This off-season, the New York Giants face an interesting situation trying to piece together a competent team without much salary space to spend. Currently -$12 million over the salary cap, the Giants will have to make a few complex moves to open up space for their draft selections and a bit of mobility in free agency.
However, the Giants have a few starting pieces hitting the open market, including Lorenzo Carter, Will Hernandez, Jabrill Peppers, and Evan Engram. It is unlikely that Engram is retained given his inefficiency and lackluster blocking. Former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll utilized a mid-round pick on Dawson Knox as their primary TE, who featured as both a pass catcher and prominent blocker.
I expect the Giants to utilize one of their mid-round selections on a tight end this off-season, allowing their new position coach Andy Bischoff to mold his own player, similar to what he did with the Baltimore Ravens and Mark Andrews.
Retaining Peppers could be justified given his versatility and likely flourishing in Wink Martindale’s defensive scheme. Coming off an ACL tear may not entice the front office, but they could likely keep him on a cheap deal given the injury. I wouldn’t bet on it, though.
The two players the Giants could legitimately consider are Lorenzo Carter, starting outside linebacker, and Will Hernandez, who struggled considerably last season at right guard, playing alongside Nate Solder and one of the worst offenses in football.
Let’s start with Carter, who finished this season with 50 combined tackles, six tackles for a loss, eight quarterback hits, and 5.0 sacks.
Carter started the 2021 season slow, working his way back from an Achilles tear that took over a year to recover fully. However, he finished the last four games of the season with impressive numbers, totaling 16 tackles, five sacks, and 10 hurries.
Given how exceptional he looked, the Giants could consider bringing him back on a cheap contract, maybe something in the range of two years, $6 million. They wouldn’t have to spend much, and given his familiarity with the team, it could make sense for a reunion to take place.
On the other side of the ball, Hernandez stands out as a potential fit with Big Blue. At just 26 years old, Hernandez is coming off his worst season as a professional, giving up 7.0 sacks, seven QB hits, and 22 hurries in his fourth season. Interestingly, Hernandez saw a regression in almost every season as a professional, but that resulted from poor coaching and consistent turnover rather than his capabilities.
Hernandez was solid as a rookie and sophomore in the league, especially as a pass blocker. He then missed some time due to injury in 2020 and shifted to right guard entirely last season, struggling alongside Solder and Matt Peart.
Since the Giants don’t have much capital to spend, Hernandez could likely be retained on a two-year, $6 million deal as well. New general manager Joe Schoen will have his hands full finding quality players at a cost-efficient price point, and a few familiar faces could fit the bill. There are plenty of free-agent options on the market, so they could easily move on and cut their losses.