The crucial NFL offseason business still facing Giants, Jets


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The sequel to “The Tortoise and the Hare” could be the story of the MLB and NFL free-agency cycles.

While baseball’s sweepstakes always start slow and finish strong, football free agency is all about the first-week frenzy, which is now complete. To finish the analogy, just like the original folktale, slow and steady wins the race because MLB contracts are fully guaranteed and NFL contracts are not.

A couple of big names remain available for NFL teams with salary-cap space to burn entering Monday, but most teams are ready to shift offseason focus to next month’s draft … unless a trade for a Hall of Fame quarterback remains in the works as it does for the Jets and Aaron Rodgers.

Putting Rodgers to the side, here is a report card for the first week of free agency, including the two biggest questions left facing the Giants and Jets and some league-wide winners and losers from the action thus far:


Resolve Saquon Barkley’s and Leonard Williams’ contracts: Barkley’s negotiations are in a holding pattern because the franchise tag (one year, $10.1 million contract) increased the Giants’ leverage and the undervalued free-agent running-back market offered no reason for them to increase the amount of guaranteed money — which remains unknown — in a long-term contract offer of about $13 million per year.

Leonard Williams carries an untenable salary-cap number for the Giants.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Williams’ situation is much different. His $32.2 million salary-cap hit is untenable. If he is open to a true pay cut, that would be the Giants’ preference. But why would he be?

There is little doubt Williams could come close to his $18 million payout in 2023 if he hits free agency soon. If the Giants stretch it into May and then suggest he might be cut, Williams’ market would be depressed because money dries up, as cornerback James Bradberry experienced last year. That’s bad optics, though.

The ideal solution is for the Giants to find a short extension that offers Williams new money, but lowers his cap hit to free up more than the team’s current $3.83 million in space, per Over the Cap.

There is an issue, however, of his price compared to that of his younger and more productive running mate Dexter Lawrence, who is in extension talks.

The Giants' Xavier McKinney and Fabian Moreau make a tackle in the playoffs against the Eagles.
The Giants need to retain Fabian Moreau (right) and upgrade the depth chart at cornerback.

Sign a veteran cornerback: Buzz circulated that the Giants were going to sign an inside linebacker, trade for a tight end and sign a versatile receiver before each of the moves that added Bobby Okereke, Darren Waller and Parris Campbell, respectively.

But all has been quiet on the cornerback front. Why?

The Giants got away with playing post-training camp addition Fabian Moreau for 749 snaps last season as the second starter (or as the top cornerback during Adoree’ Jackson’s seven-game absence). Not upgrading over Moreau and hoping for the same best-case-scenario results would be risky, but not as risky as not re-signing the free agent Moreau and not upgrading, choosing to go with a mix of youngsters Aaron Robinson, Nick McCloud and Cor’Dale Flott.


Quinnen Williams sacks Josh Allen.
Quinnen Williams’ price tag likely moved north of $22 million per year with free-agent deals for comparable players.
Getty Images

Extend Quinnen Williams’s contract: The longer this negotiation takes, the more it is going to cost. The Commanders’ Daron Payne (four years, $90 million) and 49ers’ Javon Hargrave (four years, $84 million) already drove up the average annual salary benchmarks for defensive tackles: There was an exclusive club of $20 million-plus players — the Chiefs’ Chris Jones, Colts’ DeForest Buckner and Rams’ Aaron Donald — until this month.

Any chance the Jets had of getting Williams for less than $22.5 million per year is likely gone.

They should sign him before the Titans’ Jeffery Simmons and Giants’ Lawrence further raise the bar — and before Williams skipping OTAs (as he threatened to do without a new contract) creates a distraction.

Find a center: As Isaac Seumalo — the top available guard in free agency — just learned in settling for a less-than-expected three-year, $24 million deal with the Steelers, the money isn’t there right now for interior offensive lineman.

In moving on from three-year starter Connor McGovern, maybe the Jets land free agent Ben Jones — who spent the past five seasons with the Titans and new Jets offensive line coach Keith Carter — especially if they have a certain veteran quarterback whose acquisition involves the No. 43 overall pick in the draft.

Titans center Ben Jones runs off the field.
Former Titans center Ben Jones might be a free-agent fit for the Jets.

If the Jets hang onto that pick, however, the answer could be Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz, who recently drew a comparison to Creed Humphrey from Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy. Humphrey slipped to pick No. 63 in 2021, and was a Second-Team All-Pro in his second season for the Chiefs.

“NFL totally over-thought it with Creed Humphrey,” Nagy, a former NFL scout, wrote on Twitter. “Hope teams don’t make the same mistake with John Michael Schmitz. If you need a center, take JMS and get a two-contract high-level starter. One of the surest things in this year’s draft.”

Here are some winners and losers in free agency:

Winner: Broncos

Last season’s celebrated offseason move — the trade for Russell Wilson — was a disaster.

But the Broncos signed two new offensive line starters — Mike McGlinchey and Ben Powers — to give Wilson the best protection he has had in years as part of a $235 million shopping spree.

Daniel Jones walks off the field after the Giants' playoff loss to the Eagles.
Daniel Jones scored by striking a $160 million deal with the Giants before the start of free agency.
Getty Images

They upgraded backup quarterback by signing Jarrett Stidham, and swapped improving young defensive linemen by adding Zach Allen for outgoing Dremont Jones.

Winners: Daniel Jones and Derek Carr

Carr’s $37.5 million per year deal with the Saints and Jones’ $40 million per year extension with the Giants were signed before free agency opened — back when there was no middle class for quarterback contracts.

Then top free agent Jimmy Garoppolo signed with the Raiders for an average of $24.25 million, making those two early deals looked even stronger.

Winner: Mekhi Becton

Jets offensive tackle Mekhi Becton speaks with reporters
The path remained clear for a slimmed-down Mekhi Becton to win a starting tackle job with the Jets.
Bill Kostroun for the NY Post

The Jets didn’t attack the offensive-tackle market, meaning they could run it back with a combination of Becton, Duane Brown and Max Mitchell — all of whom had injury issues last season — plus a rookie draft pick.

The slimmed-down version of Becton has a great chance to start on one side and make money in what might be the final year of his contract, assuming the Jets decline his fifth-year option by May.

Losers: Chiefs and Orlando Brown Jr.

Brown’s rejection of a six-year, $139 million extension with the Chiefs before last season was a double loss.

He settled for a four-year, $64 million deal with the Bengals. The money at signing was about the same on both deals ($31 million), but Brown could have earned much more over the life of the deal he spurned.

The Chiefs let Brown walk and signed his replacement, Jamaar Taylor, at the more manageable price of $80 million over four years. The only problem? He’s a downgrade.

Loser: Odell Beckham Jr.

Odell Beckham Jr. attends an NBA game
Odell Beckham Jr. said he was seeking somewhere between $4 million and $20 million per year. That’s a big range.

What is his value? No one seems sure.

Beckham denied reports he is seeking $20 million per year, but also scoffed at being offered $4 million per year. That leaves a wide middle ground.

There also is no doubt he rubbed some people the wrong way with his premature free-agency tour while still injured late last season.

The top healthy free-agent receivers — the Jets’ Allen Lazard and Raiders’ Jakobi Meyers — signed for an $11 million per year average. Signing OBJ for more than that is writing a check payable to nostalgia.

Today’s back page

The back cover of the New York Post on March 20, 2023
New York Post

Read more:

🏀 Rick Pitino offered St. John’s job as waiting game begins

🏒 Rangers roll past Predators as offense’s insane run continues

🏀 Nets drop third straight as MVP hits them with triple-double

A 15 seed over a 2? What else is new (Jersey)?

I’ve made my share of mistakes in four years as a parent, but here’s one that I’m most ashamed of: My eldest son filled out his first NCAA Tournament bracket last week and chose winners entirely based on seed numbers … except that I sneakily started presenting him choices with the No. 3-No. 14 matchups in each region, automatically advancing all No. 1s over No. 16s and No. 2s over No. 15s in the first round so that he didn’t look foolish.

Never again. Especially not if a school from his home state is a No. 15 or a No. 16.

Blake Peters hits a 3-pointer for Princeton in the NCAA men's basketball tournament
Blake Peters (24) and No. 15 seed Princeton extended their Cinderella run to the Sweet 16.

New Jersey is responsible for the three biggest Cinderellas of the past two years.

As an encore to No. 15 Saint Peter’s beating No. 2 Kentucky, No. 7 Murray State and No. 3 Purdue to reach the Elite Eight last year, No. 15 Princeton beat No. 2 Arizona and No. 7 Missouri and still is alive in the Sweet 16 of the South Region.

And neither of those runs offered an upset as improbable as No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson — only part of the field because of an archaic NCAA rule that prevented NEC tournament champion Merrimack from claiming its rightful automatic bid — upsetting No. 1 Purdue before its ouster Sunday night at the hands of No. 9 Florida Atlantic. Fairleigh Dickinson won a play-in game before beating Purdue, too.

Now that’s “Fairly Ridiculous” (a nickname New Jersey high school students have for the university).

Joe Munden Jr. dunks for Fairleigh Dickinson in the NCAA men's basketball tournament
The clock struck midnight for Joe Munden Jr. and Fairleigh Dickinson in a Round of 32 loss to Florida Atlantic on Sunday night.

Here’s the lesson we should learn: The past three Cinderellas are incredible because of their geographical proximity. Not because of their seeds.

Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, No. 15s are 11-141 (.007 winning percentage) against No. 2s. But the gap has closed. In fact, the underdog is 7-37 (.159) in those matchups over the past 11 tournaments. That’s more wins by No. 15s than by No. 14s (six) over that span.

How likely is it that New Jersey would become the home of giant killers?

There are eight Division I college basketball programs in the state. Fifteen states have more, and two others also have eight. But none of those other states are as small square-mileage-wise as New Jersey.

It’s just a 62-mile ride from Fairleigh Dickinson’s Teaneck campus to St. Peter’s Jersey City Campus to Princeton’s campus. By comparison, North Carolina, Duke, North Carolina State and Wake Forest famously are separated by just 25 miles.

Tobacco Road, meet the New Jersey Turnpike.

Fans celebrate during a Saint Peter's watch party in 2022.
Fans exhilarate during a Saint Peter’s watch party in 2022, part of a growing trend of long-shot March Madness runs.
James Keivom for the NY Post

Not that major conference schools Rutgers and Seton Hall needed this lesson in how dangerous New Jersey mid-majors can be.

Rutgers dropped a rivalry series with Princeton a few years back, and Seton Hall temporarily discontinued one with Saint Peter’s for a few years. Seton Hall-Saint Peter’s only was renewed this year after Seton Hall alum Shaheen Holloway made the jump from the national spotlight of coaching Saint Peter’s back to Seton Hall.

Amateur bracketologists beware: If Rider, Monmouth or NJIT is in the field any time soon, make the pick. Or look more foolish than a 4-year-old whose favorite numbers are the teens.

The best time for the World Baseball Classic

Not all injuries suffered during the World Baseball Classic are the same.

Put Mets closer Edwin Diaz’s season-ending torn patellar tendon in the category of “Only in the WBC.”

Put Astros second baseman Jose Altuve’s broken thumb — he’s expected to miss 8-10 weeks — in the category of “Could happen in any game.”

Jose Altuve is hit by a pitch playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic
Astros star Jose Altuve broke his thumb on a hit by pitch that could have happened anywhere.

Diaz was celebrating a victory for Puerto Rico — an occurrence that is not a regular part of spring training.

Altuve was hit by a pitch during an at-bat in Venezuela’s quarterfinal loss to the United States — a normal baseball activity no different from Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo’s knee and ankle sprains suffered while sliding into second base during a Grapefruit League game.

It’s the popular thing to do right now to dump on the WBC and the players participating in the exhibition tournament because they are jeopardizing the season for their MLB teams by putting themselves at unnecessary injury risk.

The solution is simpler than it seems: The WBC should be moved to start after the MLB regular season ends.

If that sounds Pro Bowl-ish, you are discounting that NFL players take no pride in representing the “AFC” or “NFC” and thus look for excuses to sit out and start an early offseason vacation (not to mention that the risk of serious injury in football is much higher than in baseball.)

All it takes is watching an inning of the WBC — or a highlight such as Trea Turner’s grand slam to lift Team USA into the semifinals, where he hit two more homers to power Sunday night’s win over Cuba — to see the national pride that MLB players feel is similar to what you get in the Olympics.

Trea Turner high-fives Jeff McNeil and Will Smith after hitting a home run for Team USA.
Trea Turner high-fives Jeff McNeil and Will Smith after one of his home runs in a 14-2 victory over Cuba on Sunday night in the World Baseball Classic semifinals.
Getty Images

Pull at those strings: Pride should be no different in October and November than it is March.

By moving the tournament to the end of the season, it reduces the risk of an injury impacting an MLB team.

From 1986-2018, the MLB-Japan All-Star Series was held every other year, with All-Stars such as Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds and David Ortiz choosing to extend their falls by playing a best-of series in Japan.

How would it work?

Option A: It runs simultaneously with the MLB playoffs. Players participating in the playoffs are not eligible to join national teams until their MLB teams are eliminated.

Edwin Diaz is helped off the field after tearing a knee tendon.
With a conservative eight-month timetable from mid-March to return from a torn patellar tendon, Edwin Diaz is a long shot to pitch for the Mets this season.
Getty Images

For television purposes, market it as a full day of baseball. Doubleheaders become tripleheaders and quadrupleheaders become quintupleheaders.

The NCAA Tournament has proven people will commit to an all-day sporting event, especially in the sports wagering era.

Team USA vs. Venezuela at noon, Yankees vs. Astros at 4 p.m. and Dodgers vs. Phillies at 8 p.m? Sign me up!

Option B: It begins right after the World Series ends. All players are eligible to play. It gets stand-alone television attention from the baseball audience — something it lacks now because of the split focus on spring training.

The concern is asking idle players — particularly pitchers — whose MLB teams missed the playoffs to train on their own for a month and then recommit to playing intense games.

Let’s try ‘A’ first.

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