EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Giants coach Brian Daboll emphasized Tuesday that the team’s roster is “fluid.” So that means that some of the 53 players who made the initial roster might not last.
The Giants surely will scour the waiver wire, with offensive tackle and cornerback sticking out as positions that could use upgraded depth. The Giants added four players during the first waiver period after cut day last year, including defensive backs Nick McCloud and Jason Pinnock, who combined to start 13 games last season.
The Giants were better positioned to make claims last year because they were fifth in the waiver order due to their 4-13 record in 2021. Perhaps the only drawback to their surprising 9-7-1 record last season is that they’re 26th in the waiver order this year.
Aware of the decreased odds of landing a quality player that far down in the order, general manager Joe Schoen proactively made two trades in the past week. First, there was the seventh-round pick Schoen sent to the Cardinals last week for inside linebacker Isaiah Simmons, the eighth pick in the 2020 draft.
Then on Tuesday, Schoen acquired outside linebacker Boogie Basham, a second-round pick in 2021, in a trade with the Bills. The compensation is a late-round pick swap in the 2025 draft, with the Bills getting the Giants’ sixth-round pick and the Giants getting the Bills’ seventh-round pick.
In both instances, Schoen parted with minimal draft capital to acquire a player who hasn’t lived up to his draft status and was in jeopardy with his former team. The Basham acquisition was certainly aided by the fact that Schoen, who previously spent five years as Buffalo’s assistant general manager, has a strong relationship with Bills GM Brandon Beane.
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Basham’s rookie contract runs through the 2024 season, so the Giants have the 6-foot-3, 274-pounder for the next two seasons for a combined $2.5 million with no guarantees. Basham profiles as a similar player to veteran outside linebacker Jihad Ward, although the Giants are hoping the 25-year-old Basham, who has 4.5 sacks in two seasons, has more potential as a pass rusher.
It had appeared that the Giants would roll with the same outside linebacker room as last season, but backups Oshane Ximines and Tomon Fox were cut after the Basham trade. Basham and Ward are now the backups to Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari.
Here are some more takeaways from cut day:
• The Giants didn’t make any shocking cuts, but it was surprising that offensive lineman Tyre Phillips and inside linebacker Darrian Beavers were sent packing. Veteran wide receiver Cole Beasley also was cut Tuesday, but the expectation is that he’ll be back with the team, likely on the practice squad.
It was curious when Phillips, who had returned to practice from a quad strain last week, didn’t play Saturday in the preseason finale. But he still seemed safe considering he was serviceable when he stepped in for four starts at right tackle in place of an injured Evan Neal last season. A natural guard, Phillips possesses versatility that figured to make him appealing to a team that lacks offensive line depth.
With Phillips gone, the backup offensive linemen are Josh Ezeudu, Shane Lemieux, Matt Peart and Marcus McKethan. Ezeudu will likely be part of a rotation with Ben Bredeson and/or Mark Glowinski at the guard spots. Lemieux has struggled with injuries and proved that he’s not a viable backup center this summer. Peart is the swing tackle despite massive struggles this preseason, and McKethan is a guard/tackle who made his preseason debut Saturday after returning from a torn ACL suffered early in last year’s training camp.
There’s certainly room for the Giants to upgrade their offensive line depth. The problem is that can be said for most teams, so there may not be any attractive options that make it to the Giants in the waiver order. Still, Lemieux and Peart shouldn’t celebrate making the roster until Schoen exhausts every avenue for improvement.
A 2022 sixth-round pick, Beavers was viewed as a potential rookie starter before he tore his ACL in the second preseason game last year. Beavers got first-team reps at the start of training camp this year, but he looked a step slow and was passed on the depth chart by fellow 2022 draft pick Micah McFadden.
It seemed like Beavers would be safe considering the Giants’ lack of linebacker depth, but he was pushed out by the trade for Simmons and the special teams value of Cam Brown. It would make sense to bring Beavers back to the practice squad so the Giants can develop a player they were high on before the injury.
• Beavers became the first draft pick to get cut from the Schoen and Daboll regime. Meanwhile, it was surprising that a few bubble players from the previous regime made it.
Brown, Lemieux, Peart, running back Gary Brightwell and inside linebacker Carter Coughlin are holdovers from the Dave Gettleman era. The special teams acumen of Brown, Brightwell and Coughlin likely tipped the scales in their favor over other players that had been acquired by Schoen and Daboll.
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• Although it got overshadowed by the cuts, perhaps the Giants’ biggest roster move Tuesday was activating wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. A second-round pick last year, Robinson was having a breakout performance with nine catches for 100 yards before he tore the ACL in his right knee in Week 11 last season.
The Giants could have shifted Robinson to the reserve/PUP list, which would have sidelined him for the first four games of the season. But the Giants’ medical staff deemed Robinson ready to return less than nine months after he underwent surgery.
The Giants plan to gradually increase Robinson’s workload in practice. They have three games in the first 11 days of the season, but the Giants wouldn’t have activated Robinson if they weren’t confident that he would be healthy enough to help the team in the early part of the schedule.
Cornerback Aaron Robinson, who is recovering from a torn ACL, was moved to the reserve/PUP list, so he’ll be sidelined for at least the first four games of the season. Tight end Tommy Sweeney, who had an undisclosed “medical event” during practice last Wednesday, was placed on the non-football illness list.
• Cornerback Darnay Holmes was on the bubble, but he should be safe because he took a pay cut Monday, according to a league source. Holmes was due to have a $2.7 million salary this season thanks to the raise he received from the league’s proven performance escalator based on his playing time in his first three seasons as a fourth-round pick.
The details of the new deal aren’t yet known, but it’s likely that Holmes’ salary was slashed to the $1.01 million minimum, which would produce $1.7 million in much-needed cap savings. It’s possible that the Giants included playing time incentives in the revised deal to give Holmes an opportunity to recoup some of his lost wages.
• For all of the talk of the Giants’ improved depth this offseason, it will be interesting to see how many of their cuts get claimed. Let’s set the over/under at 1.5.
A sneaky potential claim to watch: Running back Jashaun Corbin. Corbin had a strong camp, but the Giants elected to keep Brightwell instead. The Giants likely want Corbin back on the practice squad for another season, but the Colts are a team to watch.
Mired in the Jonathan Taylor saga, the Colts have three running backs on their active roster. Indianapolis running backs coach DeAndre Smith was in the same role with the Giants last season.
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• Brightwell (knee), Brown (ankle), McCloud (groin), tight end Lawrence Cager (ankle), cornerback Cor’Dale Flott (hamstring), safety Gervarrius Owens (hamstring) and safety Bobby McCain (concussion) didn’t participate in Tuesday’s brief practice.
Brightwell, Brown, Flott, McCloud and McCain were all working on a side field with trainers during the open portion of practice, which signals they aren’t dealing with long-term injuries. Cager and Owens both said they don’t believe their injuries are long-term, although players tend to offer optimistic prognoses.
A team must put a player on the initial 53-man roster before shifting him to injured reserve on Wednesday to preserve the right to have him return during the season. That’s a common roster gymnastics move at this time of year, but none of the Giants’ injuries seem significant enough to land a player on IR.
Additionally, teams can only return eight players from IR per season. Because most of the Giants’ injured players were on the bubble, they likely would have just cut them and carried a healthy alternative (i.e., keep Corbin over Brightwell) if there were long-term concerns.
• The Giants made seven waiver claims after cut day last year and were awarded four players. The NFL waiver wire operates differently than the one in your fantasy football league.
NFL teams maintain their position in the claiming order regardless of how many players they claim. So the Bears, who have the No. 1 spot, conceivably could claim the top 53 players on the wire and be awarded all of them. Obviously, they won’t do that, but the point is that it’s virtually impossible for a highly coveted player to reach the Giants because so many teams ahead of them can make claims.
Additionally, teams can submit claims for as many players as they want while putting a limit on how many they want to be awarded. They put a priority on each claim to determine who they get. After a team is awarded a claim, it must notify the league of the corresponding player on the roster to be cut.
As noted, the last offensive linemen to make the cut — Peart and Lemieux — can’t relax. Brightwell, Brown and McCain could also be in jeopardy depending on how active the Giants are on the waiver wire.
The Giants could use a special teamer with speed to cover kicks and punts. McCloud will be one of the gunners on punts, but wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton was slated for the other gunner spot before he tore his ACL in the preseason finale. A potential waiver wire target is cornerback Starling Thomas V, who impressed during joint practices with the Lions during camp.
• Like they did last year, the Giants named a whopping 10 players as captains for the season: QB Daniel Jones, RB Saquon Barkley, LT Andrew Thomas, DL Leonard Williams, DL Dexter Lawrence, ILB Bobby Okereke, CB Adoree’ Jackson, S Xavier McKinney and K Graham Gano. Excluding rookies and players added within the past week, 22.7 percent of the roster is a captain.
(Photo of Darrian Beavers: Rich Graessle / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)