The Giants have made their first big move in free agency.
General manager Joe Schoen has agreed to terms with former Colts linebacker Bobby Okereke on a 4-year, $40 million contract. The deal comes with $22 million in guaranteed money and provides the Giants with the middle linebacker they desperately need.
Breaking: FA Bobby Okereke plans to sign with the #Giants, sources tell @theScore.
4 years 40M, $22M guaranteed
One of the premier LBs on the market, Okereke comes off a career-high 151 total tackles, 2 FFs and 5 PBUs with the #Colts.
— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) March 13, 2023
What Okereke brings. It was clear following the end of the season the Giants needed major help in the middle of the defense. The linebacker position isn’t supposed to carry great value in coordinator Wink Martindale’s blitz-heavy scheme, but a lack of talent at the position cost the Giants in 2022. New York was sixth-worst against the run, having allowed 144.2 rushing yards per game.
Jaylon Smith wasn’t the answer, Jarrad Davis was good enough to land a one-year extension but is by no means a star, and Micah McFadden and Darrian Beavers are still young. Plus the latter is coming off a lost rookie season due to a preseason ACL tear.
The Giants needed an every-week starter, and Okereke has enough talent, versatility, and experience to fit the bill.
He recorded 132 combined tackles in 2021 before racking up a career-high 151 this past season. He’s only missed 22 tackles combined over the last two years, posting just 7.7% and 6.8% missed tackle rates, respectively, in 2021 and 2022. He could be better in coverage, but still limited opposing quarterbacks to 94.9 and 91.3 passer ratings when targeted in 2021 and 2022.
Okereke has also stayed healthy, always a plus in the NFL. He played in all 34 of the Colts’ games over the last two years, starting in all but one. Since entering the league in 2019, he’s missed only two games (both in his sophomore 2020 campaign).
So the talent, reliability, and availability are all there for Okereke to justify what the Giants are paying him.
The contract. While not in an awful financial situation like last year, the Giants certainly didn’t own a gold mine of cap space after extending quarterback Daniel Jones and franchise tagging running back Saquon Barkley. So you would’ve liked to see them land Okereke for less than $10 million per year, but this is still a great contract.
The guaranteed money is fairly low at $22 million, which is much less than what free-agent linebacker Tremaine Edmunds earned in his new contract with the Bears ($50 million guaranteed over four years). Edmunds was always going to be out of the Giants’ price range, so Okereke at less than half the guaranteed money is a solid contingency plan.
Plus, there’s a good chance it’s structured so the Giants could get out of the contract after one or two seasons. With that, the deal would be a significant commitment but not one that would hinder investments in other areas of the roster for years to come.
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