Giants OL Problems and the DJ Fluker Signing

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants

Late Saturday, the Giants signed Guard DJ Fluker to a 1 year contract. We praised the deal because it was done on the cheap, at $3M. The length of the contract, at 1 yr, also incentivizes Fluker to perform so that he can get a bigger payday after 2017.

Giants fans are whining about this signing. They claim that Reese has not addressed the OL’s woes, namely getting meaningful help at Tackle. For this, they are correct. The Chargers moved Fluker from Tackle to Guard after 2 seasons, because they were trying to salvage the former Round 1 pick. Our analyst, Wonder, agrees with keeping Fluker at Guard. Both Wonder and I have been major critics of Jerry Reese over the years, but we cannot fault this signing, given the current conditions. Given the situation in this moment, getting a player like Fluker for $3M is a job well done. He is not an awesome talent.  He is not very good in pass protection. But there is potential to resurrect his career.

The reason why this blog post is being done is to backtrack and talk about those “current conditions” that got us here. This is where the criticism of Jerry Reese needs to be understood. Just because we are praising the Reese signing of Fluker (and Marshall, arguably the best value signing in Free Agency) does not absolve Reese of the negligence that he himself has sowed with this unit. Nor are the OL coaches absolved either.

Before Free Agency set in motion, we preferred bringing back Hankins and letting JPP walk. Reese chose to do neither, and when he could not agree to a contract with JPP, he (franchise) tagged him. That this is now the second time Reese had to tag JPP (once in 2015, pre fireworks, and now here again in 2017) is a major red flag. This route is part of the problem with JPP. JPP always has an inflated opinion of what he is worth. Just ask him and he will tell you. Once again, the Giants and JPP are very far apart on a contract. If they were close, they could have gotten it done. That divide is part of this problem at OL, because the tag costs the Giants $17M in 2017 without a contract. JPP is simply not worth $17M. He is not a Top 5 DE, period. And even if he were, a contract would lessen the cap hit in 2017. Yet Reese chose this route.

You make your bed, and then you lie in it.

Reese has not drafted well over the years. We stood up and applauded when the (then beat writer Jordan Raanan called him out on it and then backed it up with an analysis which showed how shoddy Reese has done. Simply stated, after that first Draft in 2007, it has been mostly downhill in the draft, with major lift recently in the selections of Beckham and Collins.  The bill came due for many parts of the team that slowly eroded, including OL.

Odell Beckham is currently a $3.3M cap hit. This is super skinny for a star who routinely generates enormous impact. There is a 5th year option which the Giants can (and likely will) exercise in 2018. Then the cap hit will explode as his contract is renegotiated. So the Giants have to win now, while they have the huge cap benefit of Reese having hit on this WR.

This is how you win in the NFL:

  1. You draft well.
  2. Terrific players like OBJ and Collins make an enormous impact while playing for cheap.
  3. You fill in a couple of remaining players efficiently with Free Agency, or even just repeating Step 1.

Reese’s poor drafting bed forced him to go lie excessively in Free Agency in 2014 AND in 2016. The Giants have

  1. Vernon $16M
  2. Jenkins $15M
  3. Harrison $10.6M
  4. DRC $9M

That is a total of $51M spent on 4 players from Free Agency. You are almost always paying up to get players in Free Agency. You are better off drafting them good, having them play well at a super low cost on their rookie contract and extending that contract before the hit Free Agency. That does not happen when you literally have a single player (Will Beatty, the only high draft pick contract extension in Reese’s tenure) to show for it. All of this brings us to JPP, who is a $17MM hit. So the DL has $44M for 3 players alone. Add the miss on Hankins (a complete crime, a la Linval Joseph, in letting another Draft pick walk), and the DL has a total of $48M cap hit this season.

The Offensive Line cap hit? A total of $20M, and that is for 25% more starters than the DL. Why the big difference? Because of Vernon, Harrison, and JPP. Vernon and Harrison earned it. JPP did not. It is the $17M in salary that JPP will receive which blocks out the sun and forces Reese to go to the bargain basement with Fluker for $3M.

Maybe if Owa Odighizuwa had hit as a Draft pick, the Giants would have let JPP walk and would have had money for a Tackle. Maybe if Reese would have simply drafted Castonzo or Glenn like we urged earlier this decade, we wouldn’t be here either. The disease is not drafting well enough. And the disease is also not developing OL well enough either. We blogged on this topic in January about the total failure to bring any Round 3+ OL picks through since Coughlin (/Flaherty) came to the Giants in 2004. Why did Pugh fail at Tackle and have to be brought inside to play Guard? Why is Flowers failing? How can it be possible that every single Reese draft pick (except Beatty) could underwhelm?

Don’t go criticizing Fluker for the Giants woes. His acquisition is a symptom of a much great failure at multiple levels.

Amazingly, Reese has performed some masterful strokes in Free Agency. Most of the time, Free Agency imports bring unfulfilled expectations. Think Chris Canty, David Baas and Geoff Schwartz.  Imagine working for a company, and then the boss brings in someone from outside to work alongside you for multiples of your salary? Unless that new guy is going to continue to outwork you and generate major impact plays, it is not a recipe for success. The Washington Redskins were a turnstile team that perfected that pathology. The Giants got some high character guys (in the list of 4 above) who have been tremendous additions. That rarely happens. That kind of success in Free Agency is why the Giants went to the playoffs in 2016 and why they can contend this year, DESPITE the weak drafting. Getting Brandon Marshall and DJ Fluker for bargain basement prices in Free Agency is not the norm. Reese did an excellent job in getting 3 big winners last season. It is why the Giants are knocking on the door for a title this season.

Who holds the keys to opening that door and putting the players in a position to bully their way through? Guys like McAdoo and OL Coach Mike Solari. Solari holds the key. He has to be the one to get the OL to give Eli another 0.5-1.0 second of time for his progressions. That extra time will enable the Offense to explode. Combined with Spagnuolo’s excellent Defense, it is not a dream to see the Giants contend for a 5th Lombardi. That is what Reese’s Free Agency efforts have done. If Reese can score some meaningful rookie (draft) contributions, that will go a long way. It is up to McAdoo and Solari to do the rest.

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