The New York Giants need to add depth to the edge rusher position this offseason. Who should they target in free agency?
The switch from James Bettcher to Patrick Graham at defensive coordinator worked wonders for the New York Giants pass rush in 2020. Big Blue tied for 12th in the NFL in sacks with 40, and that mark is even more impressive when you consider how three of the team’s top edge rushers weren’t present for much of the year (Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines missed 11 and 12 games while Markus Golden was traded after the team’s Week 7 matchup). Even the productive Kyler Fackrell missed four games down the stretch due to a calf injury.
New York thus had defensive end Leonard Williams step up all season and rookies Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin periodically make plays.
The level of production across the board with numerous individuals finding themselves involved proves the difference Graham makes on the sideline. His situational schemes and shuffling of players on and off the field were effective in this specific area of the sport.
So do the Giants even need to address the pass rush in free agency given their prior success?
Sure. They must. Even acquiring a guy who isn’t capable of being on the field for all four downs is fine. As was previously mentioned, Graham’s defense is very situational, which means depth is crucial. That along with the fact that Fackrell and Williams’ deals are both expiring (the Giants should certainly look to bring both back) prove an extra body brought in via the market would be beneficial.
It doesn’t need to be a star, but an edge rusher who can be serviceable alongside Carter, Ximines, or potentially Fackrell. A star would be nice though, that’s for sure.
With all that said, who will even be available?
Leonard Floyd (Los Angeles Rams)
Now, if the Giants were to make a push for a star at this position (possibly in the event that a long-term deal isn’t struck with Leonard Williams), then Leonard Floyd could be in play. He’ll certainly be expensive though. Floyd played for the Rams on a one-year, $10 million deal this past season and posted career-highs in combined tackles (55), tackles for loss (11), quarterback hits (19), and sacks (10.5).
He’s going to wish for a highly significant payday, but if the Giants are willing to meet his asking price, Floyd would be a fantastic pickup for this defense.
He would easily be the team’s best pass rusher (if Williams is gone) and could complement Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines well. Floyd’s quickness off the snap is additionally a crucial aspect in a league that’s seemingly increasing in speed every year.
And while not completely up there in age (entering his age-29 season), Floyd could be a mentor of some sort for the younger linebackers such as Carter, Ximines, Cam Brown, and Carter Coughlin.
Jordan Jenkins (New York Jets)
Jordan Jenkins wouldn’t be far and away the top pass rusher on the team if he came to Big Blue, but he would definitely be a reliable depth piece that could notch starts here and there depending on the situation of the game.
He wouldn’t be incredibly expensive either given his low level of production last season (just two sacks and six quarterback hits) and health-related issues (missed four games in 2020 due to surgery on a torn labrum).
Another issue with Jenkins has to do with his mishaps in the tackling department. The young outside linebacker recorded a 13.5% missed tackle rate on 37 tackle attempts (five missed tackles) this past season. That rate paired with the number of attempts wouldn’t fly with Patrick Graham or Joe Judge, so that would need to be cleaned up should he put on the blue jersey.
All in all, Jenkins carries the potential to be a reliable depth piece who would certainly be a part of Graham’s edge rusher rotation. He’d find himself in the mix a significant amount and could do so on a cheap, short-term deal.
Romeo Okwara (Detroit)
Romeo Okwara back to East Rutherford?
The current Lions defensive end began his career with the Giants and played his first two seasons with Big Blue prior to commencing his tenure in Detroit. And who was his defensive line coach during those two years in New York? None other than Patrick Graham, and we all know how important familiarity is in this league.
Okwara’s ability to make plays in the backfield improved immensely this past season — he recorded career-highs in sacks (10.0), quarterback hits (18), and tackles for loss (11). This is why his new contract is definitely going to be more expensive than his current two-year, $6.8 million Lions deal, which could be an issue especially if the Giants strike a lucrative deal with Leonard Williams.
Sure, you could ask, “The Giants didn’t keep him around for the 2018 season, why would they bring him back?” And yes, that is very much what occurred. But Okwara has undergone legitimate improvement since leaving the organization after the 2017 campaign. He’s more experienced going up against NFL offensive lines and overall offensive units now and could be a reliable body to field within a number of different defensive schemes.
Solomon Thomas (San Francisco)
At this point, Solomon Thomas could be the cheapest option on this list. He played on a four-year deal worth over $28 million during his first four years in the league, but his production total declined through the initial trio of seasons. He racked up 41, 31, and 21 combined tackles from 2017-19, respectively, and notched 11, six, and six quarterback hits across those seasons as well.
Not to mention, Thomas played in just two games for the Niners in 2020 due to an ACL tear, which would give a team even more of a reason to sign him for cheap.
If Thomas came to East Rutherford, he would certainly find playing time in different situations and could potentially start here and there.