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Cover 4

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Cover 4: What we learned in the first wave of free agency


The crew reacts to the first wave of free agency after the new league year began last week:

John Schmeelk: I wrote in last week's "Cover 4" that the two most likely positions for splash moves were offensive guard and edge defender. I was mostly right as Brian Burns’ addition was technically a trade. The Giants needed an edge rusher, and Joe Schoen stressed at the NFL Scouting Combine that having strong pass rushers was essential to Shane Bowen's defense.

Meanwhile, the combination of offensive linemen Jon Runyan and Jermaine Eluemunor was a significant use of assets for two players that could both be starters this year. They also provide significant position flexibility with Runyan capable of playing left and right guard, and Eluemunor capable of playing four different positions. It will make it easier for Brian Daboll to get his best five offensive linemen on the field at all times.

These moves also confirmed Schoen's stated philosophy of building from the inside out. The Giants want to be good up front, first and foremost, and then they will build out on the perimeter. The Giants' defense now has multiple players that teams will have to account for on passing downs. On the offensive line, they will have five players that have started a lot of games, including young players who are still improving. The fronts will be better than they were last year.

Finally, I think this also signals what the Giants think they can find in the draft. Two of the stronger groups in this class, along with offensive tackle, are wide receiver and cornerback. Whether it is at sixth overall or in the second round, there should be a good receiver available to select. There should also be cornerbacks capable of playing inside and outside on the second day of the draft. The Giants should be able to address those needs at the end of April to further fill out the roster.

Dan Salomone: Free agency is as much about the players that did not come back as it is about the newcomers. Running back Saquon Barkley signed with the Eagles, safety Xavier McKinney joined the Packers, and cornerback Adoree' Jackson remains an unrestricted free agent. Those are three of 10 team captains from last season. As Schmeelk mentioned above, free agency sets the table for the draft in terms of filling voids. It could also signal what the front office thinks about the current roster. At safety, for example, Jason Pinnock came off a breakout year in which he intercepted two passes (including a 102-yard touchdown return) and forced two fumbles. In addition, Dane Belton seemingly gets a takeaway every time he is on the field. It will be interesting to see how the picture comes further into focus at the draft next month.

View photos of the newest members of the Giants touring the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for the first time.

Lance Medow: Based on what the Giants addressed in the first wave of free agency, there was clearly a focus on the trenches and a shift in the allocation of resources toward the offensive and defensive lines as opposed to the skill positions.  The biggest splash was the acquisition of pass rusher Brian Burns from the Panthers, who will turn 26 in April.  The 2019 first-round pick has had at least 7.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits in each of his first five seasons.  He's a proven disruptor and has also suited up for at least 15 games in each campaign.  Right before free agency, I had mentioned getting after the quarterback would be a key facet to address in free agency given the Giants had 34 sacks in 2023 and have dealt with injuries at that spot, most notably Azeez Ojulari.  Burns' arrival now gives new defensive coordinator Shane Bowen edge players for the opposition to think about thanks to Kayvon Thibodeaux's production last season.

In addition to putting pressure on the quarterback, the other theme they tackled through the market was protecting their own signal-caller and aiding the run game.  There's clearly going to be some competition on the interior of the line.  Jon Runyan Jr. has experience at both guard spots and has started 50 games in his first four seasons with Green Bay.  Austin Schlottmann and Aaron Stinnie have been in the league a bit longer but also offer versatility.  The former has tallied 14 starts with the Broncos and Vikings over six seasons while the latter has appeared in 31 games with the Titans and Bucs during the same period of time.  Eleven of Stinnie's 12 career starts came at guard last season with Tampa Bay.  Jermaine Eluemunor has played both guard and tackle throughout his career dating back to 2017 and has been with offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo in New England and Las Vegas.

Matt Citak: One of the big differences in the Giants' offense this upcoming season will be in the offensive backfield. The first week of free agency saw Saquon Barkley sign with the Philadelphia Eagles and Devin Singletary come to the Giants. Since entering the NFL as a third-round pick (No. 74) of the Buffalo Bills in the 2019 NFL Draft, Singletary has been both productive and consistent. The 5-foot-7, 203-pound running back has missed just one game over his last four seasons, carrying the ball a total of 888 times in his five NFL seasons with an average of 4.6 yards per attempt, including an 2.99 yards after contact (according to PFF). He has never finished a season with less than 955 total yards of offense. Singletary has also proven to be a solid option in the passing game with an average of 35 receptions per season.

After four seasons with the Bills, the first three of which overlapped with Schoen and Daboll, Singletary joined the Texans on a one-year deal last offseason. He began the season as the No. 2 back behind Dameon Pierce, but Singletary became the leading rusher for the second half of the season. He took full advantage of the opportunity. From Weeks 9-17, he ranked third among NFL running backs in rushing yards and fourth in carries while averaging more than five yards per carry in nearly half of those games. This helped him finish the season with a career-high 216 rush attempts for 898 yards. He was also credited with just one drop in the passing game for the entire season.

The addition of Singletary, combined with the improvements made along the offensive line, should help bring stability to the Giants' run game this season. Outside of Singletary, the only other running backs currently on the roster are Eric Gray, Gary Brightwell and Jashaun Corbin heading into the draft.

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2024 cycle.


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