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APRIL 13, 2020 DAVE GETTLEMAN CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman and Assistant General Manager Kevin Abrams addressed the media by conference call on Monday.
Dave Getttleman opening statement: First off, I hope everybody is well. I hope your families are safe and healthy. I also hope you were able to celebrate Easter and Passover. On behalf of the Giants, I would like to send out our sincerest condolences to the Causi family. That is a tragedy and I am sure it is affecting a lot of you folks. I didn’t know Anthony, but I know everybody spoke very highly of him, so I get that. Despite what’s been going on, we have started our draft meetings. We’ve had minimal issues moving forward and right now we are on schedule with that. I was told we are going to talk on Friday about the draft. Pat (Hanlon) said today’s call was about unrestricted free agency and how we are currently operating. That’s the impression I had.
Kevin Abrams opening statement: First of all, I just want to reiterate our thoughts are with the Causi family. I’m sure a lot of you were very close with him, our condolences. Every day we are appreciative and supportive of all the people on the front lines during these unique days. I don’t know how many of you live in Manhattan, but I do. Probably the most profound moment of every day is at 7 o’clock when everyone opens their windows and pays tribute to everyone in the health care industry fighting this battle for us. I hope you are all well.
Q: Why the franchise tag for Leonard Williams instead of the cheaper transition tag? Given the 16.2-million-dollar cap number, was there any thought to letting him test free agency and making an offer that way.
Gettleman: Really what it came down to was we felt good about our cap space. We felt for what Leonard brings to the table and for our team, it was more prudent to put the franchise tag on him.
Q: Any thought that when we get back to football Leonard not signing his franchise tag will be a distraction?
Gettleman: I think we’ll be okay. I always think about bad things because, in my opinion, one of the biggest responsibilities I have is to eliminate distractions and let the coaches coach and the players play. You can’t guarantee anything in this life, but we have gotten to know Leonard really well and I feel really comfortable with the decision.
Q: In the past you have brought players in with ties to your days in Carolina. Most of the free agents brought in this year have ties to the organization. Was that by design given the COVID-19 situation and not being able to bring guys in to interview them like you normally would?
Gettleman: A little bit of all that. There is a little bit of a lean towards people you know in free agency. Times have changed. I know back in the day in free agency, you had time to bring a guy in. You could spend a day with him to get to know him. Now we are speed dating and the decision happens before you can get a guy in in the building, before you can get a physical and that’s even before COVID-19. I don’t think it’s any more sensitive, but I do know for us a big concern was the medical piece. We are making decisions and you are building your roster. Just think about what happens if you sign a high-dollar guy and he doesn’t pass his physical, now where are you? Now you have spent in free agency and now the draft and you think you have your team set and you put together what you think is a good roster. Then all of the sudden, a guy doesn’t pass his physical. The guys we signed we felt we got good value and we are very pleased with the group.
Q: Those who haven’t had physicals, if they don’t pass, how does that work?
Abrams: The guys that are new to the club that haven’t passed their physicals yet haven’t taken them. Once everything resumes and life is back to normal and doctor availability and travel restrictions are lifted, we will get those physicals done. If they do not pass, they will be free agents again.
Q: What went into changing your bonus structure this offseason where you went with the roster bonuses instead of big signing bonuses?
Abrams: The preference is to have flat cap counts in our contracts and to limit the amount of amortized bonuses for obvious reasons. When we started the free agency process, wherever possible, we were going to try to use roster bonuses with a lump sum in year one as opposed to spreading out signing bonuses over the life of the contract. As we had some success with getting to agreements with a few more players than maybe what we thought was realistic at the beginning, in an effort to keep cap room that we wanted to have to operate throughout the offseason and training camp, we decided to push a little bit of the roster bonus money into signing bonuses. We are pretty happy with the structures we’ve had with these deals in respect to our future caps.
Q: What are your feelings on your offensive tackle situation? Do you feel good with Nate Solder at left tackle and can he move to the right side? Where do you stand on that coming out of free agency with not making a huge splash signing there?
Gettleman: At the end of the day, we signed Cameron Fleming. He was with Dallas before and obviously there is that connection and with the Patriots before, there’s a double connection. We have faith in Nick Gates, the kid we signed two years ago, a free agent we signed out of Nebraska. He missed his rookie year on IR, but last year he made a lot of progress. We are excited about him. Nate had a rough year last year, nobody is denying, and certainly he is not. I made the statement to people after we signed him in 2018 and after the 2018 season no one was talking about Nate Solder. He had a tough year. Part of the unrestricted free agency piece is we are also looking at the draft, so you kind of marry the two. We felt with the depth of the tackle class in the draft, we just felt this was the best way for us to go.
Q: How do you feel about where you are in terms of edge rushers?
Gettleman: A lot of people were raised with the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl teams where we could consistently apply pressure with four. That is the goal, that’s what you want. You can’t manufacture it and you can’t overpay for it. What it really comes down to is it doesn’t matter who gets the sacks, it’s about how many sacks you actually get. It really is about how much pressure you apply. Some of this is going to have to come through scheme. Obviously, we haven’t gone through the draft yet. With where we’re at, would I not want two defensive ends that are 25 sacks a year guys? Who doesn’t? We are not in that position right now, so we will just keep building it.
Q: When you look at your defense and the signings of Bradberry, Martinez and Fackrell, do you think you made a quantum leap forward to your defense? Do you think these three guys are big impact guys or is there a lot more work to be done on defense?
Gettleman: There is still more work to be done, we are thrilled with those three guys. We also signed Austin Johnson, another defensive lineman. We are very pleased with where we are at, (Blake) Martinez gives us a guy that has played in the system for Pat Graham and will get us lined up. I think that this scheme is going to fit him better. Everybody knows I drafted James (Bradberry) when I was in Carolina. He gives you a big, long body that has played against number ones. He has the mindset, he’s not shy and the moment is not too big for him. (Kyler) Fackrell, two years ago, had double digit sacks and Green Bay went out and bought two high sack guys and he became a rotational part-time player. We feel good about that. You have to keep building, we are excited about the draft, there are some good players there. We are just going to continue to get better, nothing is ever done.
Q: There are some guys left out there still on the market that have proven to be pretty good pass rushers. Jadeveon Clowney, Markus Golden, two big notables. When you say ‘we’re not in position now,’ is that a financial thing? Is that a preference thing? Explain a little bit more why you said that.
Gettleman: Well, part of the tight rope that I walk on is short-term and long-term. Part of the long-term is we have some good, young players right now. We’ve got Dalvin Tomlinson, (Evan) Engram and (Jabrill) Peppers. We have to make decisions on them. They’re some good, young players. After another year, you guys are going to be banging on me about Saquon (Barkley). As I used to tell the guys down in Charlotte, when you wouldn’t spend all your money in free agency, I’d say, ‘Listen, you’re going to kill me about this? Well, you’re going to double kill me when we don’t have money to extend Luke Kuechly or Cam Newton or whomever.’ It’s a collaborative decision we make as we talk about how we’re moving forward. Right now, this is the decision we made. We’re just going to move forward the way we are now.
Q: You talked about the contracts and the physicals. If a guy is jogging or running and tears his Achilles, how does that work with guys and their contracts? Is there something in there that protects the player? Or is that just up to both sides on how to proceed from there?
Abrams: Unfortunately, it’s the same risk as you always have this time of year. The players that are working out on their own, they run the risk of injury, which isn’t protected because it wouldn’t be considered a football injury. Unfortunately, that risk is just extended this year because of the inability to have players come in and work at our facility under our supervision.
Q: Obviously, things right now are very different in how you can operate. But other than operating remotely, how much have you had to adjust? Can you give us an idea of are your days just filled with FaceTime, Zoom meetings, phone calls? What’s the process been like for both of you?
Abrams: Yeah, we’ve done our best to mimic business as usual. Obviously, it’s not. But without going into details about what technologies we’re using, I don’t think our IT department would appreciate that, we’ve tried to mimic how our meetings typically operate, both for the coaches and for our scouting meetings right now. The fact that it’s all been virtual is obviously the biggest difference. But the dialogue, the conversation, the agenda, the itineraries for the meetings go as always. I don’t think we’ve missed a beat. A lot of that goes to Justin Warren in our IT department, Ty Siam in Football Tech, Eddie Triggs is running our operations. It hasn’t been perfectly smooth, but it’s been smoother than anyone could have expected. Whatever hiccups we’ve encountered, I think everyone has shown patience and the ability to adjust so we can get to operating the way that we need to. It’s been pretty exceptional so far, and a lot of people deserve a lot of credit. People that wouldn’t normally get recognized.
Gettleman: Let me follow up on that a little bit. As Kevin said, we’re really making it work. One of the exciting things for me as an old man working with these young guys and the technology, they’re really thoughtful and intentional about it. Really, Chris Pettit has done a great job, our Director of College Scouting, in terms of coordinating all this, working with Ty and Ed Triggs and Justin Warren, has just done yeoman’s work with us. We’re moving along. Listen, there are people in a lot worse situations than us. We’re thankful and we’re moving along. We’re going to get this right.
Q: I just wanted to go back to the Leonard Williams thing one more time. I’m just curious, given the cap number at $16.2 million, what is your guys’ desire and confidence that you’ll be able to get a long-term deal done, or if the plan is to just let him play on the tag?
Gettleman: You know, the bottom line is contracts get done when they’re supposed to get done. So, we’ll just move along. You guys know I don’t discuss contracts, I don’t discuss timing, I don’t discuss anything. They get done when they’re supposed to get done.
Q: I know you said before that ideally you’d like to approach free agency to fill needs on the roster so when you move to the draft you can draft the best player available. I know we’re not talking draft. I’m just curious if you think you accomplished that in free agency to position yourself to draft best player available compared to having to draft for need?
Gettleman: Yeah, I think we’ve done a good job. It’s not perfect, but I’m pleased with where we’re at going into the draft.
Q: I’m curious if you can just talk about what you think the one hour FaceTimes with prospects gives you that maybe you didn’t have via the traditional way and what you’re missing from the traditional facility visit or workout? These one hour calls, have they been beneficial or are you missing a lot?
Gettleman: I’ll go first. They’ve been pretty beneficial because again, it is FaceTiming, so thank God, you can see the guys. I’m a city kid and a big believer in body language and all this and that. It’s okay. It’s not great, it’s not perfect, it’s okay. For me, what we miss is watching them interact, the 30 visit guys, watching them in your facility. That’s what you miss out on. By not having pro days, you also miss that personal contact. Watching guys among their peers and how they operate, how they’re received. That tells a lot when you just watch a kid in those circumstances. Obviously, when we would go to workouts, a lot of times the night before, our coach and scout that would be at the pro day would take one, two or three of the players out to dinner and have some conversation that way. We’re losing the personal touchpoints. We have the visual touchpoint, but we’re really missing out on the personal touchpoint, when you can smell or feel a guy.
Abrams: Nothing to add. We’re doing the best we can with what we have. You do miss out on some of the depth of the interactions. But I think between the coaches’ interactions with the players, and the rest of us who have had opportunities to speak and see these guys, you do your best to get to know them as well as you can, knowing that it’s always going to be virtual. You’re not going to have them in your presence.
Q: The question you were obviously asked about tackle earlier with Nate, you mentioned Gates. I’m just curious where you stand right now at center? We know the situation with (Jon) Halapio and then, obviously, Spencer Pulley is on the roster. I’m just curious, did you guys look into doing something in free agency and where does it stand? I would imagine that’s a pretty big piece that you right now have concerns about, or at least are looking at seriously?
Gettleman: That’s a fair question. It really is. We won’t know about Pio until June with the Achilles. Spencer obviously has played a ton of football. We have a lot of confidence in him. We’re working that group over pretty good in the draft. We’re always going to continue to upgrade. I’m not afraid to draft over a guy. It’s a fair question. We’re going to look at it.
Q: Is Gates an option there?
Gettleman: You know, just for what it’s worth, we’ve talked about Nick doing that. He did do some of that last year in practice, so it’s not completely new. Nick is smart. The thing you love about Nick is just how tough he is, because it’s a fist fight in there. There’s no doubt about that. History tells you that the toughness of your team is really, really indicated by the toughness of your offensive line. So, we’re always looking for that kind of piece. Nick would be in consideration at center, absolutely.