Giants Flip-Flop, Reunite With Opening Day Starter After Letting Him Walk

Giants re-sign Devante Downs

Getty James Bradberry #24 of the New York Giants reacts to an interception with teammates Devante Downs #52, Logan Ryan #23 and Julian Love #20.

As GM Dave Gettleman continues to shape his roster, the New York Giants have decided to reunite with a familiar face. The team recently announced that they have re-signed linebacker Devante Downs. The move comes just weeks removed from the Giants allowing him to walk in free agency.

Originally slated to be a restricted free agent this offseason, the team opted not to tender Downs prior to the start of the new league year. In return, Downs became an unrestricted free agent and was free to sign anywhere he desired. However, with what appeared to be limited suitors and the Giants in search of depth at the linebacker position, the two parties ultimately found it in their best interest to link back up.

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Downs Failed to Live Up to Training Camp Hype

When the Giants opted to move off of projected starting linebacker Ryan Connelly prior to the start of the 2020 season, it sent shockwaves through the fan base. Yet, a big reason for Connelly being deemed dispensable was the continued strong play of Downs throughout training camp.

A former seventh-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2018, Downs joined the Giants as a mid-season practice squad addition in 2019. Yet, it was until last year’s camp where he truly began to make waves within the organization. With a rather undersized group of insider backers at their disposal, the new coaching regime in New York took a liking to the 240-pound Downs.

Downs catapulted his strong showing into an opening day starting job. Unfortunately, his training camp star dwindled as the team got into meaningful game action as Downs posted an underwhelming 46.2 overall Pro Football Focus grade in 2020. The former CAL Golden Bear appeared in all 16 games with the Giants this past season, starting eight. Downs finished the year with 27 tackles (21 solo), one quarterback hit, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup. 


Expectations for Downs This Season

Don’t expect Downs to make a push for a starting gig this season. In fact, he may even find it difficult to make it out of training camp amongst the slew of young, developing players the Giants have collected at the linebacker position. Former Mr. Irrelevant, Tae Crowder is the frontrunner to man the starting spot opposite Blake Martinez in 2021.

Beyond Crowder, the team has the highly-versatile Cam Brown, second-year pro T.J. Brunson and recently-signed former second-round pick Reggie Ragland. Furthermore, there’s been some chatter that the team could push outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter inside due to the recent additions they’ve made on the edge.

If Downs does lock down a roster spot, it will likely have less to do with what he brings to the table defensively, and more for his efforts on special teams. While his 58.7 PFF grade in this field won’t blow anyone away, he did register a career-high 256 special teams snaps this past season. Over his 36 career games, Downs has logged 381 total special teams snaps.

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