Joe Schoen believes the coaching staff should be the voices of the team when the games are being played. The games are over and done with and the Giants’ general manager will address the media on Monday. Here are five of the most pressing questions for him as the Giants head into the offseason:
What to do with Daniel Jones
Might as well present the toughest one right away. Coming up with an appropriate contract will not be easy. Is Jones viewed as the soon-to-be anointed franchise quarterback or as a middle-tier guy who deserves to come back, but at a moderate price? Or — and this would be a big surprise — does Schoen want to move on from Jones? In case you haven’t noticed, there is not exactly a middle class in the NFL quarterback hierarchy. Putting the franchise tag on Jones to secure him for 2023 costs around $32 million sends a strange mixed signal — this will not happen. Jones had a strong season. Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll were impressed. How much does that cost? Is Schoen willing to spend at least $35 million a year on Jones? And here is something to be considered: Is there a team out there preparing to offer Jones more than what the Giants believe he is worth?
What to do with Saquon Barkley
A running back will never take precedence over a quarterback and so it goes with Barkley. He did what he had to do to convince the new coaching staff and a front office that did not make him the No. 2-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft that he is a viable co-face of the franchise. He stayed healthy and ripped off a career-high 1,312 rushing yards. The offense moved away from prioritizing him so much in the second half of the season, though, and there is always the debate about giving big money to a running back closer to 30 years old than 20 years old — although Barkley doesn’t turn 26 until Feb. 9. He is not going to come close to Christian McCaffrey’s running back high ground — $16 million a year. Barkley wants to be a Giant for life. It is doubtful this next contract will assure him that. The franchise tag of about $10 million makes some sense but Barkley won’t want it.
What about the weapons?
Isaiah Hodgins was a nice story down the stretch, picked up from the Bills and placed into the starting lineup. He deserves to return. He is not a No. 1 wide receiver and it does not take a deep dive to reveal there is not one of them on the roster. Kenny Golladay will be purged from the salary cap soon enough. Sterling Shepard was re-signed for 2022 on a minimum deal to prove to the new group he could stay healthy and contribute. He did neither. He is a great team guy but is there a place for him on the roster after yet another major reconstructive surgery? Darius Slayton’s four-year stay could be at an end. Daniel Bellinger put in a solid rookie year but he is at best the second tight end on a prolific offense, so help is needed there as well. Jones’ numbers would have been a lot more interesting with game-breaking targets. A starting quarterback with 15 touchdown passes in 16 regular-season games is not going to cut it.
Fix the broken run defense
The Eagles kept things simple and shredded the Giants for 268 rushing yards in their 38-7 playoff rout and that was a fitting end for a defense severely lacking — a unit with a hole in the middle. The Giants finished No. 27 in the league in run defense, allowing 144.2 yards per game. They mixed and matched inside linebackers and never found a winning combination. It is possible that most or all of the group that ended up on the roster — Jaylon Smith, Jarrad Davis, rookie Micah McFadden and Landon Collins — will not be around in 2023. For all the brief fanfare about the return of Collins, he did not log a single snap on defense in the playoff finale in Philly. That tells you something. Either in free agency or the draft or both, this area needs to be upgraded in a big way.
Keep ’em or leave ’em?
Schoen has not been hoodwinked into believing his first Giants team is more advanced or more talented than it really is — despite making the playoffs in Year 1. He has to sort through 18 unrestricted free agents and not only the marquee guys such as Jones and Barkley. There are contributing players who have been around for a while that would like to stay but Schoen is not going to keep the whole gang together. Safety Julian Love is a team captain and played virtually every snap but will the team want to invest in Xavier McKinney more so than Love? Love is all-in, though, and should be back. Schoen has to address the offensive line — it was improved but still not fixed — and Jon Feliciano and Nick Gates are both free agents.