INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL scouting combine is just about complete and free agency is on the horizon. After spending three days in Indianapolis collecting information on the draft and potential New York Giants moves here are some whispers.
After listening to the Giants brass speak and talking to people around the league, the pendulum is swinging away from them taking a quarterback. Coach Pat Shurmur talked about landing a franchise-changing player Wednesday and mentioned Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks. It seemed they were setting the stage to go in another direction if their quarterback of preference was not available.
Part of the reason is the wide range of views on this year’s quarterback class. Each has their warts. While some reports raved about the quarterbacks’ performance during workouts on Saturday, the feedback I received wasn't nearly as glowing.
“Underwhelming,” said one NFC scout whose team isn’t in the market for a starting quarterback. “I’d take Barkley.”
The Giants just might. My post-combine top 5:
Browns: QB Sam Darnold (USC)
Giants: RB Saquon Barkley (Penn State)
Colts: DE Bradley Chubb (NC State)
Browns: DB Minka Fitzpatrick (Alabama)
Broncos: QB Josh Rosen (UCLA)
Offensive line overhaul
Bring on the new hog mollies, as Giants general manager Dave Gettleman likes to call his offensive linemen. The changes are coming with a new regime and Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg and D.J. Fluker as free agents. So much so that one source with knowledge of the Giants' thinking said they believe there to be five new starters on the line to start next season. It's not out of the question.
(Note: The new starting five does include center Brett Jones, who took over when Richburg was injured last season.)
Now, there remains a possibility that Pugh and/or Richburg re-sign if the price is right. Fluker appears more of a long shot. Guard John Jerry and left tackle Ereck Flowers are the only starters from last year under contract.
It’s still quite the overhaul, and puts into question what will happen with Flowers. Nothing appears guaranteed for the first-round pick in 2015, who hasn’t played well. At the very least it appears he will not be handed a starting job like the past few years and it’s not out of the question he’s moved elsewhere (either his position or to another team).
Either way, the Giants are going to have a very different-looking offensive line that may well include Andrew Norwell, who many league insiders expect to soon become the NFL’s highest-paid guard for the Giants.
Richburg more than a center
There is expected to be a fairly robust market for Richburg. That isn’t a surprise. He’s a proven, quality starting center. What’s unexpected is there are more than a few teams that are looking at Richburg as a guard, according to sources. He hasn’t played guard since his rookie season.
Return of Darkwa?
Orleans Darkwa’s breakout season should pay off. He may have the greatest chance of their notable free agents to return. The Giants want him back, according to a source. It just depends on the price. It’s even possible a Darkwa deal could get done before the start of free agency on March 14. If it doesn’t work out with the Giants, don’t be surprised to see him land with the Oakland Raiders.
Curing the culture
Gettleman has preached “culture” on multiple occasions since being hired. After what happened last year with the Giants -- three cornerbacks were suspended -- don’t be surprised to see him add some stabilizing veterans. Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard could return and Miami’s Michael Thomas, a respected special teams captain, could be signed. These are the kind of under-the-radar moves to expect from the Giants in free agency.
More free agent fodder
Teams around the league still believe Shane Vereen has a useful skill set. He runs crisp routes and catches the ball well. He will have some options. One not to rule out: a return to New England. Nobody knows better than Bill Belichick how to use a player to his strengths. … It would be a surprise at this point if former defensive captain Jonathan Casillas returned for another season with the Giants. It appears the Giants are looking to get younger and increase their speed at the linebacker position. … With the changes on defense it’s unlikely defensive tackle Jay Bromley and end Kerry Wynn return. Wynn is better suited to play in a 4-3 defense and Bromley is looking for a fresh start and potentially bigger role. He was a rotational player behind Damon Harrison and rookie Dalvin Tomlinson last year.