Giants Make ‘Big Splash’ By Signing Inside Linebacker: Report

Bobby Okereke

Getty The New York Giants made a "big splash" to improve at linebacker.

The New York Giants haven’t wasted time fixing a long-standing weakness at inside linebacker. Instead, Big Blue made a “big splash” in the early hours of 2023 NFL free agency by signing Bobby Okereke from the Indianapolis Colts on Monday, March 13.

A four-year deal worth $40 million, “with $22M guaranteed” was reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:

The agreement means the Giants have managed to bolster their talent at a problem position, despite some high-profile inside linebackers already being taken off the market. Among them, Philadelphia Eagles’ starter T.J. Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds of the Buffalo Bills joined the Chicago Bears, who had considered signing Okereke, according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan.

As Rapoport’s colleague Mike Garafolo noted, Okereke made himself known to the Giants by making 17 tackles against Big Blue in Week 17 last season. The 26-year-old also failed to endear himself to Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones:

Whether or not Okereke’s late hit on Jones is indeed “water under the bridge,” the Giants are adding a productive and active linebacker ideal for coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale’s defense.

New Giant Has Star Potential in ‘Wink’ Martindale’s Defense

Okereke stood out on a struggling Colts’ unit in 2022. He was in on 151 tackles, including 99 solo stops and six tackles for loss, per Pro Football Reference.

The Giants may be concerned about 11 missed tackles, but Okereke generally has no problem hunting down the opposition and flying to the ball. Martindale will want to channel the four-year pro’s natural aggression in more creative ways.

In the Giants’ defense, more creative usually means blitzing. Martindale can be encouraged by Okereke’s pressure statistics from 2021, when he blitzed 38 times and registered a sack and three pressures.

The Giants blitzed a league-high 39.7 percent of the time last season, so Okereke can expect his role and numbers as a rusher to increase. When he’s not rushing, Okereke will give the Giants more range and competence in coverage.

As Next Gen Stats noted, No. 58 “held his own in coverage” last season:

The Giants have needed greater athleticism in space behind their defensive line for a while. It’s a problem unlikely to be solved by the recent decision to bring back Jarrad Davis.

He’s a thumper, but Davis won’t stop Martindale’s defense from being gashed by tight ends and running backs releasing on pass patterns. It was a persistent issue late last season, but the Giants have invested heavily to make the problem go away.

Yet, while signing Okereke represents something of a splash, it can’t be the only move the Giants make at linebacker.

More Help is Needed at Linebacker

The Giants are still thin at linebacker beyond Okereke and Davis. Jaylon Smith remains on the books, along with last year’s fifth-round pick, Micah McFadden.

There’s also converted safeties Landon Collins and Tony Jefferson, both of whom doubled up at inside linebacker at times last season. This group hardly represents quality, starter-ready depth, while Jefferson is also a free agent.

It means there is still ample room for the Giants to add another linebacker, either via the veteran market or through the 2023 NFL draft.

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