By now it’s well known just how much of a dumpster fire the 2017 season was for the New York Giants. Multiple suspensions. A head coach fired mid-season. The benching of a future Hall of Fame quarterback. And a last-place finish one year after earning a trip to the playoffs.
Most figured New York would find itself in complete tear-down mode this offseason. Move on from the fat on the roster and start anew with first-year head coach Pat Shurmur. Maybe even find a quarterback to eventually take over for Manning under center.
During the early stages of the offseason, this narrative has been thrown out of New York quicker than a Patriots fan wearing a Tom Brady hat. Based on what we’ve seen from the Giants, they still think short-term contention is possible. General manager Dave Gettleman and Co. also seem to think that overpaying for veterans is the way to go.
It started on Tuesday with the reported signing of soon-to-be 31-year-old running back Jonathan Stewart. It’s not that Stewart is a bad running back. Instead, it’s all about how the Giants needed to get younger at running back rather than overpay for an injury-prone veteran already on the back end of his career. The deal calls for $6.9 million over two seasons with a total value that could max out at $8.4 million.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 14, 2018
Stewart put up just 680 rushing yards and averaged a lowly 3.4 yards per attempt last season. It was the worst performance of his career. He’s going to be 31 next season. That’s when running backs usually decline, and Stewart already showed signs of this happening in 2017. Eek.
Then, on Wednesday, it was reported that the Giants will sign veteran left tackle Nate Solder to a four-year deal worth $62 million, making him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league. Solder 29, has spent each of the past seven seasons protecting Tom Brady’s blindside in New England. On the surface, this seems like a tremendous deal for a team that struggled protecting Eli Manning last season. But that’s just on the surface.
Solder, too, will be entering his Age-30 season. He failed to earn a Pro Bowl nod or All-Pro honors in any of his seven seasons with the Patriots. The former first-round pick was also very much a product of Tom Brady’s quick release in New England. Quarterbacks of Brady’s ilk have a way of masking deficiencies along the offensive line.
His former backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, was a prime example of this in San Francisco last season. Garoppolo mirrors his game after Brady, and that came out in a big way during his five-start sample size with the 49ers. In the five games Garoppolo started, he was sacked a total of eight times. In the other 11 games, 49ers quarterbacks found themselves sacked 35 times. It was behind the very same offensive line.
As it relates to Solder himself, the metrics are not indicative of him being an elite-level pass protecting offensive lineman. Pro Football Focus actually graded him out as the 32nd-best offensive tackle in the NFL last season. That’s what we’d call mediocre.
Sure the Giants got better by adding Solder to the mix. That’s not really in question. But based on Manning’s game, we’re not going to see the offensive tackle’s inefficiencies in pass protection masked any more.
It’s also important to note that the Giants’ cap situation isn’t necessarily in great standing. We’re not talking about the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers or Indianapolis Colts here. Instead, this team was just $18 million under the cap before these two moves. It is paying the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, Alec Ogletree and Brandon Marshall well above what their market would indicated. We can now add these two aging veterans to that list.
The Solder’ signing is also a clear indication that New York is going to pass up on a quarterback with the No. 2 pick in next month’s draft. He was brought on to be Manning’s blindside protector. That is as clear a day. So in deciding to go for it, the Giants will likely miss out on a potential franchise quarterback when they are in prime position to land one…when they need to actually land one.
The definition of insanity surely is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Even with a new regime in New York, this feels like much of the same.