The Giants haven't been big spenders in the first few days of the NFL's free-agent frenzy, but they have been players, adding a receiver, a blocking tight end, and a starting offensive lineman. Not surprisingly, all their work has been on the side of the ball that struggled the most.
So what's next? There's still work to do as the Giants try to build themselves into a true Super Bowl contender to take advantage of the final few years of Eli Manning's career. And with that in mind, here's another look at some of the biggest questions facing the Giants as they move into free agency's second wave. Some of them have been hovering over the team all offseason. Some of them are new.
But all of them will have to be answered before the 2017 season starts:
1. How are they going to fix their offensive line?
It remains the Giants' No. 1 question and they still haven't provided an answer. The blocking - in both pass protection and the run game - was generally poor last season and the Giants knew it. Sure, Ben McAdoo put some of the blame for the pass protection on quarterback Eli Manning during his press conference at the NFL combine -- which may have just been an oddly public, pointed reminder not to use the linemen as an excuse (not that Manning ever does). But the fact is, the line needs to improve.
So has it? That's debatable. Incumbent right tackle Marshall Newhouse is gone, and the Giants signed former first-round pick D.J. Fluker. He's a solid starter who has underachieved, but has a higher ceiling than Newhouse. The suspicion is Fluker will end up as a guard, though that could change if the Giants bring John Jerry back.
But have they really fixed the line? It doesn't look that way yet. At the moment, it's hard to see how they could move Ereck Flowers out of the left tackle spot, if that was ever their intent. They need at least one more lineman, unless they think Bobby Hart or Brett Jones is the answer for one of the other right-side spots. There isn't much available help left in free agency, so maybe they'll have to take another lineman in one of the first two rounds of the draft.
So Fluker was a start, but this fix is very much a work in progress. And it may be far from done.
2. Can they find a reliable, play-making tight end?
In free agency, the answer was no. They signed Rhett Ellison from the Vikings, but he's essentially to fill the Will Johnson role - a reliable blocker, and a versatile H-back type player who can be a fullback, a running back, a blocking tight end, or even split out wide. But if you're looking for a real receiving threat at that position, that's not him.
The Giants did make calls on the best available receiving tight ends, including Jack Doyle and Martellus Bennett, but they quickly learned the prices were too high. Jared Cook is still available, and maybe his price will come down far enough, but at the moment what he's apparently looking for is out of the Giants' range.
That leaves the draft, which has been the place they're most likely to find their answer all along. The biggest problem with that is the tight ends were mostly spectacular at the NFL combine. And while it's still early, it's getting increasingly hard to believe either of the top two - Alabama's O.J. Howard or Miami's David Njoku - will be there when the Giants pick at 23.
3. Are they content with Paul Perkins as their running back next season?
They sure seem to be. Because not only did they release veteran running back Rashad Jennings, but there's been no indication that they've expressed any interest in veterans like Eddie Lacy, Latavius Murray or any of the others available (including Adrian Peterson). They want a veteran running back, but their lack of urgency suggests they're waiting for a second-wave bargain, and willing to just wait and see who is still available.
They did bring back Orleans Darkwa and if he's healthy he could get some of the work load. But unless they take a running back at 23 in the draft, it will be The Paul Perkins Show in the backfield for them next season, with everyone else playing a supporting role or providing insurance.
4. Can they get Johnathan Hankins back at a bargain? And if not, who replaces him?
It sure seemed like Hankins was gone as free agency opened. Brandon Williams quickly got a deal from the Ravens that exceeded what Damon Harrison got from the Giants last year, so the vault seemed to be opened for guys like Hankins and Dontari Poe.
Then a funny thing happened: The market for DTs dried up and the rumor mill went silent (rarely a good sign). Poe may end up with the Indianapolis Colts shortly. They certainly have the cap room to pay him something substantial. But there's still no indication of any interest in Hankins, except from the Giants who at one point tried to lure him back.
Maybe Hankins' pain on the free-agent market could be the Giants' gain. Would he consider returning for a one-year, prove-it contract to reestablish his value? Even that would require the Giants to restructure some contracts to create enough cap space. Also, would Hankins decide he's better off returning to a Top 10 defense, or going to a place where he's not completely overshadowed by the other three players on his defensive line?
All good questions with no answers at the moment.
5. What are the Giants going to do to create the salary cap room they need?
They definitely need it. The NFLPA lists them with $8.5 million in salary cap space, but that doesn't appear to include their deals for Darkwa, Ellison or Fluker yet. Together, those deals will bring the Giants real close to the $167 million cap. And they still need a kicker, a running back, another offensive lineman, maybe a linebacker if they don't re-sign Keenan Robinson, maybe a defensive tackle if they can't bring back Hankins, not to mention eventually they'll need to sign their rookie class.
They aren't likely to make any major cuts. If they release anyone, the moves would likely be minor - such as linebacker J.T. Thomas or returner Dwayne Harris. Cutting both of them, though, would only clear $4 million in cap space. They likely will restructure some contracts. They certainly have some big ones to work with, including that of Eli Manning whose cap number of $19.7 million could easily be reduced.
And they still could eventually strike a long-term deal with Jason Pierre-Paul, who right now counts for $16.9 million on the cap because of his "franchise tag". Even that, though, wouldn't create a ton of room. Remember, the five-year, $85 mlilion deal the Giants gave Olivier Vernon last offseason carried a first-year cap tag of $13 million.
So the Giants can definitely create some cap relief for themselves, but most of it would be done in relatively small chunks.