New York Giants Rumors: Darkwa, Jones returning in 2018?

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 12: Orleans Darkwa #26 of the New York Giants stiff-arms Adrian Colbert #38 of the San Francisco 49ers during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on November 12, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 12: Orleans Darkwa #26 of the New York Giants stiff-arms Adrian Colbert #38 of the San Francisco 49ers during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on November 12, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Free agency is just around the corner, and New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has some significant decisions to make ahead of the new league year on March 14.

While all eyes may be on the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft and New York’s highest draft selection since 1981, Gettleman must first set up the franchise for success through free agency.

The New York Giants top target this offseason is reportedly All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell. Before Gettleman cracks the checkbook for Norwell though, he’ll have to make some decisions on Big Blue’s impending free agents.

Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg Orleans Darkwa, Ross Cockrell, Devon Kennard, and Jonathan Casillas are among some of New York’s notable unrestricted free agents. Backup center Brett Jones is a restricted free agent after signing a three-year deal with the Giants in 2015.

Richburg and Pugh are Big Blue’s most notable free agents. Pugh is considered one of the top offensive linemen to hit the market due to his ability to play either guard or right tackle. Richburg may not land as big a contract as Pugh in free agency, but his market is reportedly exploding.

The Giants center is expected to have plenty of suitors in free agency. Big Blue reportedly won’t be one of them.

Jones Replacing Richburg?

Paul Schwartz of the New York Post reports the Giants are not interested in re-signing Richburg, but that Gettleman does want to bring back Jones.

The former CFL All-Star started 13 games in 2017. Jones earned Pro Football Focus’ second best pass blocking grade (83.2) among centers but struggled as a run blocker.

The Giants are reportedly expected to place a second-round tender on the 26-year-old. Jones will have the opportunity to meet with other franchises, but Gettleman can match any offer he receives. The G-Men would get a second-round draft selection if he were to sign with another team, making it unlikely for him to leave.

The second-round tender will cost the G-Men $2.91 million, according to Schwartz.

Retaining Jones gives New York a starting center option, but hopefully, Gettleman isn’t foolish enough to put all his eggs in one basket. Jerry Reese made that mistake with Ereck Flowers, and in part, it cost him his job.

The Giants can no longer afford to just assume someone will improve during the offseason, especially on their offensive line. Pro Football Focus only gave four players, Richburg, Jones, John Jerry, and John Greco, grades above “poor,” and none were “above average.”

Gettleman could look to add some competition to the center position in free agency or use a mid-round draft selection. The Giants will only have five draft picks after the Alec Ogletree trade becomes official, but this year’s class does have interior offensive line depth.

New York Giants
New York Giants /

New York Giants

Billy Price and James Daniels are projected to be immediate starters at the next level. Both could come off the board in the first-round. Frank Ragnow, Mason Cole, and Will Clapp are some mid-round options that have starting potential as rookies.

Darkwa a Priority?

Giants fans have likely never paid such close attention to the offensive line. New York’s pass protection and run-blocking have only gotten worse in recent years, but Darkwa made the most of his opportunities in 2017.

The undrafted running back out of Tulane somehow averaged 4.4 yards per carry out Big Blue’s backfield and posted six runs of 20-yards or more. Darkwa led New York’s rushing attack with 751 yards on the ground, but some are questioning whether he will return in 2018.

The G-Men used a fourth-round pick on Wayne Gallman just last year. Many Big Blue fans are hoping Gettleman uses the No. 2 overall pick on Saquon Barkley come April.

The Giants cannot afford to spend big on a running back if they plan to use a high draft selection on the position. For now, the Giants want Darkwa back, according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan.

A deal reportedly could get done before the start of free agency, but it’s likely to come down to his asking price. The Giants won’t be the only team interested in his services. Raanan notes the Oakland Raiders as a potential team that could be in the market for Darkwa.

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The four-year veteran posted a tweet on Wednesday, leaving many to question his future in the Big Apple.

The Giants reportedly want Darkwa back in 2018, but how far Gettleman is willing to go to retain the 26-year-old tailback is anyone’s guess.