Giants early free agency moves tipping 2020 NFL Draft hand

Joe Judge
Giants head coach Joe Judge. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

As expected, the Giants have been busy during the first few days of the new league year to address the roster issues of a team that went 4-12 last season.

Since the legal tampering period began on Monday, the Giants have agreed to deals with six players — most of whom are providing upgrades within positions of dire need.

Gettleman’s first major move of the offseason was bringing on cornerback James Bradberry in an attempt to spark a Giants pass defense that ranked fifth-worst in the league last season.

Bradberry was drafted by Gettleman and the Carolina Panthers in the second round of the 2016 draft out of Arkansas State where he’s developed into a viable defender.

He’ll be the Giants’ top cornerback moving forward, which makes the signing as straightforward as ever.

It’s the Giants’ other notable signings that provide some questions about the immediate future, which pertains to their plan at the 2020 NFL Draft.

With the No. 4 overall pick, Gettleman is going to have his pick of the litter of elite prospects. That provides plenty of avenues to take, but the two most glaring needs the team has is along the offensive line and within the front seven.

The foundation of the Giants’ future — quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley — haven’t had nearly enough protection or running lanes to exploit because the offensive line in front of them was more sieve-like than not.

On the opposite side of the ball, the Giants continued to lack a true defensive playmaker that can disrupt opposing offenses and get to the quarterback.

With the fourth pick, the Giants are expected to have their choice between Clemson’s explosive linebacker, Isaiah Simmons, or one of the top-four offensive linemen available in Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, or Georgia’s Andrew Thomas.

If the Giants’ early signings indicate anything, it’s that the Giants could be leaning toward taking one of those offensive linemen with their first-round pick.

In recent days, Gettleman brought in a pair of former Packers linebackers in Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell — both of whom worked with new Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham when he was Green Bay’s linebacker coach.

Martinez is one of the more productive inside linebackers in the NFL, producing 443 combined tackles, nine sacks, and 25 tackles for a loss over the last three seasons.

Fackrell has performed in more of a reserve role while in Green Bay, starting just nine of his 61 career games. But his most productive season came with Graham in 2018 when he put up 10.5 of his 16.5 career sacks that year.

The hope will be that the outside linebacker can repeat that kind of production with his old coach in New York.

They’ll be added to a core that is expected to feature third-year strongside linebacker Lorenzo Carter and left inside linebacker David Mayo, who the Giants re-signed earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Gettleman added former Patriots and Cowboys offensive tackle, Cameron Fleming, to start the offensive line overhaul.

Fleming has never had consistent starting time, but his numbers are promising enough to slot in at the right tackle position. In 994 career pass-block snaps, the 27-year-old has only allowed 12 sacks, per Pro Football Focus.

It’s a minor consolation prize on the free-agent market, however, as the Giants still need another tackle and center.

Left tackle Nate Solder’s time with the team is running out while the team’s only center, Spencer Pulley, has not impressed.

They watched as top tackles Jack Conklin, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and Bryan Bulaga signed elsewhere as did centers Joe Looney, Connor McGovern, and Ted Karras.

While a center might have to come either later in the draft or via trade, the Giants will have their pick of the litter of the 2020 draft class’ top tackles next month.