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Could Anthony Barr provide some firepower to the Giants linebacker unit?

The Vikings linebacker was once a popular pick for the Giants during the 2014 mock draft season. Might New York circle back and finally add him to their defensive core?

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants finally showed some love to their linebacker unit last year, drafting edge player Lorenzo Carter, trading for Alec Ogletree and signing Kareem Martin under new defensive coordinator James Bettcher, but despite the overhaul, the unit still has a ways to go before laying claim to being one of the best in the NFL.

Per, the Giants linebackers didn’t even garner so much as an honorable mention for being among the league’s best units last year. According to Football Outsiders. the Giants finished 18th in covering tight ends, a role usually handled by the linebackers.

And other than for Ogletree’s five interceptions, game-changing plays made by the linebackers have been few and far in between in recent years to where adding more firepower on this unit probably wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

This year’s draft class is said to be dripping with defensive pass rushers, including edge players. But edge players usually get snapped up quickly, so would the quarterback and offensive tackle needy Giants opt instead to pour additional (and significant) funds into a player such as Minnesota’s Anthony Barr?

The basics

Age: 27 in March
Height: 6-foot-5 | Weight: 255
Experience: 5
2018 cap hit: $12.306 million
2018 stats: Games started (13) | Tackles (55) | Sacks (3)

Pro Football Focus: Overall grade (71.4) | Run defense (74.7) | Tackling (81.1) | Pass rush (79.7) | Pass coverage (59.9)

Barr missed three games in 2018 due to a hamstring strain. While his total tackles (55) suffered, he still managed to record 3.0 sacks, his third-highest career total, as he rebounded back from two seasons in which his Pro Football Focus overall grade dropped significantly across the board.

Still, the Vikings don’t appear to be in any hurry to re-sign their first round pick from 2014, though the Star Tribune notes that the franchise tag could still be in play for the four-time Pro Bowler, who, by the way, is part of a linebacker unit that at the start of the 2018 NFL season listed as the sixth best unit in the league.

The skinny

After playing about 880 snaps in each of his first two seasons, Barr’s snaps rose significantly in 2016 (1,025) and 2017 (1,050), his production dropping in the process. In 2018, the Vikings cut back on his workload, giving him 810 snaps, which aligns with his first two seasons in which he was more productive.

Of course, how much of that reduction in snaps was due to him missing games with a hamstring injury is up for debate, but by cutting back on Barr’s workload, the Vikings got a little more consistent production, including 3.0 sacks, matching his totals from the last two seasons, and a forced fumble (after being shut out in this department in 2017).

Of concern with Barr’s 2018 showing is the slippage in his coverage abilities. He recorded a career-low two passes defensed after recording 17 in the last three seasons. And ever since grading out at 90.4 in 2015, his best season as a pro, in coverage, Barr’s coverage grades have slipped.

Where Barr could definitely help the Giants, though, is with their pass rush. Per Pro Football Focus, Barr’s 13.8 pass-rush productivity score led the Vikings linebackers last season as did his 3.0 sacks. Barr is versatile enough to rush from either side, though he recorded most of his production from the right side.

Barr has also done a good job of cutting down his missed tackles, going from a career-high 21 in 2014 to a career-low four in 2018.

With all that said, Barr’s price tag as a veteran player might be cost-prohibitive to a Giants team that has so many other needs to address and which can always tap into the draft pool to add defensive help at linebacker.