The news broke Wednesday that New York Giants left tackle Will Beatty tore a pectoral muscle lifting weights this week and needed surgery that will sideline him until at least November. There was surely some predictable reaction from the Beatty-bashers among the Giants' fan base, some believing this to be addition by subtraction. But I'm here to tell you it's not.
The Giants will miss Beatty. For all his flaws, he has started their past 46 games, is a consistent performer in the run game and is the least to blame for Eli Manning's protection issues of anyone on the line. Look at it this way: Of the five starting offensive line spots, the only one about which there was no question before this week was left tackle, where the Giants were sure Beatty would be the starter. They don't know who's going to be the right tackle, who will play which guard spot or how Weston Richburg will handle the transition to center. Beatty was a known quantity at his position, and there's comfort in that.
So within that context -- that this May injury news is bad news for the Giants no matter how you slice it -- here are five quick thoughts on this news the day after it broke:
1. There's no obvious replacement on the roster. Yes, the Giants selected Miami tackle Ereck Flowers with the No. 9 pick in the NFL draft three weeks ago. But they did not do so with the idea that Flowers would be ready to play left tackle at the NFL level as a rookie. It may turn out he is, but before the draft he was viewed by many, including the Giants, as a long-term upside project whose technique and footwork in pass protection need refinement. They're likely OK starting him at right tackle or guard as a rookie, but it's a reach to assume he can step in at left tackle right away. Justin Pugh would be the next logical candidate, as a 2013 first-round pick who's been the starting right tackle the past two years. But much of the Giants' offseason focus has been on replacing Pugh at right tackle and moving him inside to guard, where he might be better suited.
2. It's likely too late to find a replacement from the outside. Some have suggested the Giants look at veteran Jake Long, who's still a free agent, but I've received no indication at any point this offseason that the Giants were interested in him. This could change things, but the oft-injured Long is no more perfect a solution than any they may have internally. This complicates the offensive line picture for training camp, and the Giants will spend a good portion of the next couple of months rearranging things to find Beatty's replacement and their best overall starting line combination.
3. A November return does seem realistic. Earlier in his career, Beatty had a justified reputation as a player who was slow to come back from injury. But he has answered the bell consistently for three years now, and his full recovery from a broken leg in time to start all 16 regular-season games in 2014 testifies to his commitment. If the projected recovery from the surgery he had this week is five to six months, then it's reasonable to think Beatty can hit that target.
4. This could conceivably affect Beatty's future with the team. Beatty is entering the third year of a five-year, $37.5 million contract. None of the money in the final two years is guaranteed, and the Giants can pocket more than $4 million in 2016 cap savings if they cut Beatty next offseason. That gives the team leverage if it wants to go to Beatty to rework his deal or take a pay cut after this season. With Manning, Jason Pierre-Paul and Prince Amukamara all set to hit free agency after this year, that money could come in handy. And if Pugh or Flowers does show an ability to handle the position while Beatty is out, it may be a sensible decision to move on.
5. Groundhog Day. Remember that middle linebacker Jon Beason injured his foot in a June minicamp last year and basically missed the whole season? Something in the water down there in East Rutherford this time of year? Be careful out there, guys.