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Giants' offseason preview: Top priorities include decisions on Eli, Collins

Despite some high-level talent on offense, the Giants' roster is littered with holes on both offense and defense.

Eli Manning's future with the Giants remains cloudy

Eli Manning's future with the Giants remains cloudy after another disappointing season under center. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

gWhile technically an improvement upon the previous season, 2018 was another forgettable campaign for the New York Giants.

In fact, other than a 4-1 run following the Week 9 bye, long stretches of the season were heartbreaking. The Giants finished at 5-11, with eight of their defeats coming by seven points or less, including five decided by a field goal's margin. Big Blue managed to lose each of the final two games of the season by one point. Ouch.

There's always next year, as the mantra goes, and with 2019 already upon us, it's time to look ahead to the offseason. Read on for the three biggest priorities to address once the NFL calendar starts anew on March 13.

The Eli situation

Don't forget to wish Eli Manning a happy birthday on Thursday, when he will turn 38. But the day is another reminder that Father Time is bearing down on the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, who cannot consistently lead the Giants to success anymore.

Granted, his offensive line has done him few favors in recent years, but it's hard to envision the blocking in front of him will improve exponentially by training camp. Just about all 38-year-old passers who show clear signs of decline aren't going to bounce back, so it's painfully clear that he's nothing but a stopgap until he retires or the Giants part with their franchise passing leader.

The draft doesn't appear to have obvious answers at the position, so perhaps he'll return for at least another season. But, unless the team believes in rookie Kyle Lauletta more than they appear to, a credible QB2 is a spring priority.

Where Landon lands

Without question, Landon Collins is the heart of the Giants defense. The four-year veteran safety isn't just the unit's most talented player, but he doubles as arguably the most respected locker room presence. He's a three-time Pro Bowl selection who attained first-team All-Pro status in 2016. However, a torn labrum in his shoulder put an end to his 2018 after 12 games.

As an unrestricted free agent who will turn 25 on Jan. 10, Collins figures to be a hot commodity. It shouldn't surprise if his 2019 team winds up handing him a record-breaking contract for a safety, whether it's the Giants or elsewhere. The Giants could use the franchise tag on him as a means to keep him off the market and work out a long-term deal to both parties' liking. But that's far from a certainty.

Plugging leaks

Even if Collins returns, the defense is quite a mess. Midseason trades sent away contributors on the defensive line (Damon Harrison) and secondary (Eli Apple). Nobody other than Olivier Vernon is much help in the pass rush. The defensive backs around Collins either underachieved (Janoris Jenkins) or aren't quality starters (B.W. Webb). Inside linebacker Alec Ogletree underwhelmed in his first season with the team.

Offensively, Big Blue is basically set at receiver (Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard), running back (Saquon Barkley) and tight end (Evan Engram). Critical deficiencies on the offensive line undermine the talent at the skill positions, though. Tackle Nate Solder and rookie guard Willie Hernandez were fine on the left side, but the Giants would do well to explore other options on the right and at center.

Recent cap projections indicate the Giants can be expected to have at least $30 million available to add to the roster, and they could have more if Manning's contract is altered or he is released. Don't expect a quiet offseason from Big Blue.

Key 2019 free agents

Unrestricted: Jamon Brown, G; Landon Collins, S; Zak DeOssie, LS; Bennie Fowler, WR; John Greco, C; Josh Mauro, DT; Kerry Wynn, DE; B.W. Webb, CB

Restricted: Spencer Pulley, C; Curtis Riley, S

Exclusive rights: Jon Halapio, C; Aldrick Rosas, K

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