New York Giants NFL offseason preview: Futures of Saquon Barkley, James Bradberry in doubt

Saquon Barkley could be traded this offseason as the Giants work to improve their salary-cap situation. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The 2021 season was a disaster for the New York Giants. They essentially spent the offseason operating as a serious contender -- spending big money on free agents such as wide receiver Kenny Golladay, cornerback Adoree' Jackson and tight end Kyle Rudolph -- only to finish 4-13. Quarterback Daniel Jones did little to prove he's the long-term solution at the game's most important position in what most considered a make-or-break year. Jones will return, but his future and how the Giants handle the position moving forward remain a work in progress under a new regime.

Short on cap space, former general manager Dave Gettleman spent this past season restructuring deals to keep the Giants under the salary cap. It has left new general manager Joe Schoen with a mess to clean up.

Schoen has already gone on record saying he wanted to clear $40 million in cap space and build through the draft. He also stated the Giants won't be big players this year in free agency as they get their financials in order.

But they do have two top-10 picks and nine selections overall in the draft.

Projected salary-cap space: $-10,512,631

Top free agents: TE Evan Engram, S Jabrill Peppers, OLB Lorenzo Carter, G Will Hernandez, OT Nate Solder

Potential cut candidates: The money has to come from somewhere and cornerback James Bradberry, scheduled to count an absurd $21.9 million against the cap, saves them $12 million. Receiver Sterling Shepard is costly ($12.5 million vs. cap) as well and likely won't be ready for the start of the season as he rehabs a torn Achilles tendon.

What you need to know: The Giants have some big decisions to make this offseason. They have until May to pick up the fifth-year option on Jones' rookie contract. It seems likely they will pass since he's yet to show any real consistency in his first three seasons as a starting quarterback and it would mean guaranteeing him $20-plus million for 2023. It seems inevitable they let Jones play it out this year and if he has a great season, that will present a good problem.

The fifth-year option being picked up for running back Saquon Barkley is a situation Schoen inherits. It guarantees Barkley $7.2 million for this season. There has already been speculation that it might be in the best interest of the team and player to move him in a trade this offseason. It would give Barkley a fresh start and provide the Giants with some more financial flexibility.

Best-case offseason scenario: Schoen fills gaps on the offensive line with smart bargain shopping. He hits big on both top-10 picks and coach Brian Daboll is able to work his magic on Jones. Suddenly, the Giants have a competent offense and will be in shape to be players again next year in free agency as they resemble a well-run playoff contender.

Worst-case offseason scenario: The Giants take it on the chin this offseason. They shed several of their best players -- perhaps Bradberry, Shepard and middle linebacker Blake Martinez -- in order to get themselves right financially. They aren't players in free agency and 2022 looks like another rough season before Schoen gets them back on track.

Early look at the NFL draft, from ESPN analyst Jordan Reid: With two picks in the top 10, the Giants could go in multiple directions in the 2022 draft. The offensive and defensive lines are the biggest areas of concern. Spending both picks there could be options, as improvements in the trenches should be atop the list of priorities for Schoen.

Top needs: EDGE, OL, LB

Top picks: Nos. 5 and 7