Giants GM Dave Gettleman, Coach Joe Judge, and staff “tackled” the team’s defensive shortfalls this week as free agency got underway Monday.
Giants Staying Giants
Leonard Williams (IDL)
GM Dave’s first move on Monday was to apply the Franchise Tag to Restricted Free Agent Leonard Williams.
Again, this was not surprising. Williams was traded to the Giants last season with the Giants giving up the 3rd round and a 5th round 2020 draft pick (potentially moving to a 4th round pick if the Giants sign him before the NFL new year). He immediately improved the run defense and finished 2nd on the team in QB hurries and 3rd in QB pressures. Keep in mind, those rankings were only after eight games for the Big Blue.
After paying such a high price, the Giants were not ready to just let Williams go in free agency (FA). Apparently, negotiations were not moving briskly to a long term deal for Williams. This move allows the Giants to buy some time and continue the negotiations into the summer. An added incentive in delaying a long term signing of Williams past the beginning of the NFL new year (starting on 18 March) is to keep the 5th round pick exactly that.
Aldrick Rosas (K)
The Giants also placed a 2nd round tender qualifying offer on placekicker Aldrick Rosas yesterday. If another team looks to sign Rosas, the Giants can match the offer or release him in lieu of a compensatory draft pick in 2021.
Rosas was a Pro Bowl player in 2018 but took a step back last season. Let’s hope 2020 brings back the Aldrick Rosas of 2018.
Welcome to Big Blue!
James Bradberry (CB)
As the FA negotiation window opened at Noon yesterday, news of moves and deals all over the NFL were being reported in rapid-fire. The Giants’ big splash was announcing a 3-year deal with former Carolina Panther, James Bradberry, a lockdown CB with four years as a starter.
Fans may have been wishing for Byron Jones, CB from the Cowboys. But, Bradberry is a solid #1 CB that can match up with any team’s #1 receiver. Think about it, he’s had to cover Julio Jones, Mike Evans and Mike Thomas twice each season for the last four seasons. And he’s been really good holding those perennial Pro Bowlers to less than average game stats. This is a great addition to what was a really porous Giants secondary in 2019. Bradberry is young, but he is the veteran of the secondary needs and a solid tackler.
If you ask Pro Football Focus, Bradberry grades out as better than average. If you ask Carolina and NFL media that have tracked him, he’s a top-notch #1 CB. We’ve got a lot of very young talented defensive backs coming into their second and third years of NFL play. Bradberry allows them to grow on the #2 and #3 receivers.
Blake Martinez (LB)
Word was spreading all over social media yesterday that the Giants were very active in the linebacker market. Then we watched as Kwiatkoski and Van Noy were signed by other teams. But the buzz was Blake Martinez in discussions with the Giants. And that deal was completed last night. Martinez is a “tackling machine” to use David Diehl’s words. More importantly, he’s a veteran quality linebacker who can manage to defense on the field and get to the ball.
Think Aaron Pierce. It’s been a while since we had a guy in the middle who can command the defensive play-calling and adjustments. Giants’ new Defensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach, Patrick Graham, was the linebacker coach for the Green Bay Packers in 2018. You have to believe he had a big say in what LBs the Giants went after in FA. And it did not end with this pick…
Kyler Fackrell (OLB/Edge)
Wait! Who? Yep, the Giants landed this Edge rusher on a one-year “prove it” deal. 2019 was not a statistical good year for Fackrell.
He wasn’t even a starter because the Packers signed Za’Darius Smith as an FA who took his spot. But Fackrell had 10.5 sacks in 2018 playing for Graham.
This signing looks very similar to the chance the Giants took with Markus Golden in 2019. So now, the Giants have two experienced linebackers that have played in Patrick Graham’s defensive schemes.
Should we be a little nervous? Isn’t this eerily similar to how James Bettcher influenced the 2018 and 2019 FA defensive picks? Let’s hope not. And let’s hope the defensive game plans are simpler for the players in 2020 and play to their strengths.
The Offense Got Some Attention Too
Levine Toilolo (TE)
Fresh from his stint with the San Francisco 49ers, Levine Toilolo fills out the Giants TE corps and replaces the recently retired Rhett Ellison on the roster. Toilolo has seven years’ experience in the league with the Falcons, Lions, and 49ers. By the way, this is the second TE the Giants have grabbed from the 49ers, following Kaden Smith who really impressed us last season. Levine is a tall man at 6’8” and 268 lbs. This kind of size will be really helpful in the red zone for Daniel Jones.
So as the dust settles on Day 2 of the FA Negotiation window, the Giants have done a solid makeover of the defense and added a good red zone asset for the offense. Two good days for GM Dave and Coach Judge.
The NFL New Year
By 4 pm EDT, the negotiation window closes and the NFL new year begins. Signings that have been agreed to in principle will become official after all physicals (currently on hold due to the COVID-19 lockdown) take place.
There’s still more FA work to be done. Tom Brady will officially announce the team he’s chosen (hint, hint: Bruce Arian’s new QB). Some top tier FAs still need to find new teams. Now, the Giants will look at second-tier FAs for diamonds in the rough. Things may slow down news-wise for a bit.
What Could This Tell Us About the Giants’ Draft?
So, in looking at the Giants’ moves so far, there’s one glaring weakness that hasn’t been addressed yet via FA. That is the offensive line. There are some top graded prospects in this year’s draft class. Will the Giants use the #4 pick on a tackle? Or will they trade down a few slots to gain more picks and still get a tackle?
After these last two days, the Giants are sitting in a pretty good spot. There are three QB-needy teams right behind them. Maybe, just maybe the Giants can parlay more picks and get that very important offensive tackle or two.
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