The new Giants regime seems ready to give cornerback Eli Apple the "clean slate" they've promised him after his miserable 2017 season. And with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie now moving to safety, it even looks like Apple is penciled back in for his old starting job.
But how sure are the Giants that they can count on him? And are they really convinced all his troubles are in the past?
That's not so clear. In fact, Giants GM Dave Gettleman even ducked the question about whether he expected Apple will be on the Giants' roster next season.
"I expect him to show up on April 9 (for the start of the offseason workout program)," Gettleman said at the NFL scouting combine last week. "I hope he shows up April 9. How's that?"
Well, that's not exactly clarity on a situation that became incredibly muddied last season with Apple getting benched multiple times after clashes with teammates and coaches, and his rift with some going so far that Landon Collins publicly called him "a cancer". The former first-round pick reportedly was going through some difficult family issues, which may have triggered a season's worth of odd behavior.
Whatever it was, though, the Giants now need two reliable corners to lineup with Janoris Jenkins. Just how much they believe in Apple will determine a lot of what they do in free agency, and the draft. They will be looking at available free-agent corners, according to a team source, but are unlikely to shop in the deep end of the pool for guys like Trumaine Johnson or Malcolm Butler.
They reportedly have some interest in the Eagles' 30-year-old corner, Patrick Robinson, and they'll probably try to bring back Ross Cockrell. The market is a bit thin, though, unless they could get a bargain on the injury-prone E.J. Gaines.
How hard they shop at that position, though, could give clues into how they really feel about Apple and how much they believe he'll become the player (and person) he once was. So far they've managed to be mostly non-committal, but still are saying all the right things.
"It's a new day," Gettleman said. "We had a nice visit. Eli came in and we talked for about 25 minutes to half an hour. Had a good visit. Broke bread, so to speak. I told him, 'It's clean. Let's go. Let's go.' So that's where we are."
"This is a clean-slate deal," coach Pat Shurmur added. "I think we all know we need to get better. We had a great conversation. He's eager to get started when we do get started. We're going to put the ball out there and let it rip."
Running backs, O-linemen dominate interviewees
Shurmur spoke at the combine about how much he wants a running back for his offense, and the Giants were wowed by Penn State's Saquon Barkley's workout, just like everyone else. But don't assume that means they'll draft him, even if he's available at No. 2. The Giants like the depth at that position in this draft, and according to sources, they used a lot of their 60 allotted one-on-one interviews to meet with running back prospects last week.
Some of the top ones they met with, along with Barkley, were Auburn's Kerryon Johnson, USC's Ronald Jones II, Arizona State's Kallen Ballage, Iowa's Akrum Wadley, and N.C. State's Nyheim Hines.
One source also said it looked like the Giants used about a third of their spots on offensive linemen - not surprising, given Gettleman's desire to add "Hog Mollies" to fix the Giants' line.
Yes, they met with Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson. Among the others were Georgia's Isaiah Wynn, UCLA's Kolton Miller, Texas' Connor Williams, Iowa's James Daniels, Arkansas' Frank Ragnow, UCLA's Scott Quessenberry, and Auburn's Braden Smith.
Giants' O-line bound for new look in 2018
It would be a shock if more than one offensive lineman wasn't added by the Giants in both the draft, and in free agency. In fact, it's looking increasingly likely that they'll have three new starters - at both guard spots and at right tackle. It looks very likely that guards Justin Pugh, D.J. Fluker, and center Weston Richburg will hit free agency.
That leaves center Brett Jones and left tackle Ereck Flowers as the only returning starters - though one team source said there's no guarantee Flowers will still be a starter next season.
In free agency, the Giants are set to spend big on guard Andrew Norwell, as SNY has reported. Baltimore's Ryan Jensen might be their backup plan if they somehow can't sign Norwell. Jensen is a center, though, so that could push Jones to guard.
The Giants are not expected to be players in the top end of the tackle market (like for Nate Solder). A team source said they believe free-agent tackles will end up very overpriced.
New linebackers might be needed for 3-4 defense
Neither Gettleman nor Shurmur said definitively that the Giants will now run a 3-4 defense, but it sounded like their scheme will have more 3-4 looks. It also sounds like they won't be doing a big personnel overhaul, which might be why they're not specifically saying there'll be a change. One reason for that, according to a team source, is the obvious: They're stronger along the defensive line than they are at linebacker.
They will attempt to change that, but it may not be an immediate sweeping change. Jonathan Casillas, last year's defensive captain, seems unlikely to re-sign, and free-agent Devon Kennard seems like he'll hit the open market. The Giants may look more to the draft, with an emphasis on youth and speed.
That could be a problem, though. As Gettleman said, finding linebackers is hard because, in college, so many of them are playing defensive end or safety. So, he has to sort through what he said are "all these kind of bastardized lienbackers that do funky things."
Who will battle Rosas in camp?
The Giants do seem intent on bringing in a veteran kicker to compete with Aldrick Rosas, who had a somewhat erratic rookie season. They were reportedly interested in Graham Gano, and that made sense since he probably would be the best available (at least among the under-40 set). But there's a report that the Panthers are closing in on a long-term deal with him now.
Regardless, there are always veteran kickers available, though, and someone will be in camp to at least give Rosas a push.