Dave Gettleman never has hidden his affinity for offensive linemen — or, as he likes to call them, “hog mollies,” in honor of the gritty fish species — so it’s no surprise the Giants general manager’s early personnel moves have revolved around the big men in the trenches.
Gettleman hooked a huge catch Wednesday, outbidding three teams for prized left tackle Nate Solder, a veteran of four Super Bowls with the Patriots and a major upgrade at an important position. It was a coup for Gettleman, who always has subscribed to the advice Tom Coughlin once gave him about building teams along the offensive and defensive lines, and Solder finally offers stability after Ereck Flowers’ uneven run the past three seasons.
Gettleman had to compete against aggressive offers from the Browns, Texans and Patriots to win the bidding war, which resulted in a four-year, $62-million contract that makes Solder the highest-paid offensive lineman ever. It’s a steep price, but that’s the cost of doing business in free agency, and there should be no buyer’s remorse here. You pay a premium at premium spots, and Solder earned his payday.
The move comes a day after Gettleman was outbid by the Jaguars for former Panthers guard Andrew Norwell, who signed as an undrafted free agent when Gettleman was Carolina’s GM. But there will be other opportunities to shore up the guard position, possibly in the draft, where coveted Notre Dame lineman Quenton Nelson projects as a top prospect. Guard is also a deep position in the draft, so there will be additional options in case the Giants want to address another need at No. 2 overall — either a big-time quarterback such as USC’s Sam Darnold or UCLA’s Josh Rosen, or Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, if he’s still available. Gettleman already improved the position by re-signing restricted free-agent guard Jon Halapio on Monday.
Gettleman has acted swiftly to remake an offensive line that was at the root of the team’s problems last season and a major reason the Giants moved on from GM Jerry Reese. Where Reese remained committed to keeping his line intact in hopes that stability would lead to improvement, Gettleman immediately began tearing things apart.
He quickly disposed of right tackle Bobby Hart, signed Halapio, assigned a second-round tender to keep center Brett Jones, a restricted free agent, and hustled to get Solder’s deal done after missing out on Norwell. Flowers is likely to switch to right tackle, where he may be better suited. There are surely more moves to come from a man who believes the lifeblood of his team lies with the guys who do the dirty work up front.
Gettleman’s roster reshaping on defense also has yielded positive results. He traded for Rams inside linebacker Alec Ogletree, brought in Cardinals free-agent outside linebacker Kareem Martin, and may go after another former Cardinals defender who would fit in nicely. Arizona released ball-hawking safety Tyrann Mathieu in a salary-cap move, and the Honey Badger would provide a terrific 1-2 punch with All-Pro Landon Collins. Newly hired defensive coordinator James Bettcher is familiar with Mathieu from their time together in Arizona.
Gettleman also brought in running back Jonathan Stewart. He isn’t the workhorse he was during his prime but can be a complementary back who will display the same work ethic and leadership he was known for with the Panthers.
Yes, it’s still very early in the process for Gettleman, and there is a major decision to be made at the top of the draft. But it’s clear from his initial moves that the Giants are headed in the right direction. There is still work to be done to put the nightmare of a 3-13 season in the rearview mirror, but Gettleman’s well-conceived plan to reconstruct his roster already has made this a better team.