INDIANAPOLIS - Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur were vague about the Giants' offseason plans when they met the media at the NFL scouting combine last week, and sometimes they seemed to be saying different things. But they did at least seem to drop plenty of hints.
So between those hints, their words, and plenty of info from NFL sources, here are 10 things we learned about the Giants' plans while they were at the combine...
1. Eli Manning will be the Giants' starter in 2019 -- at least at the beginning
Shurmur said "He's back," even though Gettleman didn't, but the fact remains they don't have a better option and there's no way John Mara would let Manning twist in the wind this long. So he's still the starter. But Gettleman was also asked about bringing in competition for Manning to push him along and he said "Absolutely. Very possible that that's going to happen." And while that sounded like he might add a veteran, later he said he wanted to use "the Kansas City model" with a rookie sitting on the sidelines learning from Manning -- at least at the start. Who knows if they'll draft one, or if they'll be stuck having to go with a veteran like Case Keenum. Either way, if Manning struggles again, it sounds like the Giants will have an option on board to replace him.
2. Gettleman wants to pull an Ernie Accorsi and draft the Giants' next franchise quarterback
He called it a "dream" to do what Accorsi did and find another Eli Manning, and then he talked about that "Kansas City model" -- making it clear he wants to find one sooner than later so he can sit behind Manning before his contract runs out at the end of the year. He passed on the chance to do it last year because he fell in love with Saquon Barkley. Hard to see him finding a similar prospect in this draft, and a lot of NFL people think the Giants are all over Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins right now.
3. Gettleman won't try to develop a franchise quarterback from a later round. It's first-round or bust
Yes, franchise quarterbacks can be found in later rounds, but like his mentor, Accorsi, Gettleman has no interested in that. "History will tell you, if you do your studies," Gettleman said, "you look at the Qs and all the great Qs went early." Not all of them, but plenty of them. His point is if he sees one in the draft that he thinks can lead the Giants the next 10-15 years he's going to take him. He's not going to wait until Rounds 2 or 3. So yes, a quarterback at No. 6 is in play.
4. Landon Collins is almost certainly gone
Right up until Gettleman met the media it sounded like a no-brainer that Collins would get the franchise tag (now officially worth $11.15 million). Then Gettleman spoke of salary cap issues, distractions, and even how he has trouble evaluating safeties because it seems like they don't do much in some games. He wasn't talking about Collins, but it sounded like he didn't value the safety position, didn't think he could afford that much for a safety, and figured Collins would cause trouble if he got tagged. He's right about that last part. A source familiar with the situation told SNY that if Collins is tagged, don't expect him to sign it and report to the Giants until September.
5. Olivier Vernon is almost certainly gone.
News broke during the combine that the Giants are shopping Vernon, their best pass rusher. Why? Because they've decided he's going to be a salary cap casualty and they're trying to see if they can get something before they let him walk away for nothing. It's possible Vernon could remain a Giant by accepting a pay cut, but it's hard to see a 28-year-old pass rusher being willing to do that.
6. If a team wants to trade for Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants will take their call
Gettleman was given multiple chances to say "No way" on the idea of trading Beckham. He stuck with the old "We didn't sign him to trade him" statement, which isn't exactly slamming the door. When asked why he won't, he made it clear he has no interest in ending the speculation. Why not? Because even after the Giants signed Beckham to his $90 million contract last season, he caused some trouble with his mouth. And there remains some question about his relationship with Manning. The Giants think they can manage him and his issues, but if someone were to overwhelm them with an offer that includes, say, two first-round picks? They're certainly willing to think about it.
7. The Giants are in the market for a right tackle, and that's probably their free-agent priority
Poor Chad Wheeler. Shurmur praised all his offensive linemen, and even free agent Jamon Brown, whom the Giants likely will try to re-sign. So it's clear what position on the line the Giants think needs a big upgrade. And both Shurmur and Gettleman made it clear that's their priority. They both said that when the blocking improved last season, Manning and the offense improved. And they know a great offensive line is their key to building a great team.
8. For all the talk about drafting a quarterback, don't be shocked if the Giants take a pass rusher at No. 6
They may have sounded like they were eyeing quarterbacks at No. 6, but their other words and some of their actions sounded like they were eyeing something else. If they dump Vernon, they'll need a pass rusher, and there just happen to be a few good ones available at the top of the draft. Also, by sticking with Manning, the Giants seem all-in on winning this year -- something they're convinced they can do if they improve the offensive line and defense. So don't the Giants need someone at 6 who can help them immediately? "That's a tough one," Gettleman said.
9. If the Giants don't take an offensive lineman in Round 1, you can bet they'll take one on Day 2
It was hard, and close to impossible, to find an offensive line prospect who didn't have a meeting set up with the Giants at the combine. It seems unlikely they'd take one at No. 6 -- at least right now -- but the Giants think the rest of the O-line class is pretty good. They know they don't have a lot of young depth players to develop behind their starters. This year that is expected to change.
10. The Giants think with a little help on the offensive line and in the pass rush, they can be a playoff team in 2019
The Giants went 4-4 in the second half last season, which isn't really anything to be proud about, but they all noticed two things: 1. The offensive line improvement was a big part of that. And 2. If the defense played better, they could've been 6-2. Really. "It's safe to say that we had some close games where if we could've made a play to end the game, we may be talking about a different record," Shurmur said. So yes, the Giants are approaching this offseason thinking they are much closer than their 5-11 record would indicate. Of course, they also thought they were pretty close last offseason, too.