Linebacker. Linebacker, linebacker, linebacker. It seems like whenever the subject of the New York Giants defense comes up eventually the conversation turns to the mostly ineffective revolving door the Giants have had at the position for a decade or longer.
The question always hangs in the air -- will this FINALLY be the year the Giants commit to investing real resources in trying to find a long-term solution to their yearly linebacker problem? Will they draft Myles Jack, Jaylon Smith or Reggie Ragland given the chance?
What about free agency? Instead of their usual romp through the NFL's linebacker bargain bin would the Giants actually shop for a luxury item? Specifically, would the Giants spend big money on Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker Bruce Irvin? Stop thinking about Von Miller, because the Denver Broncos Super Bowl MVP isn't hitting the open market. Irvin is the best linebacker likely to hit the market. Should Giants fans dare to dream?
Pro Football Focus ranks Irvin No. 36 on its list of the top 75 potential unrestricted free agents:
Irvin's athleticism has allowed his role to evolve over the years with the Seahawks, and his run defense has improved at the same time. However, his per-snap pass-rushing productivity has dipped as he's asked to do more in coverage; he still might be best suited as solely a pass rusher.
Walter Football ranks Irvin No. 24 on its list of the top 90 available unrestricted free agents:
Bruce Irvin never became the dominant player the Seahawks thought they were getting in the first round. He has been inconsistent and doesn't really excel at anything. However, Irvin is a solid player with no weaknesses in his game.
NFL.com rates Irvin No. 11 on its list of the top 20 unrestricted free agents:
He isn't a defense-changing talent, but he's also better than you think. Irvin is a quality versatile starter.
Irvin has played the SAM linebacker spot for Seattle and has moved to defensive end at times in pass-rushing situations. ESPN calls him "a superior athlete who can go forward or backward." Meaning that Irvin is adept at both rushing the passer or dropping into coverage. He has 22 sacks in four seasons, 12 over the past two years. If the Giants were to sign Irvin, perhaps that would give them the ability to move Devon Kennard to the middle linebacker spot.
ESPN argues that Irvin deserves a contract equal to or greater than the five-year, $47.25 million deal ($23 million guaranteed) that Vinny Curry got a few weeks ago from the Philadelphia Eagles. Spotrac puts Irvin's Calculated Market Value at five years and $43.5 million, or $8.7 million annually. Pro Football Talk thinks that would be a bargain, estimating that Irvin will command "a deal that easily will surpass $10 million annually."
The Giants have made a habit out of trying to get by with short-term fixes like Danny Clark, broken-down players like Jon Beason, and players their former team didn't have a spot for like J.T. Thomas. Irvin, a 2012 first-round pick is none of those. He isn't Miller, but he is a guy who has been a starter and quality player for one of the best defenses in the league the past few years.
Is the 28-year-old also the right linebacker for the Giants to make a big-money investment in?