The New York Giants were never able to find their stride in 2023. They began their season with a 40-0 drubbing at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys and things never went right thereafter.

They lost their starting left tackle Andrew Thomas in that season opener and he went on to miss the next seven games. Franchise quarterback Daniel Jones got hurt twice, with the second of which being a torn ACL that could potentially linger into next season. Saquon Barkley also missed three games. Darren Waller, the primary addition the Giants made in the offseason, missed five games this season in his own right. Just about nothing went right for the Giants this season.

But that doesn't that will be the case next season. Barkley, Xavier McKinney, and Adoree' Jackson are the only main contributors to their team that will be free agents after this season. But the Giants have the means to bring them back should they opt to do so. The Giants have at least $38.5 million to play with and could potentially free up more.

That's enough to bring in a real difference-maker. But the question is, who would qualify as New York's premier free agent targets? Three players stand out.

Tee Higgins, Wide Receiver

Bengals' Tee Higgins looking serious

The Giants have a couple of intriguing pieces at wide receiver. Wan'Dale Robinson looks the part of a slot receiver and has had a couple of big games already in his career. Recently, he brought in six of seven targets for 79 yards in the Giants' upset win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 14. Jalin Hyatt has lived up to his billing as a speedy deep threat with three games of at least 75 yards. But he's been held below 25 yards in the other 12 games he's played this season.

While Darren Waller can constitute as a true alpha receiver at tight end, and Robinson and Hyatt fill nice roles, they don't really have a go-to wide receiver. That's where someone like Tee Higgins could come into the picture.

The Bengals are almost surely going to retain Higgins in some capacity, whether they re-sign him to a long term deal or with the franchise tag. But Higgins could be exactly what the Giants need from the receiver position. Higgins has had the benefit of doubt playing alongside Ja'Marr Chase, but his numbers would indicate that he looks a lot like a number-one receiver when Chase doesn't play.

This tweet was posted before Higgins posted a big 140-yard and touchdown performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers, while catching five of eight targets. Higgins is every bit the number one receiver. If he hits the open market, the Giants should do everything in their power to bring him to East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Offensive Guard

Maybe the biggest hindrance on the Giants' season this year was the play of their offensive line. Injuries have played a big part of this, but overall, they have not played well. New York ranks 25th in the NFL in pass block win rate and 29th in run block win rate according to ESPN's trench win rate metrics. That is just not going to get it done, injuries or not.

It isn't as if the Giants haven't already invested in their offensive line either. They've used top ten picks on offensive tackles Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal. Both have been hurt in 2023. Thomas has panned out and is a rising left tackle, but Neal has largely struggled on the right side. But it would be hard for the Giants to move on from Neal, and there isn't a reason to move on from Thomas.

New York could look to bolster their interior offensive line. They signed Justin Pugh off the street to play left guard and Ben Bredeson is currently holding down the right guard spot. The Giants could upgrade at either spot.

One player who would be an immediate improvement is Halalpoulivaati Vaitai. Vaitai has been hurt for the most of the last couple of seasons, but he's as sturdy and solid a guard as there is in the NFL. The Detroit Lions are loaded on the offensive line and could afford to let Vaitai walk. If they do, it would behoove the Giants to pounce.

Curtis Samuel, Wide Receiver

While Tee Higgins should be the Giants' number one priority at wide receiver in free agency, it also isn't a guarantee they even have the chance to pursue him. They should have the chance go after Curtis Samuel. It may feel like Samuel has been around forever, but he is only 27 years old. And he's a good player.

He's fallen a bit by the wayside in Washington with Terry McLaurin there and their drafting of Jahan Dotson, but Samuel is a versatile player who can play anywhere on the field. He is a bit undersized at 5-11 195 pounds, however, and a similar player to Darius Slayton. But the Giants aren't in a position to turn down good players on offense, and Samuel qualifies. He'd be a great fit in their offense.