Linebacker was a position the New York Giants practically carried last season. A formidable defensive line and opportunistic secondary hid limitations at the linebacker level, but the Giants can fix the problem during 2023 NFL free agency.
Signing Los Angeles Chargers’ star Drue Tranquill would give the Giants somebody who “can be deployed as a blitzer from multiple second-level alignments,” according to ESPN’s Matt Bowen.
Tranquill is a budding star, who Bowen noted “logged 5.5 sacks and four pass breakups,” while his “144 tackles for the Chargers in 2022 were a career high.” Bowen also outlined how the 27-year-old would fit in Giants’ defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale’s system: “Tranquill would play inside linebacker for Wink Martindale’s defense, but he has the movement ability of a weakside linebacker in both base and sub-packages.”
Martindale needs better athletes behind his defensive front to make his blitz-happy schemes work. He tried to get by with veteran retreads last season, but an infusion of talent can help this Giants unit become elite.
Chargers’ Breakout Star Ideal for Giants
Tranquill would be an asset for the Giants because of the way he attacks the line of scrimmage, particularly the pass pocket. He’s been blitzed 63 times in the last two years by the Chargers, including 36 last season, per Pro Football Reference.
Although he logged just 1.5 sacks in 2021, Tranquill showed he’d learned how to finish plays last year. His nine pressures and three QB knockdowns were proof of his growing comfort getting to the passer, with Tranquill sacking Russell Wilson twice against the Denver Broncos in Week 6.
This sack against Wilson late in the fourth quarter showcased No. 49’s awesome speed rushing through inside gaps:
That quickness is a trait a creative play-caller like Martindale would use in a variety of ways. No team in the NFL blitzed at a higher rate than the Giants on his watch, with Martindale sending pressure 39.7 percent of the time.
Tranquill’s presence would surely help the number increase, but the Giants would also appreciate his range and closing speed in space. Attributes he showed off when getting to Wilson earlier in the final period:
Being able to chase down a mobile quarterback is an asset in the NFC East, especially when the Giants face Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles. Hurts rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 25 attempts in three meetings against the Giants.
Dominating overwhelmed linebackers was a big reason why the Eagles went 3-0 against Big Blue last season. It’s also why the Giants can’t ignore the position this offseason.
Giants Can’t Ignore Need for Linebacker Help
Signing Jaylon Smith and Jarrad Davis during the season did little to fix the Giants’ obvious weakness at linebacker. Nor did playing veteran safeties Landon Collins and Tony Jefferson closer to the line of scrimmage.
All four are free agents, so general manager Joe Schoen at least needs to top up the numbers at this position. Signing Tranquill would be a good start since he’s a player on the rise with a market value projected by Spotrac.com to be just $4 million.
The deal would suit the Giants during an offseason where Schoen needs to retain quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley. He also needs to re-sign free safety Julian Love and extend the contract of nose tackle Dexter Lawrence.
It’s a lengthy to-do list, so the Giants still need to be selective when recruiting linebackers. Selective, but smart. Tranquill fits Martindale’s aggressive philosophy, but there are issues elsewhere in his game.
Issues like allowing a 101.2 rating when in coverage and missing nine tackles. Provided the Giants are ready to coach Tranquill out of some bad habits, he could be a steal in free agency.