Giants decline option on S Bethea, look to OT in draft

After addressing most of their needs on defense in free agency, the New York Giants are likely going to use the NFL draft to fill holes on offense.

The biggest need for general manager Dave Gettleman and new coach Joe Judge is at tackle, where Nate Solder faces an uncertain future on the left side after two shaky seasons, veteran Mike Remmers is in free agency and Nick Gates is inexpereinced.

The Giants don’t have a lot of salary cap space left after agreeing to terms in free agency with Panthers cornerback James Bradberry (3 years, $43.5 million), Packers linebackers Blake Martinez (3-$30.7 million) and Kyler Fackrell (1-$4.6 million), and tight end Levine Toilolo (2-$6.2 million), and franchising defensive tackle Leonard Williams ($17 million).

Gettleman also tendered placekicker Aldrick Rosas ($3.3 million) and re-signed linebacker David Mayo, receiver Cory Core and fullback Eli Penny.

The Giants on Wednesday declined the contract option on safety Antonie Bethea, freeing about $2.75 million in salary cap space. That leaves the franchise about $21 million in salary cap space. Roughly $10 million of the total will be paid to players taken in the upcoming draft.

So with about $11 million in cap space, don’t expect the Giants to find an offensive tackle in free agency.

New York did agree to terms on a one-year deal with free agent Cam Fleming on Wednesday evening. He has spent the last two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys but he only started when someone has been hurt. The deal reunites him with offensive coordinator and former Dallas head coach Jason Garrett and O-line coach Marc Colombo.

With the fourth pick overall after a 4-12 season, offensive tackle seems the likely choice, although it could be a linebacker or a receiver.

The offensive tackle position in the draft is deep. The top candidates are Jedrick Wills of Alabama, Tristan Wirfs of Iowa, Mekhi Becton of Louisville, and Andrew Thomas of Georgia.

Judge mentored under Alabama coach Nick Saban, so he probably has a good scouting report. Wirfs was impressive at the NFL combine.

The Alabama connection also will give Judge insight into both receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III.

Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons is considered the top linebacker, but would the Giants go that way after agreeing to terms with Martinez, Fackrell and re-signing Mayo.

Bradberry gives the Giants a big cornerback who can match up against any of the league’s tall receivers. The 26-year-old missed only four games for Carolina in the past four years, making 268 tackles, eight interceptions and with 47 passes defensed. He started 15 games last season and had a career-high three interceptions.

Bradberry brings experience to a young group of cornerbacks that saw DeAndre Baker, Sam Beal and Corey Ballentine play their first games last season.

The release of Bethea leaves the Giants with Jabrill Peppers and Julian Love at the safety spots.

Martinez has led the Packers in tackles three times, making 155 last season. He has started the last 50 regular-season games for Green Bay, which had a 13-3 record last season. He also had one interception and a forced fumble.

Fackrell spent the last four seasons in Green Bay. He made 17½ sacks as a backup used mostly in passing situations, including 10 1/2 in 2018. During some of that that time he worked with Patrick Graham, who was hired as defensive coordinator by Judge.

Entering his eighth season, Toilolo had two receptions for 10 yards last season in 13 games. He also has played with Atlanta and Detroit and appeared in two Super Bowls.

The injury-prone Evan Engram remains the top tight end, while the Giants were impressed with free agent Kaden Smith last season.