The New York Giants have kept their starting quarterback and bell-cow running back out of 2023 NFL free agency, but now comes the time to use the veteran market to fix those problem positions elsewhere on the roster, including linebacker.
There’s a lack of dynamic athleticism and true versatility at the position, problems Kaden Elliss of the New Orleans Saints would solve. Ellliss has been described as “a rising star” by Heavy’s Senior NFL Reporter Matt Lombardo, who named the Giants, along with the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys, as fits for the “under-the-radar” free-agent bargain.
It’s in the Giants’ interests to beat NFC East rivals the Cowboys to the signing of Elliss. He’s tailor-made for defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale’s blitz-heavy system.
27-Year-Old A Natural Fit for Giants Defense
The proof of Elliss’ upward trajectory comes from a breakout 2022 season when the 27-year-old frequently made his presence felt behind the line of scrimmage. Elliss logged a career-best seven sacks, including this one against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17:
Blitzing off the edge was common for Elliss last season, a talent Martindale would maximize. Nobody blitzed as often as the Giants in 2022, and a natural rusher like Elliss, who also notched 10 QB hits and 11 pressures, per Pro Football Reference, would be right at home in this defense.
The best endorsement of Elliss’ impact as an edge-rusher comes from Jon Macri of Pro Football Focus, who noted No. 55 outperformed all other linebackers in this category:
Although Elliss played outside in the Saints’ 4-3 front, he’d have no trouble sliding inside for the Giants and their base 3-4 defense. He’d be no weak link manning the middle after making 78 tackles, including seven for loss, last season.
Ellis also proved his chops in coverage by allowing 19 completions from 31 targets, along with just 5.7 yards per target. Those numbers are proof of the four-year pro’s impressive range.
It’s no wonder Lombardo wrote “teams that ask their linebackers to rush the passer as well as drop into coverage frequently could be getting a steal to build around for years to come.”
The Giants need a true building block at a position that’s been lacklustre for too long, making Elliss worth a decent investment from general manager Joe Schoen.
Giants Don’t Need Cheap Fixes at Linebacker
Elliss’ market value is projected by Spotrac.com at just $5.1 million annually for two years. The figure is well within the Giants’ means when Schoen has $18,626,080 worth of space under the salary cap.
There’s enough money for Schoen to avoid more cheap fixes at linebacker. Castoffs Jaylon Smith and Jarrad Davis have joined the team in recent years, but offered little impact, although that didn’t stop the Giants from re-signing the latter:
Davis could still prove useful, provided the Giants can unlock the potential that encouraged the Detroit Lions to make him a first-round draft pick back in 2017. Even if they can, Davis will still need a credible playmaker next to him at the heart of Martindale’s front seven.
That’s where Elliss should enter the picture. He’s capable of impacting every phase of offenses, but does the most damage as part of the aggressive and creative blitz calls Martindale loves.