A return to the playoffs was a nice thing for the 2016 New York Giants, who had a solid 11-5 record and ended a four-season drought without the postseason. But with a shrinking window, this veteran team needs to make some significant upgrades if they want to make the Super Bowl.
Frankly, this team is far from elite.
With quarterback Eli Manning very much towards the end of a career that will likely take him to Canton, the Giants have a season or two - maybe three - with their Pro Bowl quarterback at or near his peak. With $20 million or so under the salary cap, they have some flexibility to make moves and upgrade their roster in the next few months.
Manning can be good for a few more years and the Giants must maximize this window. They’ll need to protect him better and add another weapon to the offense.
But it will take some tough choices and they have to hit home runs in every department.
Three Things the Giants must do to be a Super Bowl contender in 2017:
1.Address left tackle
With almost a quixotic zeal, the Giants remained firmly committed to Ereck Flowers at left tackle despite the second-year offensive lineman having a brutal 2016 campaign. Flowers has some talent, but he’s become a liability on the left side and a move to the right side might be a better fit than protecting Manning’s blindside.
Target: Riley Reiff has played extensively at left tackle for the Detroit Lions, moving to right tackle with the arrival of first round pick Taylor Decker. He’d likely require a contract a little north of $10 million but a potential move back to the left side might entice him. And if Flowers dramatically improves this offseason, then Reiff can solidify the right side.
2. Get a third wide receiver
While Odell Beckham Jr. is a lock and Sterling Shepard is a star in the making, the Giants just didn’t get enough from Victor Cruz this year to justify a big paycheck to bring him back. He might be had for a good value but there’s likely some team willing to throw money at him, perhaps a foolish move given his injury history. If an upgrade is out there at good value, the Giants must jump.
Target: While he’s had some troubles off the field, Jersey guy and former Rutgers star Kenny Britt could be the possession wide receiver the Giants need. He can help their red zone offense and help balance the field opposite Beckham and Shepard.
3. Big bodies, big problems
Johnathan Hankins might well walk in free agency and the Giants might not be able to keep their quality defensive tackle, who will surely want a pay raise. The Giants should be able to draft a defensive tackle in the later rounds but potentially could want a veteran to guide them through for a year or two.
Target: A former New York Jet, Leger Douzable could be intriguing alongside former teammate Damon Harrison in the heart of the Giants' 4-3. Douzable has put up numbers similar to Hankins and could be of better value. Douzable, who played with the Bills last season, also has a future in broadcasting and a return to the New York media market might be an asset. Plus he brings a great sack dance to the equation.