As we’ve covered in the past, the New York Giants splurged on addressing many areas of need this season — the linebacker position, not so much. While Big Blue’s free agency haul was headlined with pricey additions at both wide receiver (Kenny Golladay) and cornerback (Adoree’ Jackson), the team opted for a far less extravagant approach when it comes to their second line of defense. At outside linebacker, the team appears destined to go into battle with a combination of underperforming veteran commodities (Lorenzo Carter, Ryan Anderson, etc.) and second and third-day rookie draft picks (Azeez Ojulari and Elerson Smith).
At insider backer, the Giants do have one of the league’s premier talents in Blake Martinez at their disposal. Since 2017, the Stanford product has accumulated 582 tackles — the most in the NFL — while his 151 tackles in 2020 marked the first time a Giants linebacker had eclipsed 100 tackles since 2014 (Jameel McClain – 117).
However, it’s at the second inside back spot where things get a bit murky. Maybe that’s why the G-Men have continually been urged to take a look at former Seattle Seahawks standout K.J. Wright — a player that could potentially help at a multitude of alignments.
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Giants Continue to be Floated as Destination for K.J. Wright
Back in June, G-Men HQ’s Matt Lombardo made the case that Wright could be an “ideal candidate to start at linebacker” for the Giants this coming season. Now we can add Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski to the list of those peddling the Wright to New York hype train.
Lauding the one-time Super Bowl champion as the “perfect Swiss Army knife,” the B/R columnist deemed signing Wright as the “one move” the Giants should make prior to the start of next season.
K.J. Wright is the perfect Swiss Army knife for any team’s defense, yet the soon-to-be 32-year-old linebacker remains unsigned.
The New York Giants could use help at outside linebacker. Lorenzo Carter, who is coming back from a ruptured Achilles tendon, and second-round rookie Azeez Ojulari are the team’s top options working off the edge.
Wright isn’t a traditional edge-defender, but his versatility can drastically help. The 10-year veteran can play “Sam” or “Will” backer. He can line up over opposing tight ends and rush off the edge. He’s comfortable dropping into space. In fact, Pro Football Focus graded him as the league’s 14th-best linebacker last season. Wright wouldn’t just help the team’s outside linebackers; he can play off the ball as a sub-package option.
The Giants loaded up almost everywhere else this offseason. Linebacker deserves a little more attention.
In-House No. 2 ILB Candidates
Tae Crowder looks to be the front runner to line up next to Martinez in base defensive sets next season. Yet, while the former Mr. Irrelevant flashed last season as a rookie, his 36.4 overall Pro Football Focus grade certainly leaves much to be desired. Ex-Bills’ failed second-round pick Reggie Ragland, who Martinez told the New York Post is “one of the [most] athletic big men” he’s seen, could theoretically carve out a role as an early-down run stuffer. Versatile second-year pros Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin could potentially factor into the mix as well — the latter of which worked with insider backers at OTAs.
Another outside backer who could find himself manning more snaps on the inside this year is Lorenzo Carter. While he’s failed to muster up much production in the pass-rushing department over his career (9.5 total sacks in 35 games), the Georgia alumn possesses a multi-facet skillset capable of moonlighting in a number of alignments up and down the team’s front-seven.
With that said, Wright looks like an ideal plug-and-play stopgap option next to Martinez if the Giants sour on their current rotation of in-house candidates. While he may be getting up there in age (turns 32 years old this month), Wright’s 75.3 PFF grade in 2020 — the eighth-highest-grade among NFL linebackers — proves the wily veteran still has a bit more in the tank.
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