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Center of attention: Giants eyeing interior offensive line after Jon Feliciano and Nick Gates depart

The Giants’ starting left guard and center from last season’s playoff run is gone.

Starting center Jon Feliciano signed a one-year free agent contract with the San Francisco 49ers this week after starting left guard Nick Gates (Washington Commanders) walked out the door.

Therefore, GM Joe Schoen must prioritize the interior offensive line in April’s NFL Draft, along with wide receiver, cornerback and many other needs.

Two centers the Giants have shown interest in, according to sources, are Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz and Ohio State’s Luke Wypler. Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence is also seen as a great potential candidate.

Schmitz, 6-3, 301 pounds, and Torrence, 6-5, 330 pounds, are projected first-round picks. The 6-3, 303-pound Wypler is a projected second or third rounder. Wypler is also a local product. He grew up in Bergen County, NJ, and played at St. Joseph Regional in Montvale.

Center has been a bit of a revolving door for the Giants, and they’ve actually just lost two centers, as Gates’ plan is to get center back for the Commanders. Therefore, it would be nice to secure a reliable and rising player with a rookie contract.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ second-round pick of Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey at 63rd overall in 2021 is the recent gold standard. That contributed to a quick rebuild of the offensive line ahead of the 2022 Super Bowl run.

It’s not like the Giants are a center away. But Daboll needs a reliable and agile pivot to execute his plan. And the center is also a leading position.

Losing the 31-year-old Feliciano cost the Giants a leader and a pitch marker on offense. He was the most responsible Giants player to speak for the team after losses, not to mention that he ranked 10th among NFL centers in pass-blocking rate (95%) last season.

Initially, both sides seemed to want to keep Feliciano in blue this spring, especially considering his longstanding relationships with offensive line coach Bobby Johnson, Schoen and Daboll from Buffalo.

But the Giants chose to spend their money elsewhere.

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“We had Feliciano in Buffalo with us, and it’s not just on the field with some of these guys; It’s the leadership in the locker room and within his position group that you really have to make sure that you don’t let too many leaders leave the building,” Schoen said at the NFL Combine. “And that’s going to be a concerted effort for some of these guys. Maybe they’re backups, starters, you definitely want to be able to retain some of our leadership.”

At guard, the Giants would like to see 2022 third-round pick Josh Ezeudu continue to develop and become a reliable starter. But he is coming off shoulder surgery and still needs to get better.

Veteran guard Ben Bredeson was effective last season when healthy. Jack Anderson has contributed ably. Shane Lemieux hopes to get his health back on him. And Wyatt Davis is a developing young player.

Still, the Giants need to think about both the present and the future. They consider Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal long-term tackles, and return veteran right guard Mark Glowinski after signing free agents last year.

For Daniel Jones to improve his game, he needs a robust front five. Schoen and the Giants are well aware that the draft is coming up.

The Giants spent the second week of free agency on some value starter signings and bargain depth finds. The club re-signed 26-year-old wide receiver Darius Slayton to a two-year contract. And they added former Miami/Washington safety Bobby McCain, 29, and former Washington/Jets/Bills wide receiver Jamison Crowder, 29, on one-year deals.

They also signed former Duke CB Leonard Johnson, who has yet to play in the NFL, following a torn ACL in 2022; former Detroit Lions CB Amani Oruwariye, 27; and former Buffalo Bills TE Tommy Sweeney, 27, of Ramsey, NJ, and Don Bosco Prep.