It just made too much sense. With new coach Pat Shurmur wanting Eli Manning to stick around as his starting quarterback at least through 2018, and the Giants in prime draft-day position with a top-five pick and new general manager Dave Gettleman touting a strong connection to Norwell from his time with the Carolina Panthers, filling the teams biggest need — in the trenches — seemed like a piece of cake.
The ex-Giants coach, in a move that reaffirmed the Jacksonville Jaguars sneakily brilliant commitment to stocking up at the line of scrimmage, stole Norwell, one of free agencys surest things and the consensus top guard available, right out of New Yorks grasp.
Suddenly, without the one big-ticket veteran that warranted their infatuation and seemed destined to become a Giant, Gettlemans bunch is left to turn to Plan B. The question is: What is Plan B? Its up to you to decide whether the Giants ever had one to begin with, but they have no choice now but to move forward, so heres a look at what could be next now that Norwell is out of the picture:
As much as the Panthers would have liked to keep Norwell on their line, it wasnt entirely surprising that they couldnt afford to keep him. Having already signed his counterpart to a big-money deal last season, they wouldnt be able to match the $13.3 million a year price tag he was able to fetch.
Lets start with the veteran free-agent market, which officially opens Wednesday but, for all intents and purposes, is already in full swing. Norwell was the best the Giants couldve done, although his left-tackle price tag of $66.5 million wouldve been steep for a team with so-so salary-cap space. After him, whats left in free agency is about what youd expect — a couple remaining big-money targets, some grizzled rental options, a few low-risk upside projects and even a couple familiar faces:
If youre the Giants, your best bet at still making a big splash is with Solder, not only because of his name but because of his resume. But in a market that saw the teams own Weston Richburg land a five-year deal, whos to say they wouldnt be forced to make Solder the games highest-paid left tackle if they were to strike a contract?
Report: Cardinals OG target Andrew Norwell to sign with Jaguars
But the best approach, at least in free agency, might actually be to re-up Pugh, or at least attempt to. Whether or not the Giants are able to retain him, adding someone like Kelemete and then supplementing the group with a low-cost, prove-it deal for someone like Jeremiah Sirles or Alex Boone would then at least bolster the competition up front, especially since theres also …
Theres no way, for the sake of getting offensive-line help, the Giants could pass on a quarterback of the future — or even generational running back Saquon Barkley — with their No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft, right?
NY Giants lose out on big target Andrew Norwell to Tom Coughlins Jaguars
Or at least thats what their stance should be. Unless New York is dead set against taking a RB so early and is absolutely sold on just one of the top passing prospects and that one prospect goes No. 1, theres no reason the Giants should be taking even this years consensus No. 1 lineman, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, at No. 2. Its not as if the G-Men might not desperately need blockers in April, but theres just too much value to be had with the second pick that the team would be better off auctioning it off and trying for a lineman later in the first.
If it were a stud left tackle at No. 2, that might be different. But anyone who argues that Nelson is worth taking regardless of the pick value should first consider what the Giants might be able to get in return for simply moving down a couple spots. If it means landing a lesser guard or even one of the drafts few first-round tackle prospects plus an extra haul of picks for which Gettleman can target interior competition, thats exactly the route the Giants should take. Because if Gettleman has proven anything in his track record as a GM, its that hes been able to unearth starting material from later-round linemen.
Giants miss out on Andrew Norwell as he reportedly agrees to deal with Jaguars
The Giants lost the free agent they desired most to a coach they once lost interest in.
Jaguars vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin swooped in and agreed with All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell to a five-year, $66.5 million deal that makes him the highest-paid guard in the NFL.
Coughlin, who won two Super Bowls in 12 years with the Giants but was fired after four straight non-playoff seasons, has done a great job in the front office of the Jaguars, who were minutes from reaching Super Bowl LII.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that former Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell is expected to sign with the Jaguars, according to sources informed of the deal. The deal is set to count five years and $66.5 million, with $30 million fully guaranteed.
Jaguars to sign Andrew Norwell | What now for Giants?
Well, they could turn internally to one of their own free agents, but dont expect a hometown discount from Justin Pugh, who must feel like an afterthought based on quiet negotiations during the exclusive period.
NY Giants were in the mix, but All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell will sign a mega contract worth $66.5 million with the Jacksonville Jaguars, per ESPN
But thats more than former teammate Weston Richburg can say, since the Giants didnt pursue him hard at all and he wound up with the 49ers.
Jaguars Sign Andrew Norwell To 5-Year, $$66.5 Million Deal
Any offensive lineman entering negotiations with the Giants suddenly has some more leverage after seeing Norwell go to the Jaguars. The Giants need at least two new starters in free agency or high in the draft.
Andrew Norwell to sign 5-year, $66.5M deal with Jaguars
Here are some other free agents they should pursue quickly, with dominoes falling ahead of Wednesdays official signing period:
Neither team will have the chance, as Norwell opted for what most NFL players opt for — money. As they should, and Norwell should be a prime example why. He played college football for Ohio State but still managed to go undrafted. He was never guaranteed this kind of life-changing money and now he can get it in a state where theres no personal income tax.
Pugh was a starter from day one as a first-round draft pick in 2013, but he has missed 13 games over the last two seasons due to injury. Hes been solid and versatile, but he hasnt made a Pro Bowl.
Will the Giants pay more than $10 million a year for Pugh? Or will some other team with more cap space swoop in as the market for guards suddenly skyrockets? Probably the latter.
It seems like a general assumption that Solder will return to the Patriots, but it there also were erroneous reports that Norwell and the Giants was a “done deal.” Nothing is done until the deal is in place.
The Patriots have shown a willingness to let free agents test the open market and come back to them for a final bid. Sometimes they stay at the last minute (Devin McCourty) and sometimes they go.
The Giants should take most of the money they were willing to give to Norwell and redirect it to Solder. Tackle is a bigger need than guard anyway.
Report: Andrew Norwell to pass on Colts, sign with Jaguars
If not Solder, than maybe the Giants go with the cheaper option in Fleming, whose career with the Patriots got off to a slow start. The fourth-round pick was cut in 2015 but resigned to the practice squad and promoted to starter when Solder was injured.
Report: Giants interested in tackle Chris Hubbard
He started the final five games of the 2017 regular season and the ensuing three playoff games at right tackle, so he is hitting the market at the right time. Still, he is a cheaper option than Pugh or Solder.