New York Giants free agency: Biggest offseason priorities

The New York Giants have some big moves to make this offseason, even after signing quarterback Daniel Jones to a four-year deal on Tuesday. That is what happens when you begin with 21 unrestricted free agents and plenty of holes to fill.

Saquon Barkley could be the next in line for a new deal, as general manager Joe Schoen said the team has made offers to the running back and will continue to negotiate with his representatives. The Giants used the franchise tag on Barkley minutes before Tuesday's deadline.

Schoen will be active in free agency with significantly more salary cap space available than last offseason, especially now that the Giants avoided the $32.4 million franchise tag with Jones. The Giants enter free agency approximately $25 million under the salary cap with room to create more space.

"I’ll give you a good example,” Schoen said. “We were just talking about a player, I won’t name the position or anything. We were like, ‘Yeah, we’re guessing his market might be $2.5 [million],' and I was like, ‘We can afford that. It’s only $2.5 [million]. We can actually afford it.’ We’re not shopping for minimum players anymore.

"So, even players like that that can be really good depth players will make us that much better. So, just having the flexibility now to be creative, go get players at maybe a little bit higher value, but also being able to sign, whether it’s tier three players, two, one, however you do it. We can map it out, and there’s players that we can go procure now that maybe we weren’t in the past."

The biggest additions could very well be at inside linebacker, based on conversations the Giants had with player agents at the NFL scouting combine, according to multiple sources.

At the top of that market is the Buffalo BillsTremaine Edmunds, though he’s likely to be too expensive for the Giants with a deal that could approach the $15 million per season range.

One name to watch closely is Philadelphia Eagles free agent linebacker T.J. Edwards. He’s in that next group of middle linebackers that should be of interest to a Giants defense that is expected to add an inside linebacker in both free agency and the draft.

Washington’s Cole Holcomb, Cincinnati’s Germaine Pratt, Dallas’ Leighton Vander Esch, Detroit’s Alex Anzalone and the Chargers’ Drue Tranquill were some of the other names attached to the Giants.

Wide receiver is another position the Giants are expected to add. Darius Slayton is a free agent the Giants would like to re-sign, assuming the price is right. A reunion with former Giant Odell Beckham Jr. remains a possibility. His agent met with New York again at the combine last week, but a return could depend on a price.

That might be one of the best options because this isn’t an especially strong free agent class at the position. Finding a No. 1 receiver could be difficult, given that New England’s Jakobi Meyers is widely considered the top available option. The Giants are still expected to add a veteran wide receiver in free agency and use a high draft pick on the position.

There has been talk about supplementing the receiving corps with a pass-catching tight end to work alongside Daniel Bellinger. A player like former second-round pick Irv Smith Jr. from the Minnesota Vikings is someone to watch. Miami Dolphins free agent tight end Mike Gesicki is also an intriguing option.

As far as the Giants’ impending free agents, safety Julian Love appears likely to hit the market. There are at least two other NFC teams that were impressed by his tape from this past season -- his first as a full-time starter -- and expect him to be worth $8-10 million per season.

Schoen seemed to be preparing for the possibility of losing Love, a team captain and the defensive signal-caller the second half of the season. The Giants were impressed by what they saw last season from preseason waiver claim Jason Pinnock, who could lessen the impact of losing Love.

“Saw a couple other safeties may be released, so we’ll see what that market looks like,” Schoen told reporters at the NFL combine, before adding he would like to retain Love.

But the biggest internal decision the Giants have to make on defense this offseason is on lineman Leonard Williams. He has a $32.3 million cap hit for 2023. He’s scheduled to make $18 million as his salary.

Schoen keeps joking about being grateful that reporters got Williams to mention taking a pay cut before the end of last season. The two-time Pro Bowler said he “would probably consider” a reduction in pay, even if none of his past actions indicate that as a likelihood.

The Giants don’t appear willing to move any more money down the line with Williams, who Schoen referred to as “still a good player in the league.” He also noted defensive tackles in the draft haven’t been producing like they had in the past. So his preference appears to be to keep Williams.

But the veteran defensive lineman is coming off an injury-plagued campaign. One of the options on the table seems to be cutting Williams for the $12 million in cap savings, then signing two or three mid-range defensive linemen in the $4-6 million range as replacements.

That would help fulfill one of Schoen’s biggest offseason goals: Bolster the defensive line’s depth. It’s a priority he has obsessively mentioned.

Schoen noted the offensive and defensive lines are areas that need to be addressed. As for the center position on offense, the Giants plan to monitor the markets of both Nick Gates and Jon Feliciano.

Gates is expected to draw significant interest elsewhere after proving he’s back following a gruesome leg injury early in the 2021 season