It appears the Giants are looking for Jerrel Jernigan to step up this coming season, especially if Mario Manningham departs in free agency.
On Friday, Tom Coughlin mentioned Jernigan as one of the young players that could potentially step up with opportunity this coming season.
And on Saturday, GM Jerry Reese said the team has expectations for last year’s third-round pick.
“I think we have some good players we still want to come along,” Reese said when asked what the team may do if Manningham leaves. “To name a couple –- we drafted Jernigan in the third round. So we expect him to make the jump. Ramses Barden, who we drafted a couple years ago, had some injury issues, we expect him to contribute as well. Obviously, we’ll continue to look if we can’t bring Mario back.”
Jernigan largely played on special teams and did not have a catch during his rookie season. If Manningham signs elsewhere, the Giants will need a third wide receiver and Barden and Jernigan may battle it out in camp for that spot.
The Giants also need Jernigan to step up as a returner. The special teams needs a spark in the kick return and punt return areas.
A TIGHT SITUATION: Reese was asked about the Giants’ need at tight end after Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum both underwent ACL surgeries on Tuesday.
“Right now, we only have a couple of tight ends that are healthy so that’s definitely a concern for us,” the general manager said. “We have the two guys who had ACL surgeries. We have Bear Pascoe who’s healthy and we have a young practice squad kid that we like, Christian Hopkins. That’s a concern for us.”
“We’ll address it somehow, with the draft or free agency, but we’ll definitely look to address that,” Reese added. “And hopefully those guys [Ballard and Beckum] will be back at some point with the ACLs.”
Both tight ends could start the season on the PUP list.
GIANT CAP: The Giants will have some maneuvering to do to gain cap flexibility.
The Giants are $9 million over the cap at the moment according to ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter. So Reese and his staff could be restructuring some contracts in the near future.
“You have to do what you have to do to get the players you need on your roster,” he said. “Sometimes you have to renegotiate some contracts and if we have to do that, we’re not afraid to do it. Right now, it looks like the cap is going to be flat. We’re not sure what the total is going to be. If we have to do it, we’re capable of doing it.”
Brandon Jacobs has a $500,000 roster bonus due next month so the Giants will have to make a decision on that in the next few weeks. Osi Umenyiora also is looking for a new contract and Reese said the team is open to the idea of an extension.
The Giants have 21 unrestricted free agents, two restricted free agents and one exclusive rights free agent. Manningham, cornerback Terrell Thomas, middle linebacker Jonathan Goff and punter Steve Weatherford are among the unrestricted free agents.
“We have some work to do in respect to the cap,” Reese said.