Heading into the draft, I was interested in looking at position groups to assess the roster for 2017 and 2018.
So, playing armchair GM, here is my assessment………………
Starters: The starting corners are clear with Eli Apple, DRC and Jenoris Jenkins. The starting Safeties are Landon Collins (SS) and Darian Thompson (FS).
Depth: The concern in the secondary is about the quality of the Giants depth, and lack of a developmental player to assume a starting role when a starter goes down in 2017, or departs the team in 2018.
At Corner, the Giants depth includes Trevin Wade whose is best suited as a reserve slot CB, and Michael Hunter, whom I believe is a developing plyer who needs to be more consistent, but has some skills and ability. Donte Deayon was a nice training camp story, overcoming the UDRFA odds to make the roster, but is still a long shot and replaceable / upgradeable. Valentino Blake is a newcomer to the Giants, with slot and special team’s qualities. How he fits in the secondary heading into camp is an unknown.
Leon Hall is currently an unsigned UFA and may not be brought back for 2017. Halls’ best days are behind him. He may see reserve Safety play time (if he returns).
At Safety, the Giants depth includes Andrew Adams, Nat Berhe, Mykkele Thompson, Rahim Moore, Eric Pinkins, and Ryan Murphy. Of these, Berhe (concussions) and M. Thompson (achilles and knee) arguably have the most talent and chances to stick (as they were NYG draft choices). For these two to make the 2017 roster, they must produce – something both have struggled with due to injuries.
Adams played more (and better) than expected in 2016. Will he continue to develop and become a quality reserve? Moore appears to be a reclamation project, while Pinkens and Murphy are relatively unknowns. Seeing them compete in camp this summer will be very telling. More / better depth is needed at Safety too.
Health: For the starters, Apple, DRC and Jenkins were mostly healthy throughout 2016. Apple had some hamstring issues early on missing weeks 3 (Redskins) and 4 (Vikings), followed by a groin injury that kept him out of week 6 (Raven), but he was healthy down the stretch. DRC missed the week 3 & 4 games as well with a Groin. Jenkins had a back injury that kept him out of the week 16 (Eagles) game. Jenkins returned for the finale and the playoff games. None of the 2016 injuries to the starters were serious or lingering. DRC does have a history of back issues that warrants watching.
The health concern is with Darian Thompson recovery from Lis Franc surgery. All reports to date are positive, and D. Thompson is running with cleats and back peddling. His continued health is very important to the Giants secondary. His health will be closely monitored throughout camp.
For the reserves, the key injury questions involve Berhe (concussions) and M. Thompson (achilles and knee). I am not confident in Berhe’s ability to remain healthy after 2 concussions in 2016, especially with his style of play (AKA “the missile”). Maybe he should quit before suffering permanent brain injury. The odds are probably against M. Thompson, but we can hope he makes a full recovery and is able to become a valued reserve at Safety. Time will tell for both very soon.
Age: Heading into the 2017 season, only DRC will be over 30 years of age (31). Jenoris Jenkins will be 29, and Trevin Wade 28. The rest of the crew will be 23-27 years old. Minimal age concerns for this group.
Contractually, the Giants are in good shape for the 2017-2018 seasons with all of the starters and many of the reserves locked up. Only Berhe, Pinkins, Moore and Blake are not signed beyond 2018.
The real question is which 2018/2019 contracts are viewed as good value, and which are viewed as excessive…………….
Salary Cap Allocation: 22% of the Giants salary cap obligations are committed to the Secondary, which is a higher allocation than most other teams in the league (8th highest as of March 2017). However, that investment matches the Giants philosophy of prioritizing the front and back 4 in their defensive schemes, (economizing on LB’ers, etc.).
According to Over the Cap, the largest contracts in the Giants secondary for 2017 and 2018 include:
Jenkins at $12.9M base salary in in 2017 and 2018 with a $15M salary cap hit for 2017 and $13M in 2018. .
DRC’s at $6.9M base salary in in 2017 and $6.48M in 2018. DRCs salary cap numbers are $9M for 2017 and $8.5M in 2018.
Eli Apple, Landon Collins, and Darian Thompson are all still on their rookie contracts ranging from $900K – $1M for 2018 / 2018 and salary caps of $3.4M, $1.6M, and $812K for 2017, increasing to $4M, $2M, and $1M and in 2018.
The salary for the reserve DBs are favorable with M. Thompson at $672K in 2017 and $762K in 2018. Adams, Hunter, Deayon and Murphy are the other reserve DBs signed for 2017 and 2018 ranging from $465K - $540K in 2017 and $555K - $630K in 2018 if they are still on the roster.
Salary Assessment : The Giants appear to be in good shape for 2017-2018 seasons, with fiscal room to add more talent in the draft.
Bottom Line: Depth at Corner and Safety are needs, with CB perhaps a bit more pressing due to DRCs age, salary, and health. If DRC remains healthy and a high performer, then he will likely be back in 2018. Otherwise 2017 may be his last season in New York. Having someone on the roster to groom as DRCs successor would be very wise, and an insurance policy against a starter going down.
Safety seems to be one of those recurring challenge areas for the Giants. Year after year the Giants bring in a promising player only to see the promise fade away due to injury (Chad Jones, N. Berhe, M. Thompson, D. Thompson, etc.). Will Darian Thompson reemerge as the starting Free Safety, and who will back him up and be the nickel Safety? Does Mykkele Thompson stay healthy and become a dependable reserve?
Conclusion: Look for the Giants to draft a CB on day 2, and a Safety in the later rounds, or as a preferred UDRFA. Depth is needed, as is a successor at CB.