Key Giants Starter, Ex-1st Rounder Shockingly Labeled a Top Cut Candidate

Jabrill Peppers Labeled a Top Cut Candidate

Getty Jabrill Peppers #21 of the New York Giants celebrates with teammates after making an interception in the fourth quarter against the Washington Football Team.

The New York Giants need to do some spring cleaning before free agency opens up, that’s a given.

While the 2021 salary cap is not yet set in stone, it’s expected to drop for the first time ever, potentially between $20-$25 million less than last year’s number. With Spotrac currently projecting the G-Men to be nearly $4 million over the cap, there will certainly be some cap casualties on the horizon.

Names such as offensive tackle Nate Solder and guard Kevin Zeitler quickly come to mind as cut candidates. Wide receiver Golden Tate certainly fits the bill as well. However, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox omitted the 11-year wideout from his recent list of “Top Contracts to Consider Cutting Ahead of NFL Free Agency.” Instead, the B/R columnist zeroed in on a rather unlikely character to join Solder and Zeitler on his list, standout safety Jabrill Peppers.

Safety Jabrill Peppers also arrived as part of the Beckham deal, and while the former Michigan standout has had some flashes of promise in New York, he has yet to develop into a defensive centerpiece. He had 11 passes defended in 2020 but only one interception on the season.

The key factor with Peppers has more to do with his contract than his performance, though. He’s set to play on the fifth-year option with a cap hit of nearly $7 million. If the Giants decide to part with Peppers before the start of the new league year, none of that money will be guaranteed.

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Could a Loaded Safety Group Make Peppers a Trade Candidate?

Knox notes that Peppers hasn’t developed into a “defensive centerpiece.” Yet, while he may not have lived up to his unfathomable hype as a former Heisman finalist as a defensive stalwart at Michigan, Peppers has settled into his role as a key contributor in Patrick Graham’s multi-look scheme.

The re-upping of Logan Ryan, the presence of Julian Love and the return of a healthy Xavier McKinney may lead some to paint Peppers as expendable. Knox clearly being one of them (namely due to financial reasons). He also floated the idea of moving Peppers via trade, a move that, if we had to get behind any, we’d be far more fond of.

This is a tough one, as Peppers is just 25 and has shown flashes of being a high-end defender. However, New York desperately needs cap space, and moving him could provide a big chunk of it.

Trading Peppers and getting a little something back in return may be the best course of action here.

Yet, there’s an argument to be had that team’s loaded safety unit may actually make Peppers all the more critical to Big Blue’s defensive success, and nearly untouchable.

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Giants’ 3-Safety Look

The Giants finally began to deploy Love at the cornerback position towards the latter end of 2020. Naturally, Love looked comfortable at his college position and could be in the running to start opposite James Bradberry next season.

As for Ryan and McKinney, both are similar to Peppers in the fact that they offer extreme versatility. Yet, where they separate from Peppers is in coverage. Both players are far more superior options to Peppers when lined up over the slot or as a deep free safety. Placing these players here would free up Peppers to move closer to the line of scrimmage, serving as a pseudo linebacker, where he excels.

Playing in the box, Peppers quickly goes from an average coverage safety to an above-average coverage linebacker while adding speed to a position group that has been making do with the likes of David Mayo and his sub-4.8 speed for the past two seasons.

Coach Graham leaned heavily on three-safety looks during his first season in East Rutherford. If anything that should only increase in 2021, as deploying the trio brings speed, versatility and most importantly talent to both the second and third level of the Giants defense.

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