Giants will turn to 2022 NFL Draft to upgrade offensive line

Joe Schoen was not inclined – nor did he have the expertise, quite frankly – to offer a detailed evaluation of the state of the offensive line soon after he took over as the Giants’ general manager. Schoen, though, did have the full complement of fingers, and all he needed was one hand to accurately count up the healthy bodies under contract and report there were just five offensive linemen on the roster who met these specifications.

So, there was plenty of work to be done, in terms of adding quality and quantity, to a position group that has confounded the Giants for a decade.

With the first wave of NFL free agency complete, the offensive line count now stands at 10. Schoen signed four players from outside the organization: guard Mark Glowinski, center Jon Feliciano, tackle Matt Gono and guard Jamil Douglas. Schoen also re-signed Korey Cunningham, a 26-year old tackle who played sparingly in 12 games (no starts) in 2021.

The upgrades are tangible but limited, and more than tinkering needs to be done – considering the Giants started this process with only one returning player, left tackle Andrew Thomas, as a no-doubt-about-it starter on the offensive line.

Charles Cross
Getty Images

There is usually a money trail that reveals what a team has planned for a new player. This rings true with the added offensive linemen. Glowinski, 29, was given the largest contract (three years, $ 18.3 million), by far, of any other player the Giants signed in free agency. He moves in as the starting right guard, and the new front office believes this will be an upgrade from Will Hernandez, a starter at left and then right guard the past four years. Glowinski graded out as the 21st-ranked guard in 2021 by Pro Football Focus. Hernandez was No. 60.

As of now, Feliciano is the starting center, even though the bulk of his NFL experience in his seven-year career is at guard. It is a one-year deal for $ 3.25 million for Feliciano, 30. Nick Gates, the starting center for all 16 games in 2020, suffered a serious leg fracture in Week 2 last season and is not expected to be ready for this season, as he endured a lengthy rehabilitation and multiple surgeries.

Feliciano figures to be an upgrade on Billy Price, last season’s starting center acquired in a desperation trade with the Bengals. Thomas, Glowinski and Feliciano give the Giants three starters they believe can hold up.

There is also Shane Lemieux, who started nine games as a rookie in 2020 but only got into one game last season before a knee issue landed him on injured reserve. Lemieux was a powerful run-blocker but struggled as a pass protector. He is expected to be healthy, and if he is he will compete for the starting left guard spot.

The Giants own the Nos. 5 and 7 overall picks in next month’s draft, and an investigation might be in order if one of those picks does not include an offensive tackle. Adding a young, talented player to move in at right tackle to pair with Thomas on the left side is a priority, and this draft can make that happen.

Giants
Trevor Penning
AP

The top two tackles on most boards, Evan Neal of Alabama and Ickey Ekwonu of North Carolina State, will not both be there at No. 5, and there is a decent chance both could be gone. Charles Cross (Mississippi State) is next in line for many teams, and he said Tuesday at his Pro Day that the Giants and Jets have shown the most interest in him so far. Perhaps Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa) is an option at No. 7 or if the Giants trade down a few spots.

The Giants have three picks in the top 36, and it would be no surprise if two of them address offensive line needs. Guard Zion Johnson (Boston College) is likely a Day 1 starter, and he has versatility to move in at center. If the Giants are sold that Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa) can be their center for the next eight years, he would be worth the investment. With Feliciano signed for only one year and given his résumé at guard, there would be flexibility along the interior of the line.

Selecting a player near the top of the draft does not ensure the offensive line is repaired – see Weston Richburg (second round, 2014), Ereck Flowers (first round, 2015) and Hernandez (second round, 2018) for details. The Giants have to make their picks and get them right. What Schoen has done so far to fix the line is encouraging but incomplete. There is more work to be done.

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