‘Sneaky Good’ 49ers Free Agent Perfect for Giants

Samson Ebukam

Getty This "sneaky-good" 49ers free agent is a perfect fit for the Giants.

Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley’s futures aren’t the only priority facing the New York Giants ahead of 2023 NFL free agency. General manager Joe Schoen also needs a plan for fixing an anaemic pass rush that’s failing to get to quarterbacks during key moments this season.

The Giants have registered just 20 sacks through 11 games, despite defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale calling one of the more blitz-heavy schemes in the league. Schoen’s attempts to boost the pass rush last offseason haven’t panned out, but things should be different next year.

That’s when a member of the San Francisco 49ers is set to hit the veteran market. He’s not an elite edge defender, but this versatile player has Super Bowl experience and can generate heat from multiple spots across the front.

Former 4th-Round Pick a Fit for Giants

Samson Ebukam was named by Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox as one of the “Sneaky-good” free agents for ’23. It’s an apt description for a 27-year-old who can play in space as an outside linebacker or line up as a defensive end.

He was in the latter position when he got to Justin Fields against the Chicago Bears in Week 1, with Ebukam winning over left tackle:

Ebukam beat the right tackle when he notched this sack against Matthew Stafford and former team the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4:

Ebukam’s hybrid skills are intriguing even though his production is not off the charts and he’s been “dealing with quadriceps and Achilles ailments.” He has logged 22 sacks since being drafted in the fourth round by the Rams back in 2017.

The sack numbers won’t wow anybody, but Ebukam’s impact goes beyond quarterback takedowns. He’s also got something of a flair for the big play, having broken up seven passes, returned an interception for a touchdown, forced eight fumbles and recovered five.

Splash plays are something Martindale’s aggressive system hasn’t been able to produce. The Giants have snatched just four interceptions and recovered 12 fumbles.

Turnovers will trend upwards if Schoen recruits pass-rushers with enough upside.

Deal Would Have High Ceiling for Giants

Finding players with high ceilings but low costs was Schoen’s model in free agency during 2022. It’s why he recruited one of Martindale’s former players with the Baltimore Ravens, Jihad Ward, on a one-year deal.

Ward has recorded a mere two sacks in a Giants uniform, one more than Kayvon Thibodeaux, the edge-rusher Schoen used the fifth-overall pick to select in this year’s draft. Thibodeaux’s struggle to finish plays, despite flashing potential, has contributed to the Giants making life too comfortable for opposing signal-callers.

The problem reached its nadir during the 28-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, per Paul Schwartz of the New York Post: “The Giants did not get a sack on defense for the second consecutive game, the first time in more than five years this has happened. In four of the 11 games this season, the Giants have not registered a sack. This is growing into a problem.”

Schoen won’t have to limit his ambitions to short-term veteran deals when he addresses the pass rush after this season. Not when he’s projected by Spotrac.com to have as much as $51,707,224 worth of space under next year’s salary cap.

The problem is most of the Giants’ cash is likely to be dedicated to preventing QB Jones and running back Barkley from becoming free agents. It’s why a deal for somebody like Ebukam would make most sense.

He’d be cost-effective since he’s making $5.9 million with the Niners this season. Ebukam is also a pass-rusher who projects to improve with more playing time, per Knox: “Through the first eight weeks of this season, the 27-year-old notched 3.5 sacks to go with 29 tackles and eight quarterback pressures. He did so while largely playing on a rotational basis (63 percent of the defensive snaps).”

The Giants should be at the front of the queue to offer No. 56 more snaps. He’s a solid pro with big-game experience from his appearance in Super Bowl LIII with the Rams and last season’s NFC Championship Game with the 49ers.

Ebukam has the potential to become a prolific pass-rusher in the right scheme. His emergence with the Giants would dovetail nicely with Thibodeaux’s continued development.

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