NFL Draft: Giants may pass on Gregory after positive drug test

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Many have mocked Nebraska DE Randy Gregory to the Giants in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft (including us). That may change now that it has been revealed that Gregory tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine last month (Jones, Mar 25).

USATSI_8293726_110579513_lowresThe Giants, who are rumored to be high on the 6’5″, 245lb pass rusher, may now back off should Gregory be available for them at No. 9. Even with the country and the NFL relaxing the laws and rules regarding marijuana use, the Giants are not about to take any risks with this pick. They need to get a starter, and/or a star, out of this selection. Gregory’s transgressions outweigh his upside – at this point, anyway.

Gregory claims he last smoked pot in December but still tested positive in mid-February, leading some to believe that he smoked more recently than that. He will now will enter the league in Stage 1 of the NFL’s substance abuse program. With the stakes so high these days, Gregory has been flagged and many teams will be apprehensive to take the gamble.

Not all teams will be so stringent, as we’ve seen in the past. Both Washington and Atlanta, who select before the Giants, are said to be still interested in Gregory.

Many Giant fans are against selecting Gregory regardless. He is purported to be a “tweener” that is better suited as a 3-4 OLB than a “hand-in-the-dirt” 4-3 DE. Others believe he would be perfect to backfill the role played by Mathias Kiwanuka, who was waived earlier this year.

Free agents will play significant roles for Giants

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

The Giants paid WR/KR Dwayne Harris a hefty contract this month according to most, but the coach revealed that Harris’ value goes beyond his play on special teams.

USATSI_8262614_110579513_lowres“Remember how we used to use [David] Tyree?” Coughlin said. “He would come in and be a blocker. That’s what Harris does. You see him on the field and you start thinking that way. And that part alone opens a lot of possibilities. Maybe you get back into the old fake, ghost screen stuff. So it just opens a lot of things up. Whether he becomes the third or fourth receiver or a special situation kind of player offensively, he wants to contribute on offense and he will be given that opportunity.”

Giant fans, as always, are curious about what the plan is at linebacker this season. Coughlin said that newly-signed JT Thomas and Jonathan Casillas would get a chance to win jobs.

“They will make contributions in both ways,” Coughlin said. “Thomas played very well against us (for Jacksonville last Nov. 30). Quite frankly, there is no better info as you get ready looking into free agency than people that have done well against you.

“Both will get plenty of opportunities. There is just more information about Thomas in normal down and distance situations than there is on Casillas. But we know they are both special.”

Defensive tackle is also a question mark this season. In addition to the recent draftees (Jon Hankins, Jay Bromley, Markus Kuhn) and Cullen Jenkins, Coughlin sees former Jet Kenrick Ellis and practice-squadder Dominique Hamilton as tow players to keep an eye on.

“Ellis is a big human,” Coughlin said. “The young man on our practice squad, Hamilton, is a big human, so I am looking forward to seeing what they can do, too … We realized that big dominating guy in the middle is a good starting point for the D-line.”

Coughlin agrees Giants lack the numbers at safety

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Tom Coughlin expressed a concern Wednesday morning at the NFL meetings regarding the Giants’ dearth at the safety position. (Raanan, Mar 25)

Antrel Rolle“That’s an issue, no doubt,” Coughlin said. “We do have one more access to bringing in personnel, obviously the draft. We have a couple guys in the program, [Nat] Berhe we really like as a rookie as a special-teamer. We have injured players coming back that hopefully will help. There is concern, no doubt.”

The two safeties listed on the roster are Berhe and the oft-injured Cooper Taylor, who is entering his third season with the club and has yet to be assigned a position on the defense.

A third possibility, second-year CB Bennett Jackson, is coming off a season in which he was cut and then signed back to the practice squad. He then spent the season on IR after undergoing microfracture surgery.

Coughlin said switching Jackson was a “possibility” but then said he was player that “none of us know much about.”

After whiffing in free agency on the available safeties, the Giants will be looking for answers in the draft in the UDFA market this May.

Giants are NFL’s most-injured team for second consecutive season

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Injuries are not an excuse for losing, but they certainly are a reason. The Giants have been slammed with injuries the past several seasons, especially the last two, and have not played in a postseason game since Super Bowl XLVI.

USATSI_8139925_110579513_lowresIn 2014, the Giants placed over two dozen players on injured reserve including captains Victor Cruz and Jon Beason, star CB Prince Amukamara and prized UFA signees Geoff Schwartz, Walter Thurmond and Robert Ayers.

For the second consecutive season, the New York Football Giants led the NFL in a category that make most coaches and GMs cringe: Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost.

From Scott Kacsmar, Football Outsiders:

The Giants had a lot of those “if only” dreams last year as they became the first team to lead the league in Adjusted Games Lost in back-to-back seasons. This is the fifth year in a row the Giants ranked 22nd or worse, and they have missed the playoffs in four of those seasons. 

After setting the benchmark with 141.3 AGL in 2013, the 2014 club has the second-worst AGL on record at 137.1. Running back and defensive back remained two major problem areas despite new roster additions, but wide receiver was also hit hard, as were the linebackers.

Yet the Giants were able to win six games in 2014 and possibly could have won seven or eight if they hadn’t fallen apart in Jacksonville and pulled out one of their winnable losses to Philadelphia and Dallas.  To read more of this story, click here

2015 NFL Draft: The Giants have eight picks, but no comps

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

The NFL has established the order of the upcoming draft. The Giants will have eight selections — all seven of theirs, plus an additional seventh-rounder they received from Denver for PK Brandon McManus last season.

The Giants’ selections for this year’s draft, which is in Chicago from April 30-May 2:

Round 1, Pick 9
Round 2, Pick 8 (overall: 40)
Round 3, Pick 10 (overall: 74)
Round 4, Pick 9 (overall: 108)
Round 5, Pick 8 (overall: 144)
Round 6, Pick 10 (overall: 185)
Round 7, Pick 9 (overall: 226)
Round 7 (from Denver) Pick 28, (overall: 245)

The Giants were not awarded compensatory selections this season. To read more of this story, click here

NFL Draft: Giants may benefit by trading back

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

In the upcoming NFL Draft, the Giants hold the ninth overall selection. Some say they are on the apron of where the top players end and the second-tier players begin. I’m not sure about that, but I am becoming more wary that teams may be looking to trade up into the top ten this season.

Since he took over as GM, Jerry Reese has yet to make a trade with his first round selection. With the talent in this draft considerably deeper than normal at some positions, he may reconsider come April 30. Let’s face it, the way things are going one player ain’t gonna do it anyway.

After a flurry of low-level free agent signings this week, the Giants have plenty of bodies for their defensive line. Unless they encounter a future Pro Bowl-caliber pass rusher at No. 9, they are unlikely to draft one since that player will either be a benchwarmer or a small part of the DE rotation.

None of the top OL are franchise LTs that warrant a top-10 pick. There are two WRs the Giants would take in a second should they fall to them (Kevin White, Amari Cooper) but that would only happen if teams make mistakes in front of them and I don’t think they will.

Two QBs – Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota – are now being projected to be the draft’s top two selections. A third, Bryce Petty of Baylor, is now being touted as a first-rounder and may have teams looking to move up as far as No. 9 to get him by the time draft day comes around. Granted, he may not be worth that high a pick but looking at past drafts, you never know what can happen when a player’s stock suddenly rises.

That is where Reese will face a difficult decision. Should he trade down for a package of picks, or stay put and take his chances? Looking at this roster, he can get younger faster with nine or ten picks than he can with seven. I say he thinks long and hard about it.

It’s becoming more obvious that you can’t win – or even get to – the Super Bowl without a franchise QB, and some teams are willing to mortgage a lot now to set themselves up for future success. The Giants could turn that No. 9 pick into 3-4 bodies should the right offer come along.

There could be a team in the middle of the draft order willing to give them their No.1, No. 2 this year and two other later round or future picks for the right to draft Petty.

At first, I thought this was highly unlikely, but now, it’s developing into a very real possibility. Teams get crazy about their QB situation and rather than face their fans with an uncertain future. They want a young face to put on the cover of their GameDay programs that gives the fans hope.

Petty had a strong pro day and teams that have identity problems and executives trying to keep their jobs may get antsy and decide Petty is their ticket to the top. Right now, Petty is projected to be a  late-first, early-second rounder but as the draft approaches, teams get itchy trigger fingers.

The way things are breaking, someone could be hot for Petty by late April and the bidding could benefit the teams that are selecting high in the draft, like the Giants. Let’s see if the offer is right. If it is, Reese won’t be able to resist.

The Giants can can get rich on safeties, offensive linemen and possibly a TE or WR in the first three rounds of this draft if some on-the-fence GMs get a case of the nerves.

Giants’ Salary Cap: Where did all the money go?

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

According to the website, the Giants have very little cap space to deal with right now: $8,780,408 with Top 51 and $2,512,910 with Top 51 & Projected Draft Pool.

giants campThey are essentially done signing free agents for now. So, with the cap rising to $143 million this season, where did all the money go?

Well, the money was spent well before the free agent frenzy began nine days ago. The Giants are paying ten players a total of $78.639 million which is around 54 percent of their $143 million allowance. Many of these contracts were consummated last season when the club went head first into free agency.

Here are the top ten cap hits on the Giants’ 2015 roster…

1. QB Eli Manning ($19.750m) - You would think the Giants would want to restructure the heck out of this contract by evening out the cap hit over time via an extension. And they still may. With one season to go, the Giants can alleviate a lot of cap pain by inking Eli to deal similar to that of his closest contemporary, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger. Ben recently signed a four-year, $87 million deal with $31m guaranteed. That’s still a $17.5m cap hit, but when you have a franchise QB, you have no choice but to pay him what he’s worth. But it doesn’t mean you can’t be creative in the process.

2. DE Jason Pierre-PauL ($14.813m) - This is the price for franchising a defensive end in this day and age. The Giants could not get JPP under contract by March 2nd, and they couldn’t risk losing him. They could knock this number down by signing him to a long term deal before training camp, but it likely won’t be by much if they do.

3. WR Victor Cruz ($8.125m) - The Giants have gotten little salsa from Victor since signing him to a five-year, $43m deal last year thanks to a freak knee injury. There’s really not much they can do with this deal right now since Cruz remains a top-tier WR until proven otherwise. Should he somehow not be able to resume his career at a high level, he will be a candidate for restructure down the road, but his 2015 number is what it is.  To read more of this story, click here