Giants Not ‘Planning to Trade’ $6.7M Edge After Brian Burns Deal

Brian Burns

Getty The New York Giants "aren't planning to trade" an incumbent edge-rusher, even after acquiring Brian Burns.

Acquiring premier edge-rusher Brian Burns doesn’t mean the New York Giants are “planning to trade” Azeez Ojulari. Instead, the outside linebacker selected 50th overall in the 2021 NFL draft still has a role with Big Blue, even though his workload will be severely limited by Burns joining Kayvon Thibodeaux in the starting lineup.

Ojulari’s future was discussed by Dan Duggan of The Athletic, in the wake of the Giants landing Burns from the Carolina Panthers for a pair of draft picks.

Duggan explained how “Ojulari may seem expendable, but the Giants aren’t planning to trade the 23-year-old as he enters the final year of his rookie contract, according to a league source. Having a third edge rusher with 16 sacks over the past three seasons gives the Giants much better edge depth than they’ve had in years.”

That sounds like Ojulari will still be a feature of the pass-rush rotation in new coordinator Shane Bowen’s defense. There are other factors, though, that might damage Ojulari’s stock during a contract year.

Giants’ Ideal Plan Might Not Work for Azeez Ojulari

One of those factors involves the durability of both Burns and Thibodeaux. Ojulari should be fearful about how few times the pair leave the field, according to Duggan.

He noted Burns “was a workhorse in Carolina, playing more than 75 percent of the Panthers’ defensive snaps in each of the past three seasons. He’s joining another edge rusher accustomed to a heavy workload, as Kayvon Thibodeaux played 87 percent of the Giants’ defensive snaps last season.”

Those numbers don’t leave a lot of scope for Ojulari to remind the Giants of his worth. Nor to tempt potential suitors, ahead of the player who signed a four-year contract worth $6,774,908 after being drafted, possibly entering 2025 NFL free agency.

Worse still, Ojulari might not be suited to a niche role, per Duggan: “ideally, Ojulari will shift into a pass-rush specialist role. But the Giants will want Burns and Thibodeaux on the field hunting quarterbacks on passing downs. No one in that trio has the body type to slide inside, so unless new defensive coordinator Shane Bowen has a creative package in mind, Ojulari will likely only see the field when he’s rotating in for Burns or Thibodeaux.”

Despite Duggan’s reservations, there are still ways for Ojulari to make a situational role his own. Those ways include adding a few pounds to his 240-pound frame. The extra weight would mean Ojulari could slide inside and handle rushing against larger offensive linemen.

He gave a good example by beating 303-pounder Isaac Seumalo against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2022. Ojulari’s rush plan was highlighted by Nick Falato of SB Nation’s Big Blue View.

Alternatively, Bowen can use Ojulari as a roving, standup rusher, able to attack any gap along the front on third downs. Provided Ojulari can avoid further injuries after appearing “in just 18 of a possible 34 regular-season contests over the past two campaigns,” according to Rotowire.

Ojulari’s shaky injury record is one reason why the Giants needed Burns.

Brian Burns is the Blue-Chip Pass-Rusher Giants Need

Parting with the 39th-overall pick in this year’s draft showed how much the Giants wanted to add Burns to their defense. The Giants need him because the 25-year-old is still scratching the surface of his full potential.

That’s an exciting prospect when Burns has logged 29.5 sacks and 58 quarterback hits across the last three seasons, per Pro Football Reference. His production can be attributed to an ability to create quick pressures, according to Next Gen Stats.

A 250-pounder who can swiftly close on the passer is somebody offenses need special plans to stop. Those plans will be tough to execute with Thibodeaux on the other side and All-Pro nose tackle Dexter Lawrence II dominating the middle.

The trio are all Bowen needs wreck offenses, but he can still use Ojulari. He’ll be a useful deputy, particularly with the Giants tipped to move on from veteran edge-rusher Jihad Ward.

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