The Giants’ offensive line has been a weak spot for several seasons. Ever since the days of a healthy Chris Snee, the Giants have lacked the mauling, run blocking guard that is vital in order to establish the run.
Last season, the Giants finished 30th in the league in yards per rush. The offensive line could not get the necessary push it needed in order to establish the interior run game. They addressed the weakness on the line by drafting mauling tackle Ereck Flowers with the 9th overall pick, who was expected to start immediately. With the addition of Flowers, the offensive line seemed to be set in Will Beatty, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Geoff Schwartz, and Flowers.
This group seemed much improved from the year prior—a healthy Geoff Schwartz, Weston Richburg in his more natural center position, and Justin Pugh shifting inside to guard where he can better accentuate his talent. However, with the pectoral injury to Will Beatty that will sideline him for at lease half of the season, the suddenly formidable offensive line has a glaring hole once again.
Now, this is where Mathis comes in. The division rival Philadelphia Eagles have released the 11-year veteran over a contract dispute, saving them $11.5 million in cash and cap space. Mathis is no ordinary veteran, however. He is one of the best guards in the national football league.
Mathis has made the Pro Bowl each of the last two seasons. He thrives in run blocking, something which the Giants have seen far too often since Mathis joined the Eagles in 2011. He has been a key contributor in the offensive line that helped turn LeSean McCoy into a Pro Bowl running back, and will be an instant starter on almost any team he will sign with. This team should be the Giants.
Mathis would the perfect addition to this offensive line. As of now, the projected fifth starter on the line could be either John Jerry or Marshall Newhouse. Both of these players are extremely poor options. Jerry received a -16.4 grade in run protection last season, according to Pro Football Focus, ranking him amongst the worst in the league. Free agent signing Marshall Newhouse did not fare much better with the Cincinnati Bengals, as he finished the season with an overall -11.6 rating.
If the Giants were to sign Mathis, he would instantly improve the offensive line immensely. He is a dominant force in run blocking and holds his own in pass protection. He was the 2nd best guard in the entire league last season, despite playing in just nine games. He consistently gets the job done, and for the most part stays healthy, as he only missed one game from 2011-2013.
Also, the veteran leadership that he would provide would be indispensable for the core of young offensive linemen in Ereck Flowers (21 years old), Weston Richburg (23), and Justin Pugh (24) that the Giants have built.
If the Giants wanted to play him at right guard, they could move Geoff Schwartz, who started OTAs at right guard with Newhouse on the outside, to right tackle—where Schwartz played well in his brief return last season and is more than capable of playing regularly.
With the addition of Mathis, the offensive line of Flowers, Pugh, Richburg, Mathis, and Schwartz would look very formidable. Without it, there are many question marks.
The Giants desperately need someone like Mathis to complete the offensive line that has been shuffled thanks to Will Beatty’s injury. He is the dominant run blocker that the Giants have lacked for years. Having Jerry or Newhouse starting on the offensive line will not be enough to improve the run game as much as the team would hope, and neither will be a future solution at the position.
This is a golden opportunity for the Giants to sign a premier player, who is still playing at an extremely high level, at one of the weakest positions on the entire roster.
In the offseason, the Giants missed out on key free agent targets such as safety Devin McCourty and defensive end Jerry Hughes, but the Giants cannot afford to miss this one.