INDIANAPOLIS -- The Giants got a big jump on their offseason business when they slapped the "franchise tag" on Jason Pierre-Paul on Monday, but that's likely to only be the start. They have a lot more work to do as they try to load up for one more Eli Manning-led Super Bowl run.
The NFL scouting combine gives them their first look at who they might draft with the 23rd overall pick, though there are many other things they can accomplish at what is essentially the NFL's annual convention this week. They have some of their own players to try to take care of before the start of free agency, so they can have the salary cap space to get some of the offensive help they need.
So, with Giants coach Ben McAdoo set to talk to the media on Wednesday - and with GM Jerry Reese declining to speak at the combine this year, for the first time since he took over in 2007 - here are five questions the Giants are going to be trying to answer this week:
1. Are they going to get a long-term deal done with Jason Pierre-Paul, or will they have to live with the $17 million cap hit?
The good news is that JPP will be back in 2017, and eventually it's a good bet he'll get his long-term deal. The Giants, though, would prefer to wrap it up before March 9 because at the moment he's eating about half of the cap space they're projected to have available.
That's a problem if they decide they want to re-sign defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins too, and dip into free agency for a tackle or tight end or maybe a receiver. They can still get done what they need to get done, probably by restructuring another contract or too. But it becomes much easier if they can lower JPP's cap number by getting this big piece of business out of the way first.
2. Can they re-sign DT Johnathan Hankins too?
They probably can afford it, even if his market soars to Damon Harrison territory (five years, $46.25 million). And while they do seem to want him back, they have to decide at what cost. They already have a ridiculous percentage of their cap room tied up in the defensive line and adding Hankins would soar that to more than 25 percent. It's an important position, sure, but teams that overload one spot like that often end up neglecting others.
And is Hankins worth it? He's a good player and is still young, and he might turn into another Linval Joseph - a defensive tackle the Giants famously let go in free agency in 2014, before he became a Pro Bowler. But the Giants do have Harrison at that position, so how important is it to them and their defense to have two highly paid DTs? Is it worth it, even at the expense of other needs, or is it a luxury they really can't afford?
3. Is the tackle pool in the draft better than the tackle pool in free agency?
Neither is particularly good. The free agent market is overloaded with right tackles, damaged goods, and a few players who are likely to be overpriced. Maybe the Giants can go bargain shopping after the first wave of free agency is over, but there's an obvious risk in doing that.
The good news is there will likely be a few first-round-caliber tackles waiting for them at No. 23. The bad news is most scouts are underwhelmed by those first-round-caliber tackles. But who knows? Maybe the Giants will fall in love with Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk, Alabama's Cam Robinson and/or Utah's Garrett Boles and they'll feel good about either plugging one of them in at right tackle or having them replace Ereck Flowers on the left.
If they do, they could be more inclined to hunt for a short-term bargain in free agency and take a shot at a damaged-goods veteran on a one-year deal.
4. How good are the tight ends in this draft?
Supposedly they're very good, starting with Alabama's O.J. Howard and Miami's David Njoku. The Giants would love one of them because they have no intention of going into next season with Will Tye and Matt LaCosse 1-2 on the depth chart. And the free agent options are good, but not great. There is a reasonable concern that the market at that position will quickly become overpriced.
The problem with drafting a tight end, though, is where the Giants are drafting - which is why figuring out how good they are, and how good the league thinks they are is so important. At the moment, Howard is probably unlikely to be there at 23, but Njoku could be. Their workouts at the combine could add a lot of clarity to that, and give the Giants a sense of whether they have a shot at either of them in April.
5. Can they clear any more cap room - and will they need to?
If nothing else, teams leave the combine having at least a sense of where the market will be on most free agents, so the Giants should have an idea of how much they'll have to spend to do what they need to do. They also will leave knowing whether a long-term deal with JPP is realistic, and whether Hankins' market will be in their ballpark.
They don't currently have a ton of wiggle room under the cap -- $17 million-ish, depending on what happens in the next week and where the cap is set. They also have very limited options for clearing more cap space. They certainly could cut linebacker J.T. Thomas, but that would only save $3 million. Barring a surprise, he's likely the only vet still on their chopping block.
As for re-structures, they certainly could re-work some of their more expensive deals like the one belonging to Eli Manning (who has a cap number of$19.7 million in 2017). Restructures are usually easy, book-keeping maneuvers - converting salary to bonus, which eases the salary cap hit in the year it's done.
But teams don't love doing that because it just makes the cap hits larger in future years of those contracts. The Giants may be more inclined to do that, though, given their admittedly short window for making another championship run.
Mortgaging a little bit of the future is easier when the future is supposed to be right now.