The New York Giants are serious about fixing their weakness at linebacker. That’s according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan, who named several free-agent linebackers as potential targets, but Philadelphia Eagles’ starter T.J. Edwards is a “name to watch closely.”
Raanan also named others, including “Washington’s Cole Holcomb, Cincinnati’s Germaine Pratt, Dallas’ Leighton Vander Esch, Detroit’s Alex Anzalone and the Chargers’ Drue Tranquill.” They are all intriguing options, but the biggest takeaway from Raanan’s report is this note the Giants are “expected to add an inside linebacker in both free agency and the draft.”
The expectation is welcome news at a position where the Giants have just been getting by in recent seasons. Recycled veterans, late-round draft picks and conversion projects from the secondary have all tried to carry the load at the heart of the linebacker corps with only middling results.
Signing a starter as accomplished as Edwards would be the first necessary step toward changing that narrative.
Eagles’ Starter the Active Presence Giants Need
Edwards was a durable thumper during the Eagles’ march to Super Bowl LVII last season. The 6’1″, 242-pounder started every game and was active against the run, making 159 tackles, including 99 solo stops and 10 tackles for loss, per Pro Football Reference.
Every 3-4 defense needs a big body at the linebacker level who can take on guards if necessary. Edwards fits the bill as a more disruptive force than Jarrad Davis, even though the Giants recently re-signed the latter.
Another part of Edwards’ game the Giants are sure to love is his effectiveness on the blitz. The four-year pro blitzed 23 times last season and logged two sacks, three knockdowns, 10 quarterback hits and nine pressures.
By the time the 2022 season was 10 games old, Edwards stood alone among linebackers making an impact in all three phases of defense, per Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports:
Giants’ defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale would make creative use of the full range of Edwards’ skills, but the play-caller and his assistants would also need to clean up a few things. Notably, Edwards needs to be more consistent wrapping up ball-carriers after missing 11 tackles last season.
That’s a coaching point a shrewd Giants staff would soon address. It’s not enough of an issue to justify turning down the chance to add a productive player projected by Spotrac.com to cost $11.9 million annually over four years.
As Raanan pointed out, Edwards is a more cost-effective option for the Giants than some other names on the market.
Giants Need Marquee Talent at Value
Finding marquee talent at a good price is the sweet spot every team aims for in free agency. Giants’ general manager Joe Schoen will be no different, especially since linebacker is far from the only position he needs to address this offseason.
There’s also wide receiver, cornerback and the interior of the offensive line. Balancing all of those needs against $18,626,080 of available salary cap space will be tricky.
It’s why Raanan noted Buffalo Bills’ star Tremaine Edmunds is “likely to be too expensive for the Giants with a deal that could approach the $15 million per season range.” Edmunds has been a name often linked with the Giants so far this offseason, while Heavy’s Senior NFL Reporter Matt Lombardo named Kaden Elliss of the New Orleans Saints as a possible fit.
There’s no shortage of options and little excuse for the Giants coming out of free agency and the 2023 NFL draft without having bolstered the weak link of their front seven. Martindale can’t be left to repeat last season’s approach of cobbling together retreads like Davis and Jaylon Smith, trusting fifth-round pick Micah McFadden or hoping safety Landon Collins can convert full time.