While it may seem as though the Giants and Jets are going about rebuilds in very different ways, the two teams are following the same outline.
With the new salary cap restrictions and rookie pay scale, there are two ways in which teams are successful in today’s NFL. The first follows the blueprint of the Seahawks, which encourages a team to add talent around a young QB while he is still being paid out his rookie contract. The second involves having a top tier, experienced quarterback surrounded by cheap talent around him.
A current example of the former is the Los Angeles Rams. Jared Goff is on a rookie contract and the team has surrounded him with the most talent possible.
A current example of the latter is the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees is a top tier quarterback who has cheap talent around him – Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Marshon Lattimore, and Ryan Ramczyk are all on their rookie deals.
With no top tier quarterback, both the Giants and Jets are following the blueprint of the Seahawks – surround a young quarterback on a rookie contract with as much talent as possible.
Both rebuilds will forever be linked by the 2018 NFL Draft, where both teams had a selection in the top three. The Giants, who owned the second overall pick, selected running back Saquon Barkley out of Penn State. Four quarterbacks went on to be selected after Barkley in the first round, including USC’s Sam Darnold to the Jets with the third overall pick.
The draft proved that although the two teams are using the same outline to rebuild, they differ on which way to go about the outline. Let me explain.
The Jets have their young QB in Darnold. Yes, he is experiencing growing pains, but that is to be expected out of a rookie at the quarterback position. His experiences this year will help him learn and grow for the future. The organization has over $100 million in cap space to spend this off-season and they desperately need to give Darnold more weapons on offense. An unusually loaded free agent class by NFL standards, the Jets have the opportunity to make a splash and bring in some help. Le’Veon Bell headlines a deep running back class and has been linked to the Jets for some time now. Bell is one of the most talented backs in the league and would improve the Jets offense drastically, but will the organization shed out over $50 million guaranteed for a RB with a history of injury and two suspensions? Reports indicate that Pittsburgh offered Bell a contract worth $70 million over 5 years but the star running back was unhappy with the lack of guaranteed money. For reference, Todd Gurley’s 4-year $60 million contract extension with the Rams includes $45 million in guaranteed money while it was reported that Bell was offered $10 million guaranteed.
There are several names at the wide receiver position that would be an upgrade for the Jets. Kelvin Benjamin is one of the more talented receivers in the league, but you have to wonder if the Jets would be doing any good for their young quarterback by bringing in a guy who hasn’t been happy anywhere he’s been. There are some other potential options at the position that come with character concerns, including Martavis Bryant and Josh Gordon, who is a restricted free agent.
Some names that make the most sense for the Jets to look at include De’Anthony Thomas, Kevin White, Golden Tate, Cordarrelle Patterson, John Brown, and Corey Coleman. Thomas is young speedster whose role in Kansas City has diminished since the emergence of Tyreek Hill. Kevin White is a dark horse in this race, as injuries have hindered his potential and made him a forgotten man in Chicago. Both Thomas and White will be cheap options with great potential – low risk, high reward options for the Jets.
Tate, Patterson, and Brown are all veterans in this league and have worked in different systems. They would be great options for the young QB. Coleman is a huge question mark. A former first round pick, Coleman hasn’t really worked out anywhere he’s gone but might be desperate for one last chance in the NFL.
It’s also worth noting that Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson, two of Darnold’s favorite targets, will be free agents this off season.
The Jets will also have to address the offensive line and the defense, although there are several cornerstones to work with on the defensive side of the ball. Jamal Adams has proven to be one of the best safeties in football. The defensive line has been playing better of late, with the Miami game being one of their best outings.
The Giants do not have their young QB, but they have the pieces on offense to help him step in and succeed. Odell Beckham Jr, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram are all dynamic options to throw to and Saquon Barkley’s game-changing abilities will make defenses respect the running game.
None of this matters if the organization does not fix the offensive line. Will Hernandez has shown some upside, but Nate Solder has been another swing and miss by the Giants organization at the offensive tackle position. Hernandez provides a great piece on the offensive line to build around. Dave Gettleman always put together good offensive lines in Carolina and he did so without spending much draft capital. It is also worth noting that when the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007, two members of Eli Manning’s line were undrafted free agents and another one was a fifth-round draft pick. Expect Gettleman to fix this offensive line without using up much of the organization’s capital and resources.
Although the Giants are in the bottom half of the league in terms of cap space, there are adjustments they can make. Restructuring the top deals provide the opportunity for them to save some money. Eli Manning, Olivier Vernon, and Janoris Jenkins combine to take up over 27% of the cap. Manning’s contract is done after the 2019 season, while Vernon and Jenkins don’t come off the books until after the 2020 season. The organization may decide to move on before then, however.
Armed with what will likely end up being a top 3 pick in the draft, the Giants will be in a good position to find their rookie quarterback. If that is priority number one this off season, priority number one-A is to sure up the offensive line. After that, the team should look to extend safety Landon Collins and then add pieces on the defensive side of the ball.
The best comparison for the Jets is the LA Rams, who found the QB and then added a ton of talent around him.
The Giants can be compared to the Kansas City Chiefs, who had the talent and then added the QB. Either way, both teams are in a position to find success in the immediate future.
Long-term success, however, will be determined by the organization’s ability to mold a rookie quarterback into a top tier quarterback.