MOBILE, Ala. — The Senior Bowl annually ramps up NFL Draft talk before the Muhteşem Bowl and serves as a launch point for teams’ offseason plans. This week’s showcase will be no different.
The Giants will descend on Hancock Whitney Stadium on the University of South Alabama’s campus Tuesday to join the rest of the league in scouting select junior and senior prospects.
They’ll also set the wheels in motion for their plans to build their 2024 roster through player retention, free agent signings, trade acquisitions and April’s draft.
Here are five key storylines to watch as GM Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll enter a pivotal third season together:
WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITH SAQUON?
Running back Saquon Barkley would like to know in a timely fashion whether the team intends to franchise tag him a second straight year. The Giants can’t tag Barkley until Feb. 20, but they already know whether they intend to tag him for one more year, pursue a multi-year extension or let him walk into free agency. So the rumblings in Mobile should provide clarity.
Kayvon Thibodeaux’s recent comment that Barkley should have been paid before quarterback Daniel Jones confirmed the locker room did not love seeing the team’s best offensive player dragged through an ugly negotiation last year. Schoen also said on breakup day that the tag is “not something I want to use on a year-in and year-out basis.” And Barkley wants a chance to gauge his value on the open market. So a divorce could be coming. Time will tell.
WILL THE GIANTS DRAFT A QB?
Schoen holds seven picks in the 2024 NFL Draft, including the No. 6 overall selection in the first round, three picks in the top 47 and four in the top 70. He rewarded Jones last spring with a four-year, $160 million extension that counts $47.1 million against the team’s salary cap in 2024. But Jones’ injuries and a shockingly bad 2023 offense have the Giants in desperate need of a clear solution for both the present and future at the sport’s most important position.
Washington quarterback Michael Penix and Oregon quarterback Bo Nix are not projected to go in the top 10 of this year’s draft. Nix could go in the middle or back half of round one, though. Penix, with an injury history but clear talent, projects to the late first or second round, where the Giants have picks No. 39 and 47. And South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler has the talent as a day two selection. Especially because there is a strong chance Schoen could go wide receiver or offensive lineman in round one, the second round and day two QBs are worth studying closely.
WHEN WILL THEY HIRE A NEW ‘DC?’
It’s been three weeks since Wink Martindale walked out of the Giants’ facility, and the team still hasn’t hired a defensive coordinator. Ravens defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson is eligible to be hired now, though, after Baltimore’s elimination in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. So maybe the Giants’ process will ramp up toward a conclusion.
Wilson, 41, a former DBs coach with the Rams (2015-16), Jets (2017-20) and Eagles (2021-22), is having a second interview with the Giants. He is the closest thing to a potential frontrunner in this drawn-out search. But he is also a candidate for the Rams and Titans vacancies, and he might have a chance at an internal promotion if Ravens DC Mike McDonald gets the Seattle Seahawks head coaching job.
Chiefs linebackers coach Brendan Daly became the latest in a long list of names to interview for the Giants’ vacancy in the meantime. No matter who the Giants hire, it’s important to maintain some consistency in scheme. Schoen has been drafting to Martindale’s 3-4 system for two years. They can’t completely shift course in personnel priorities while facing pressure to win.
HOW CAN SCHOEN REPAIR THE ROSTER?
Schoen’s depth chart is underwhelming through two drafts and free agency cycles. A terrible offensive line plan undercut the Giants’ 2023 season. Injuries decimate the roster annually. The last time Schoen made four picks in a draft’s top 70, he took edge Kayvon Thibodeaux (No. 5), tackle Evan Neal (No. 7), wideout Wan’Dale Robinson (No. 43) and guard/tackle Josh Ezeudu (No. 67) in 2022. Draft capital means nothing unless the GM hits on the picks.
Schoen does have an exciting opportunity to land a wide receiver (Washington’s Rome Odunze) or offensive lineman (Notre Dame tackle Joe Alt) at No. 6, if not a top quarterback like Heisman winner Jayden Daniels (LSU) or North Carolina’s Drake Maye. Then he can use his other premium assets to complement his blue-chipper.
But with a modest $22 million in cap space at the moment, per overthecap.com, decisions looming on pending free agent safety Xavier McKinney, Barkley and a need to hit on some smart free-agent signings, the pressure is on the GM this spring, too.
HOW WILL DABOLL HANDLE THE HEAT?
The Giants (Daboll) and Cardinals (Jonathan Gannon) are the only two teams in the NFL’s bottom eight finishers that didn’t fire their head coaches or move on this month. The Panthers (Frank Reich), Commanders (Ron Rivera), Patriots (Bill Belichick), Chargers (Brandon Staley), Titans (Mike Vrabel) and Falcons (Arthur Smith) all made changes.
Gannon (4-13) is entering year two in Arizona. Daboll is entering year three in New Jersey – 15-18-1 in the regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs – under pressure to ıslahat his approach, rebuild his staff, ignite the offense and win in 2024.
Given the stakes, it wouldn’t be a shock if Daboll took over offensive play-calling coming off one of the worst offensive seasons in franchise history. He got the job off his work with Josh Allen’s Buffalo Bills, after all. Whether Daboll does that or not, though, he needs to evolve and improve as this team’s head coach to show meaningful progress – and that starts in the offseason.