Giants Newcomer ‘Arguably the Best’ Free Agent Since Antrel Rolle

Antrel Rolle

Getty A newcomer this season is "arguably the best" free agent the New York Giants have signed since safety Antrel Rolle in 2010.

Free Agency hasn’t been kind to the New York Giants for a long time, but the franchise scored a rare win this year. It came when general manager Joe Schoen signed middle linebacker Bobby Okereke to a four-year contract worth $40 million, and he’s been “arguably the best signing” the Giants have made since acquiring safety Antrel Rolle in 2010.

That’s according to Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. He noted how the “Giants’ track record in free agency over the 13 years since signing Super Bowl-winning co-captain Antrel Rolle reads like a ‘Buyer Beware’ sticker.”

Specifically, Dunleavy pointed out “the $157 million spent on Shane Vereen, Brandon Marshall, Rhett Ellison, Nate Solder, Patrick Omameh, Kareem Martin, Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay and Kyle Rudolph, according to spotrac.com, essentially was lit on fire.”

He also detailed that several other new arrivals, including cornerback James Bradberry and linebacker Blake Martinez, started strong but did not continue on the same path.

Okereke has played like he’s capable of changing both trends since arriving from the Indianapolis Colts. In the process, he’s become the centrepiece of a defense that’s still carrying the Giants.


Bobby Okereke A Rare Free-Agent Success for Giants

One of the best reasons Dunleavy rates Okereke as a “wise investment” is durability. The player “has missed just two of a potential 78 career games and is the only NFL linebacker to play every defensive snap this season despite facing a broken rib, a broken pinky and a hip injury.”

Okereke has used being on the field so often to establish himself as the Giants’ premier run defender. He’s “made more tackles in the run game (56) than any other player. The next highest number is 50,” according to PFF NY Giants.

Stepping up to stuff the run is the primary job of any inside linebacker. While Okereke has fulfilled his core remit, he’s stood out more for the splash plays he’s made.

This interception and 55-yard return during Week 12’s 10-7 victory over the New England Patriots was a prime example of how Okereke is altering the course of games.

The pick showed how defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale is involving Okereke in every phase of his scheme. As well as the tackles, Okereke has allowed 23 completions from 31 targets, while also blitzing 41 times, per Pro Football Reference.

Turnovers are the currency of any defense, and Okereke is producing his share. Like when he forced this fumble by wide receiver Gabe Davis against the Buffalo Bills in Week 6.

Okereke’s start to life with the Giants has been spectacular, but he faces a tall order matching what Rolle did, as well as living up to the franchise’s rich history at linebacker.


Antrel Rolle a Good Benchmark for Bobby Okereke

Rolle has one thing that rubber-stamps his status as a win in free agency for the Giants. He won a Super Bowl to cap the 2011 season.

Okereke and the 2023 Giants are a long way from a Championship, but Rolle’s legacy extended beyond titles. He was a vital member of a three-safety defense called by coordinator Perry Fewell.

The latter used Rolle as a playmaker at multiple levels. Matching up with tight ends was Rolle’s job, so was locking up receivers in the slot. Disguising coverage, blitzing and playing deep were also part of Rolle’s complex job description.

Okereke is ticking a lot of the same boxes as a premium multi-tasker for today’s Giants defense. It’s a role some of the greatest linebackers in NFL history have played for Big Blue in the past.

Hall of Famers like Sam Huff and Harry Carson established a track record of excellence among Giants’ linebackers.

Players like Carson, Huff, Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, Pepper Johnson and Antonio Pierce have set a standard that’s tough to match. Okereke’s not there yet, but he can be content simply being a rare win for the Giants in free agency, with hopefully more to follow.

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