Giants Lose 15-Game Starter to NFC Rival in Free Agency: Report

The New York Giants now have an obvious weakness at the heart of their offensive line after losing a second interior blocker during 2023 NFL free agency. Jon Feliciano is joining the San Francisco 49ers, according to Newsday’s Kim Jones:

Jon Feliciano tells Newsday he has a one-year deal with the 49ers. NYG lose a veteran on the offensive line and a great locker room guy.

— Kim Jones (@KimJonesSports) March 20, 2023

Feliciano is leaving Big Blue after starting 15 games for the Giants last season. He’d previously played for the Buffalo Bills, so was well known to the new regime at MetLife Stadium, led by general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll.

They prized Feliciano’s versatility to play both guard and center. Those positions have already taken one hit during this free-agency period, with Nick Gates also finding a new home in the NFC after signing with division rivals the Washington Commanders.

Like Gates, Feliciano’s departure will also have an impact in the locker room.

Exit of Popular Player Further Weakens Already Depleted Position

Jones referred to Feliciano as a “great locker room guy,” while Dan Duggan of The Athletic called Gates “one of the best guys to pass through the locker room during my time on the beat.”

Seeing both Feliciano and Gates walk this offseason will naturally have an initially negative impact on the locker room. Their departures also mean the Giants now have a void at center, per ESPN’s Jordan Raanan:

The Giants have now allowed both their centers from last year to walk. As noted in this week’s Breaking Big Blue, don’t be surprised to see Ben Bredeson potentially playing some more center this season. Also, a position to address in draft. https://t.co/yh536onMUh

— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) March 20, 2023

No offensive line can functional adequately without a competent point person over the ball. Feliciano handled that key role for most of last season, but now the Giants find themselves with a decision to make at a vital position.

Giants Face Tricky Dilemma at Center

That decision will be focused on whether to find a new pivot on the veteran market, from elsewhere on the roster or via the 2023 NFL draft. Looking for an in-house replacement for Feliciano may be a fruitless search, with Duggan noting how none of the potential candidates are “proven at center.”

Was operating under the assumption that Feliciano would get another year, serving as a bridge to a draft pick this year. Giants have some in-house options (Bredeson, Lemieux, Jack Anderson), but none proven at center https://t.co/zD3XntiMAv

— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) March 20, 2023

With Gates also plying his trade elsewhere, it’s more likely the Giants will look to Ben Bredeson, Shane Lemieux and Jack Anderson to fill in at guard. If so, Schoen will have to scour free agency’s bargain bin, along with this year’s draft class, for help at center.

The veteran route could lead to 33-year-olds Rodney Hudson and Ben Jones. Both are proven starters with ample experience, but the Giants may prefer a younger, more long-term solution.

Such a solution could be found in the draft, where somebody like Michigan’s Olusegun Oluwatimi is likely to still be available in the second or third rounds, according to Walter Football’s Charlie Campbell. Similarly, Ohio State’s Luke Wypler impressed Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus with his athleticism at the Scouting Combine.

Wypler’s an intriguing prospect, but trusting the draft to plug the Feliciano-shaped gap up front is still a risk for the Giants. The problem is there’s no truly standout prospect at the position, unlike in the 2022 draft, when the Baltimore Ravens selected Tyler Linderbaum 25th overall.

He quickly became a durable and physical force as a rookie, per Ravens.com Editorial director Ryan Mink, citing stats from PFF:

Tyler Linderbaum started every game his rookie season and missed just two snaps all year.

He finished with the fourth-best run blocking grade of any center in the league from @PFF.

The future is 😎. pic.twitter.com/3yOVWaydDk

— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) January 9, 2023

Given their options, the Giants may be better served securing another veteran anchorman to a short-term and team-friendly deal.

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