Before the New York Giants decided to empty the bag in free agency, doling out north of $209.5 million, the team made a far more frugal addition in January, signing former second-round pass rusher Breeland Speaks to a reserve/futures contract. Initially, the addition was perceived as a low-risk, high-reward move at a position desperate for production. However, following the free-agent signings of Ryan Anderson and Ifeadi Odenigbo, as well as the draft selections of Azeez Ojulari and Elerson Smith, the edge of Big Blue’s defense is no longer lacking bodies — in fact, it’s getting overcrowded.
In return, the Giants opted to waive Speaks one day before the start of their rookie minicamp, per the transaction wire. Speaks has since cleared waivers and is free to sign with any team.
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Speaks’ Lackluster Career Since Being Selected in the 2nd Round
The top pick in the Chiefs’ 2018 draft class (No. 46 overall), Speaks went on to appear in all 16 games (four starts) for Kansas City as a rookie. Operating mostly as a rotational pass-rusher behind the star-studded duo of Justin Houston and Dee Ford, the Ole Miss product finished the season with 24 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, eight quarterback hits, three tackles for loss, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He also appeared in two postseason games that season, notching a total of 48 snaps over the Chiefs’ playoff run — the most recent snaps of his young career.
Speaks suffered an MCL sprain and meniscus tear in the preseason the following year, ending his sophomore campaign before it ever got started. The following season, Speaks was waived as part of K.C.’s final roster cuts. The former second-team All-SEC selection spent stints with both the Las Vegas Raiders and Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad in 2020.
At 6-foot-3-inches and 285 pounds, Speaks offers position flexibility, lining up at outside linebacker, defensive end and defensive tackle throughout his collegiate and pro career. Still just 25 years old, don’t be surprised to see Speaks resurface somewhere during training camp.
Azeez Ojulari Primed to Make an Early Impact?
As noted above, Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari was one of the main additions that made the thought of taking a closer look at Speaks obsolete. A dominant presence off the edge during his time at Georgia, Ojulari was widely perceived as a mid-to-late first-round prospect in many eyes. In fact, many had him graded ahead of Big Blue’s top pick, Kadarius Toney, on their big board.
The fact that New York was able to snag what some would consider the top edge rusher in the class with the No. 50 overall selection could certainly be categorized as a steal. ESPN’s Matt Bowen would seemingly agree with that notion, naming the 20-year-old among the draft’s top value picks.
I saw Ojulari as a late Day 1 pick given his quicks off the ball and the ability to bend and close to the quarterback. I believe Ojulari, who had 8.5 sacks against SEC competition last season, has a high ceiling as a pass-rusher, plus the skills to play off contact versus the run game. The fit works here, too, for defensive coordinator Patrick Graham in New York. Run twist stunts with Ojulari and veteran Leonard Williams. Scheme him up in one of the more multiple NFL systems we see on tape.
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