Offense Positional Analysis: Offensive Line

Jim Mancari , Contributor

Unlike years past, the 2012 Giants offensive live experienced a great deal of shuffling.

For the most part as a unit, the line did a good job of protecting Eli Manning. But the performance against the Atlanta Falcons in the 34-0 loss unfortunately cast a shadow over the line’s normally consistent production.

The problem right now the Giants are facing is that the veteran linemen are getting older but are making a ton of money. David Diehl, Chris Snee and David Baas may all be asked to take pay cuts. It would not be a surprise if the Giants chose to move on from Diehl altogether.

He’s had a great career as a Giant, but with the team’s salary cap situation, the time may be right to move on from Diehl.

Will Beatty presents an interesting conundrum. It always seemed like he was the culprit this season on timely penalties.

But that’s the nature of being an offensive lineman: You only get recognized when you are doing something bad.

Beatty actually ranked third in the NFL among left tackles with a +10.9 run block grade. He also allowed just three sacks all season on Manning.

He’s only 27 years old and may be in line for a long-term contract. But like everything else, it seems the Giants’ entire offseason hinges upon what the team decides to do with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.

Beatty will be a cheaper option than superstar tackles Jake Long and Ryan Clady, but if he’s seeking a multi-year deal, he’ll still command a hefty contract.

Of all the options the Giants have, maybe Beatty is the best choice for the franchise tag, especially if the team can work out the long-term deal with Cruz.

The Giants’ line right now consists of Baas, Diehl and Snee. All three are 31 years old or older, so the Giants should be focusing on getting younger along the line.

Kevin Boothe is a free agent, and he’s been a solid contributor the past two seasons. He certainly would not command the contract of Beatty.

As far as insurance, the Giants have James Brewer and Selvish Capers under team control. Brewer is a guy that might be called upon to step up as a starter, even if Diehl is still on the roster. Capers will provide depth along the line.

Jim Cordle is an exclusive rights free agent, but there’s not harm in trying to bring him back as extra insurance. The team also signed Matt McCants to a futures deal.

Veteran tackle Sean Locklear could be an option for the Giants to bring back, but again, the goal is to get younger and more athletic along the line.

Certainly, drafting a lineman or two seems to be a guarantee, though likely in the later rounds, since Big Blue will likely use its first-round pick on a defensive player.

Heading into 2013 with an inexperienced running back in David Wilson, the offensive line’s performance becomes that much more critical to the team’s success. If Beatty can be retained on a deal that is financially feasible, the Giants’ offensive line should still be a consistent unit.

Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.