INDIANAPOLIS — The Giants played most of last season without Jason Pierre-Paul and all of it without Victor Cruz. Ben McAdoo made it clear that when the 2016 season begins, he’d prefer to have both of them playing for him.
That may not necessarily be the case. Pierre-Paul is a free agent and Cruz is coming off two serious injuries while owed $7.7 million in base salary for the upcoming year. But the first-year coach made a case for the return of the two players who once played at superstar levels for the Giants, hoping they can once again.
McAdoo said at the NFL Combine on Wednesday that he has spoken with Pierre-Paul since he underwent a surgical procedure last month intended to provide him with more use of what remains of his right middle finger after a fireworks accident on July 4. McAdoo said it isn’t clear how successful that surgery was (“We’ll have to see how that goes,” he said) or if Pierre-Paul will be able to play without the club that limited him severely on the field, but he had little doubt Pierre-Paul can play well.
“It was obvious when Jason came back last year how disruptive he was without playing football for a long time,” McAdoo said of the defensive end’s return from the initial injury around mid-season. “Just coming in and having a couple weeks to get his feet underneath him, being able to go out and be disruptive as a pass rusher. I just think when you look at him and his ability to get off the ball and get after the quarterback, it’s easy to see. That’s something that comes natural for him. You don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon? I don’t either.”
McAdoo went on to say that he believes the best way to improve a team is to make it stronger on the line of scrimmage. If that’s the case, parting ways with the Giants’ best defensive lineman would not seem to make sense.
As for Cruz, McAdoo said he “absolutely” thinks he will be on the roster for the upcoming season. That likely will require a steep pay cut, and even Cruz himself gave it only an 80 percent chance that he will return to the Giants in an interview with USA Today that was published on Wednesday.
“You know, right now we’re taking a look at things and he’s on the roster right now,” McAdoo said. “If anything changes, I’ll be the first to know.”
Cruz suffered a torn patellar tendon in October 2014, then missed all of 2015 with a calf injury suffered in training camp that ultimately required surgery. McAdoo said Cruz is rehabbing from that surgery.
“He was by the office the other day, just kind of bouncing around,” McAdoo said. “He was doing some rehab. He seems in good spirits. Looks great. Feels good, and hopefully we get a chance to get him healthy.”
McAdoo seems to be counting on that and mentioned Cruz when asked about finding receivers to play opposite Odell Beckham, Jr.
“No hiccups there so far, we like that, we’re encouraged with that right there,” he said. “We have some other guys that are going to have a chance to step up, possibly some young guys. Again, it’s still early in the process.”
McAdoo was less enthusiastic about another option at receiver who is currently on the roster: Free agent-to-be Rueben Randle.
“When you take a look at things from a free agency perspective you take a look at guys who are currently in your building, you take a look at guys who aren’t in your building and you make the decision from there,” McAdoo said of Randle. “At this point in time it’s a little early to tell.”
Other potential free agents such as defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. and cornerback Prince Amukamara also will require decisions in the coming weeks, but McAdoo refused to label them as priorities for the team.
“I don’t know that there is a priority list,” he said. “I think you go through the evaluations and you have dialogue and you open that dialogue. We’ll leave that up to the personnel side of things.”
When it comes to Cruz and JPP, however, McAdoo made his feelings clear.
“We need to add some pieces, yeah,” McAdoo said. “When you look at things, we have a lot of guys right now on the roster who are free, so we need to address that. We need to add some pieces there. But they need to be the right pieces. We need to look out for the long term interest of the New York Giants and what’s best for the future of the New York Giants, number one.”