The 2022 NFL campaign is officially here, and with it, the dawn of a new era of New York Giants football. While the league year only officially started on March 16th, the Giants have already made several significant moves to welcome the Joe Schoen era. This two-part article will look at the impact Schoen has had on the coaching staff, the salary cap, and his moves in free agency so far.
The Giants’ off-season moves started immediately after the 2021 season, with the team cutting ties with both general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Joe Judge after yet another disappointing season in charge. The four-win season also saw offensive coordinator Jason Garrett relieved of his duties mid-season and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham move across the country to join the Las Vegas Raiders for the 2022 season.
New York’s ownership started yet another rebuild for the G-men with a series of interviews for the vacant general manager position in January. This included two interviews with Ryan Poles (then of the Kansas City Chiefs), Adam Peters (San Francisco 49ers), and Joe Schoen (Buffalo Bills), with Schoen eventually being selected as the man most capable of rebuilding the franchise.
Schoen, in a unique yet challenging position, has been given the opportunity to mold both the coaching staff and the playing roster to fit his vision from Day One. He started this process with the hiring of Brian Daboll, a colleague from his time in Buffalo, to become the fifth Giants head coach since Tom Coughlin left at the end of the 2015 season.
Daboll spent the past four years as the Bills offensive coordinator. Under his tutelage, Buffalo’s offense transformed into one of the most exciting in the NFL, in large part due to the progression of star QB Josh Allen. Daboll can be credited with playing a role in the rise of Allen, something the Giants are hoping he will replicate with starting QB Daniel Jones.
Two key aspects of the Bills’ successful offense under Daboll were pre-snap motion and the effective use of play-action. The Bills ran 196 play-action pass plays in 2021 for 1,667 yards, both league-high numbers. If Daboll can implement these into the Giants offense, Daniel Jones should reap the rewards, with the 24-year-old QB struggling with decision-making and turnovers in the predictable offense under Garrett.
To help implement and run the new offense, the Giants hired Mike Kafka from the Chiefs as the offensive coordinator. Kafka spent the last two seasons at the same post within one of the league’s most exciting units in Kansas City. The 2022 offense, influenced by both Kafka and Daboll, promises to be a significant upgrade for the Giants, who finished 31st in the league in points per game for the past two years in a row.
Finally, Schoen completed the core coaching structure by filling the opening at defensive coordinator with Don “Wink” Martindale, who came over from the Ravens. All three coaches have won the Super Bowl in their coaching careers and expect organizational success – a characteristic that has been rare in the Giants organization for over a decade.
Schoen took over a franchise in one of the most unfavorable positions in all of American sports. In the last five seasons, the Giants have the equal-worst record in the NFL at 22-59. Furthermore, the team has not won a playoff game in over a decade. On top of that, Schoen joined at a time they were over the 2022 salary cap, with the team lacking both franchise players and a real identity after what can only be described as a disastrous four years under Dave Gettleman.
It is clear that a rebuild is required in the Meadowlands and reports surfacing in February suggesting Schoen was looking to free up $40 million in salary cap confirm the Giants are planning just that.
Shortly before the league year officially commenced, it was announced that the Giants had restructured the contracts of Sterling Shepard and Blake Martinez. The duo, both returning from season-ending injuries in 2021, had been widely assumed to be salary-cap casualties under the new regime. Fan favorites in East Rutherford, both players returning on more cap-friendly deals is likely to be a move that is well received by Giants fans.
The restructured pair have provided a saving of over $12 million against the 2022 cap, with the Giants having previously created further cap space with a series of player cuts. Most notably RB Devontae Booker ($2.1m), TE Kyle Rudolph ($5m), P Riley Dixon ($2.8m), and TE Kaden Smith ($2.5m) were all cut before the new year started in mid-March.
In a somewhat surprising move, the Giants also released veteran safety Logan Ryan. The move does not save any material amount against the 2022 salary cap – a key factor in the moves Schoen has made so far. It does, however, save $3 million of cap space in 2023. With Ryan unlikely to be a fit for the new Wink Martindale defense, the Giants did not see the benefit in retaining the 31-year old New Jersey native.
It is important to note that even after considering these moves, the Giants are still one of the most cash-strapped teams in the league, a testament to just how poorly the previous regime managed the salary cap.
With further moves required in the coming weeks to reach Schoen’s lofty $40-million target, there are likely to be more salary-cap casualties from the current roster. CB James Bradberry and RB Saquon Barkley have both been rumored to be trade-away possibilities for the Giants and the team will struggle to bring back several key personnel who became free agents this off-season.
Schoen has assembled a coaching staff that, as proven by their track records, expect success from their teams. The addition of an offensive-minded head coach brings with it the hope of a turnaround in fortunes for the uninspiring unit of the past few seasons. The moves made so far show a consistent and targeted effort to clear room for the rebuild.
Schoen has also made it clear he is willing to leverage his past connections, such as Daboll, as well as work with current Giants players, such as Shepard and Martinez, to create a winning culture in New York once again. The team, however, can only be as good as the roster the staff are given by the front office.
The second part of this article will look at the free agency moves Schoen has already made to hopefully lead the Giants in the right direction.
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