78° Good Evening
78° Good Evening

Giants may make offensive line a No. 1 priority in draft

Alabama offensive lineman D.J. Fluker runs a drill

Alabama offensive lineman D.J. Fluker runs a drill during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. (Feb. 23, 2013) Credit: AP

The five Giants who finished the 2012 season as the starting offensive line are all back with the team this offseason. The question, though, is how much longer any of them will be sticking around.

The only player of the five who would seem to have a secure future is left tackle Will Beatty. Not coincidentally, the 28-year-old is the youngest of the group. The rest includes left guard Kevin Boothe, who was just signed to a one-year deal as a free agent; center David Baas, who has undergone multiple surgeries this offseason (and is signed through 2015 but with hefty cap-crushing base salaries of $4.75 million and $5 million in 2014 and 2015); right guard Chris Snee, who has openly discussed the possibility of retirement; and right tackle David Diehl, also returning from surgery, who took a substantial pay cut to remain with the team.

It's clearly time for the Giants to start thinking about the future of the group. Perhaps they'll even do it sooner than they normally do: the first round of the NFL draft.

The Giants haven't selected an offensive lineman in the first round of the draft since they took Luke Petitgout with the 19th overall pick in 1999. The only two they've taken as high as the second round since then were Snee and Beatty. But when the Giants are on the clock Thursday night with the 19th pick and again on Friday for the second and third round in the 2013 draft, there's a chance they'll buck that trend.

They'll likely have plenty of players to choose from. D.J. Fluker from Alabama may be the perfect fit as he is expected to go right in the Giants' neighborhood of 19. They'll have to hope he slips past the Cowboys at 18, or else leapfrog a spot or two ahead, if they really want him. Menelik Watson from Florida State or Kyle Long from Oregon are also options, perhaps slightly later in the process.

"You always want to get younger in your offensive line, at every position," general manager Jerry Reese said last week. "You like young players on your team. It's a young man's game. Offensive line is getting up there in age but we have Will Beatty as a young player, James Brewer who we expect to come on and contribute this year. And obviously we drafted a couple of young kids last year that we are trying to develop and hopefully they can give us some depth in our offensive line. The draft has some players."

Brewer, a fourth-round pick in 2011, is in a make-or-break season and should compete at right tackle. Last year the Giants selected two offensive linemen in the draft: Brandon Mosley in the fourth round and Matt McCants in the sixth. Neither played in the regular season as Mosley was on injured reserve with an ankle injury and McCants was on the practice squad.

An early-round selection this week could leapfrog all of them for a role on the team, and maybe even a starting job. Of course the Giants haven't had a full-time rookie starter on the offensive line since Snee. And that comes with some peril.

"You don't want to throw somebody up in there who is fresh from college and now you have to protect the quarterback of the New York Giants," Beatty said. "Whoever comes up, whoever we're bringing in, we'll still have that veteran core that can teach him and help him grow."

For the time being, at least.

Andre Brown signs. Running back Andre Brown signed his second-round tender offer from the Giants Tuesday, leaving the team with only one unsigned restricted free agent: Victor Cruz. Brown will earn $2.02 million in 2013 under his tender agreement. Safety Stevie Brown had signed a similar second-round tender. The Giants have a first-round tender offer for Cruz (worth $2.879 million in 2013) but are also working toward a long-term deal with the receiver.

New York Sports