A deeper look at some recent New York Giants headlines.
3 Giants on the Mend
Linebacker J.T. Thomas, safety Darian Thompson and quarterback Geno Smith are all on the mend from their respective season-ending injuries, per Newsday.
But if you’re looking for any of those players to be on the field for the OTAs and mandatory minicamp, we’ll, that’s not likely to happen.
The Giants historically don’t rush players who are rehabbing following major surgeries back to the field, regardless off what percentage the player claims himself to be.
Last week, head coach Ben McAdoo even went so far in a radio interview last week with WFAN’s Mike Francesa, to acknowledge that while Smith is “champing at the bit” to get on the field, they’re going to try to hold him back so he doesn’t suffer any setbacks.
Smith, per the Newsday report, was apparently the only one to declare himself 100 percent. However, there is a fine line between being 100 percent for daily activities versus athletic activities requiring sudden movement.
Still, it’s easy to understand why Smith is raring to get going. After his well-documented struggles with the Jets, the Giants represent a chance for Smith to get his NFL career back on track by putting together some good tape during the preseason, where he figures to get the bulk of his playing time.
Smith will battle Josh Johnson for the No. 2 quarterback spot behind Manning this summer. Rookie Davis Webb projects as the third-string quarterback.
Thompson had locked up the starting free safety job last year after having an impressive offseason following his selection as a third-round draft pick. A foot injury that required surgery derailed his rookie campaign.
During his absence, undrafted free agent Andrew Adams stepped into Thompson’s starting role and held his own, according to Pro Football Focus.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 6, 2017
Because Adams far exceeded expectations, Thompson’s return to the starting lineup isn’t a lock. The competition for the free safety spot figures among the key ones to watch this summer. Given his experience and how well he executed most of his assignments, Adams has a leg up entering this competition.
Thomas’ situation is interesting. At the start of the offseason, many, including us, thought that he might be a salary cap cut.
However, rehabbing players who are cut must receive an injury settlement and Thomas, who is in the last year of his contract with the Giants, would have been in line to receive a hefty injury settlement if he had been cut before he was deemed ready to pass a physical.
Could there still be a role for Thomas on the Giants? If Mark Herzlich’s move to the offense (see the next item) is permanent, then Thomas’s chances could come down to him beating out Eric Pinkins and Deontae Skinner, two linebackers who, like Thomas, also play special teams.
Usually the Giants target the start of training camp (which by the way hasn’t officially been announced, though based on when the first preseason game is, we’re probably looking at around July 28) for guys coming off major injuries.
Players placed on PUP at the start of training camp can be removed any time during the preseason, so we’ll see if any of Smith, Thompson and/or Thomas end up there.
Out with the Old, In with the New
The linebacker formerly known as Mark Herzlich has a new jersey number (44) and a new position (tight end).
Herzlich signed a one-year minimum qualifying contract in the offseason for $855,000 total, has a base salary of $775,000 and an $80,000 signing bonus. If he can successfully pick up a role on offense as a blocking tight end—more on that in a minute—the contract will be a bargain.
Players who receive a one-year minimum qualifying offer that carries no more than $80,000 in bonuses only count for a portion of their net contract value against the cap, or more specifically, their base salary counts for the equivalent of a second-year veteran.
In this case, if Herzlich makes the team, his cap hit would be $775,000 ($695,000 base salary plus the $80,000 signing bonus).
If he doesn’t make the roster, the Giants get hit with just $80,000 in dead money.
Herzlich, who last year was used sparingly on defense—he played just 15 snaps according to the Giants’ year-end figure—has settled into a role as a core special teams player, where he also recently added long snapping to his offerings.
Herzlich’s move to the offensive side of the ball is interesting. Last year, the Giants tight ends did an abysmal job of run-blocking, which is why there was a big emphasis put on upgrading that area this year in free agency with the addition of tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison.
But as the Giants found out last year, you can never have too many lead blockers. They lost both Nikita Whitlock, the only pure blocking fullback on the roster, and fullback/tight end Will Johnson before the season, injuries that McAdoo conceded forced the offense to go in another direction.
If Herzlich’s move to tight end is permanent, it creates an interesting competition for the summer. Last year’s sixth-round draft pick, Jerell Adams, has been groomed to handle the in-line blocking.
Also in the mix is Matt LaCosse, an undrafted free agent signed two years ago who’s had some injury issues.
Will Tye and first-round pick Evan Engram are also capable of being blockers, but are probably going to earn their keep as receivers instead.
Don’t be surprised if the Giants try to keep four tight ends on their roster this year.
Mara Not Yet Ready to Anoint Davis Webb as Eli’s Successor
Although every new crop of rookies generates buzz around the Giants headquarters, one guy who is sure to have all eyes on him when the team opens their rookie minicamp Thursday night is third-round pick Davis Webb.
Webb, for those who have been away, is the highest drafted quarterback in the Jerry Reese era since 2004, when the team drafted and then traded Phillip rivers to the Chargers to acquire Eli Manning.
Webb’s draft status combined with Manning’s advancing age—he turned 36 in January—has many people thinking that Webb is the team’s future at quarterback.
Not so fast, according to team owner John Mara, whom during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show, pumped the brakes on that.
“As Bill Parcells used to say, let’s not get his bust ready for Canton just yet. Let’s let him get on the field, let’s let him play in the preseason and develop. If he’s the successor that’s great. If not, then we’ll find somebody else,” Mara told Eisen.
Mara’s sentiment makes sense, but it also might have a deeper sentiment than most people realize. Manning, much like Phil Simms, has meant a lot to the Giants franchise both on and off the field. Like Simms, he was instrumental in bringing them two Super Bowl championships.
Until the next true franchise quarterback comes along, Manning will probably hold the team’s passing records, previously held by Simms, for several years.
Records aside, Mara was around the team in 1994 when Simms, then 38 years old who had led the team the year before to an 11-5 season, was cut by then general manager George Young in favor of Dave Brown, selected in the 1992 NFL Supplemental draft and immediately anointed as Simms’ successor.
Giants fans know how that move turned out, just as they know how long it took for the team to find someone to stabilize the position as Simms had. While that’s not to say that Webb’s career will take a similar path, it’s obvious that franchise quarterbacks who can give a team 10 or more seasons of quality play don’t simply grow on trees.
Mara isn’t oblivious to the fact that Manning is getting older and that he can’t play the game forever. But if anyone thinks that he’s going to allow Manning pushed out the door just because Webb or whoever might be the quarterback is “ready” to play better think again.