Recent media reports suggest that the New York Giants have internally kicked off NFL free agency by highlighting a number of available free agent guards to pursue. The players listed — Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz – Kansas City Chiefs, Chad Rinehart – San Diego Chargers, Zane Beadles – Denver Broncos and Shawn Lauvao – Cleveland Browns — are all young and talented. For the Giants, an organization normally fiscally conservative during free agency, this move is uncharacteristically assertive.
Quarterback Eli Manning faced consistent pressure up the middle last season, exposing the weakness of the Giants’ interior offensive line. New York’s organizational staff is sound in their decision to proactively address this deficiency. The Giants are blessed by Manning’s durability but would be foolish to assume that he can remain injury-free without protection. The decision to aggressively pursue a free agent guard entering the prime of his career shows the Giants’ commitment to their franchise quarterback’s longevity.
Signing a guard also provides the Giants with a great deal of flexibility on draft day. Many pundits have suggested that the Giants will take one of the premier offensive tackles with the No. 12 overall pick. While this may still certainly happen, the Giants are married to their current two starting tackles Justin Pugh and Will Beatty. Pugh, one of New York’s few bright spots in 2013, is capable of playing different positions but seemed natural at the coveted tackle spots. The team would be unwise to move him and hamper his development. Beatty, on the other hand, is coming off a disappointing year, but the prospect of cutting him and absorbing the massive salary cap hit is out of the question. The Giants have to hope he can rebound and play at his 2012 level.
If the Giants fortify themselves at guard before the draft, they are not forced to immediately address the offensive line. The departure of Corey Webster leaves the team deficient at cornerback, and a premier talent like Justin Gilbert may still be available at No. 12. The likely departure of Hakeem Nicks creates an obvious vacancy at wide receiver, and the impressive combine performance of Mike Evans makes the physically imposing first-round hopeful an attractive replacement. If the Giants let Mathias Kiwanuka go, the team can find an immediate upgrade in Khalil Mack, a supremely talented linebacker with perennial Pro Bowl potential. In any case, the move to sign a guard allows the team to select the best available talent and add depth to the offensive line through later draft picks.
A losing record speaks for itself; the Giants were a bad team last year. They have a lot of needs to fill and only a limited amount of time and money to address them all. Tackling the biggest issues immediately seems like the most sensible way to improve the team. Here’s to hoping the reports turn out to be true.