting to solve their issues against the run.
New York’s owner and president John Mara owned up to his failings with Jones after the 2021 season, saying, “We’ve done everything possible to screw this kid up since he’s been here.” Mara knows that the future of the franchise rides on fixing Jones If they can't accomplish that, it's back to the drawing board. In response, he hired one of the best head coaching candidates to maximize his quarterback’s potential and added Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka as his offensive coordinator.
With the staff taken care of, New York will be forced to retool their roster through the draft. At the top, New York will likely split their first-round picks between offense and defense. After that, they’ll have to accept some amount of quantity of quality to replenish their offensive line. If they can get Jones a handful of capable starters in the trenches, 2022 will be a proving ground for him and a crossroads for the franchise.