The New York Giants came into the 2014 offseason with one of the most aged and broken offensive lines in the NFL. Aside from rookie RT Justin Pugh, the Giants’ linemen failed to hold together as a unit and protect their quarterback, Eli Manning. Veterans David Baas and Chris Snee went down with injuries early in the year and LT Will Beatty played below expectations, then broke his leg in the season’s final game.
The Giants appropriately recognized the gravity of the situation, and made a slew of personnel moves to improve Manning’s protection. The Giants signed Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, John Jerry and most recently Charles Brown to add depth and dependability to the line.
Out of the team’s four signings, Schwartz was the only proven starter deserving of a big contract. The Giants shrewdly took short-term deals on Walton, Jerry and Brown, players who have either dealt with injuries or been benched in their professional careers. The Giants were right to take a flyer on unproven guys whose reward definitely outweighs their low-cost risk.
Even with of all their signings, I believe the team should not feel fully content with the state of its line. If Schwartz is the only free agent signing to pan out, the Giants will enter the 2015 offseason with another broken offensive line in need of replacement.
I believe the Giants should trade down in the draft to acquire an additional pick in the first three rounds. This decision plays to New York’s personnel needs because many of the best interior offensive linemen in the 2014 NFL Draft are not expected to get drafted in the first round.
The Giants need a guard for the future to replace Snee. David Yankee, Xavier Su’a-Filo and Trai Turner are potential Pro Bowl substitutes likely to be available on day two of the draft. Walton will likely enter Giants training camp as New York’s starting center, but his track record is unproven. One of the top center prospects, Marcus Martin, Travis Swanson or Bryan Stork, might even fall into the fourth round. A top rookie center with a clean bill of health will provide insurance in case Walton doesn’t meet the Giant’s high hopes for him.
If the Giants finish stabilizing the offensive line by grabbing a dynamic player on day two of the draft, New York will begin the 2014 season in good position to claim the NFC East.