Giants Must Let Key Starter Walk in Free Agency, Says Analyst

Giants must let Cameron Fleming walk

Getty Evan Engram #88 of the New York Giants is congratulated by Cameron Fleming #75 after scoring a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys.

One way or another it’s looking more and more likely that Nate Solder will not be a part of the New York Giants roster moving forward. Yet, could his replacement soon be on the way out as well?

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Cameron Fleming Done in New York?

When veteran Cameron Fleming was inked to a one-year, $3.5 million contract this past offseason it was viewed by many as a bargain deal. Predominantly a swing-tackle over his career, Fleming proved serviceable in spot duty during his previous 26 starts with the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys. Add in the fact that he had a history with Joe Judge dating back to their days in Foxborough where Fleming captured two Lombardi Trophies, and Fleming looked like a rock-solid, low-investment buy for Dave Gettleman and the Giants.

However, things quickly changed when Solder opted-out of the 2020 NFL season. Rookie Andrew Thomas was swiftly flipped over from the right side to the left, while Fleming was pressed into full-time starting duty for the first time in his seven-year pro career.

The return on Fleming left much to be desired. While he wasn’t downright awful, he was an easy target to cast blame on. The entire unit had their struggles this past season, yet Fleming was the lone starter on the offensive line not named Kevin Zeitler who wasn’t either a rookie or learning a new position in 2020.

Fleming is now set to hit the open market this offseason, and while the veteran may be looking to cash-in after starting all 16 games, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox believes the Giants have more pressing needs to concern themselves with. Add in the likely desire to retain Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency alongside Fleming’s underwhelming play and Knox believes the Giants “must” let their starting right tackle walk this spring.

The New York Giants are only projected to have $7.9 million in cap space. That’s without including new deals for pending free agents like Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson. Even keeping one of these two standout defenders is likely to require significant cuts elsewhere.

This is one reason why bringing back offensive tackle Cameron Fleming doesn’t make sense. Fleming played on a one-year, $3.5 million deal in 2020. That’s a reasonable price tag, but even that outweighs his performance.

According to Pro Football Focus, Fleming was responsible for seven penalties and six sacks last season. The Giants shouldn’t look to soak up cap space with an offensive lineman who was average at best.

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Why Fleming Might be Worth Keeping & Why It May Prove Difficult

Adding to Fleming’s statistical ineptitude, he also allowed 35 quarterback pressures last season, the seventh-most amongst full-time starters at his position, per PFF. Simply put, the Giants and quarterback Daniel Jones could greatly benefit from the team upgrading their right tackle position.

The most logical in-house replacement for Fleming would be third-round draft pick Matt Peart. An uber, yet raw talent out of UConn, Peart earned valuable playing time as a rookie thanks to Joe Judge’s wildly uncommon offensive line rotation. The 23-year-old logged 150 offensive snaps in 2020. However, only 42 of those snaps came from the right tackle position. These numbers would seemingly back the perception that the rangy, lean-built Peart may be better suited to play on the left side, a belief that many voiced throughout last offseason and into the regular season.

With that said, the Giants are almost certainly moving forward with the belief that Andrew Thomas is their long-term answer at left tackle. This means that Peart’s best chance of getting on the field moving forward will be at the right tackle spot.

In reality, Fleming is best suited as a sixth offensive lineman. It’s where he excelled throughout his career leading up to last season and may prove to be the spot he could best help the Giants succeed moving forward. If Peart proves ready to take over as a starter, Fleming could serve as a swing tackle, readily removing Evan Engram from the run game, therefore improving the run game as a whole. Not to mention, having a player with 42 career starts under his belt as your third tackle and top backup at the position is not a bad position to be in if you’re the Giants.

With that said, after starting 16 games in a season for the first time in his career, Fleming will likely be looking to cash-in this offseason. And frankly, the way tackles get overpaid in free agency, it’s not out of the question he receives the payday he’s looking for. However, the likelihood he receives the compensation he’s looking for from the financially strapped G-Men is highly unlikely.

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