New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman did a very good job with his 2020 free agent class. There’s an obvious question about the retention of the 69-year-old general manager, but Ed already dove into that in-depth last week. However, I believe it’s important to pursue the 2021 free agent class and find future potential Giants. It’s premature, but who’s harmed by staring into the crystal ball?
Earlier this week, The Athletic [subscription only] put together a list of the top 50 free agents potentially available this coming offseason. Let’s use that list to identify players who might help the 2021 Giants.
According to Spotrac.com, the Giants are estimated to have roughly $18 million to spend with an estimated $175 million cap, down from this season’s $198.2 million. There are a lot of difficult internal decisions that New York will have to make this offseason. Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, Logan Ryan, and Kyler Fackrell are all some of the potentially more expensive impending free agents on the team’s current roster.
The contracts of Nate Solder, Golden Tate, and potentially Kevin Zeitler may be deemed too expensive, which would provide the Giants with more money to spend in the immediate future. If all three of those contracts are terminated, and the Giants slap the franchise tag on either Tomlinson or Williams, they can still have upwards to $30 million in cap space, but I’m no capologist.
Either way, the Giants may find their way into upgrading some key positions this offseason. New York has more than just three needs, but I want to highlight three positions and some 2021 quality free agents who may be solid options for the Giants to pursue.
Bud Dupree, Pittsburgh
Dupree has progressed so much in the last two years as a pass rusher for the Steelers. The 6-foot-4, 269-pound, 27-year-old has 41 pressures and 9 sacks on the season, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s one of the best pursuit defenders in the league, and his hustle, athletic ability, hand strength, and ability to find the football are very good, and keep getting better. The trajectory of development for Dupree was slow, but has skyrocketed, and he’s going to land a massive deal after being franchise tagged by Pittsburgh in 2020. I think he would fit well as an OLB in Patrick Graham’s multiple defense. He can drop into coverage, rush the passer, and he’s solid at setting the edge as a contain defender. If he stays healthy, he’ll have his second double digit sack season in as many years.
Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay
Barrett is a 6-2, 250-pound, 28-year-old pass rusher who has 56 pressures in 2020. Despite only recording 4 sacks, he’s constantly putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Barrett is a solid run defender, and defensive Coordinator Todd Bowels drops him into coverage a handful of times a game, but his bread is buttered as a pass rusher on third down. The Giants wanted to make a run at Barrett in the 2020 free agent cycle, but the Buccaneers franchise tagged the talented pass rusher coming off a 20 sack season. Some people say 2019 was anomalous, but his 2020 start has been good. The presence of a true pass rushing edge like Barrett would make this defense better, especially if Williams and/or Tomlinson is retained.
Hassan Reddick, Arizona
Hassan Reddick and not some of these other pass rushers - WHAT?! Well, let me explain. Reddick has been misused and cycled through the systems of James Bettcher, Al Holcomb, and now Vance Joseph. Throughout his career, he’s played most of his snaps at off-ball linebacker where he struggled. Joseph is now using him predominantly as an EDGE rusher, and he’s having his best season. He’s recorded 5 sacks and 28 pressures alone on the season, most coming without star pass rusher Chandler Jones to draw double teams. I still contend that Reddick was overdrafted, mostly because of a superior Reese’s Senior Bowl outing and good combine, but I think he can be a cheap valuable player relative to other free agent signings.
He’s a hybrid defensive lineman and linebacker that hasn’t received great coaching in the NFL - sounds like someone Patrick Graham could maximize. He’s having his best season after his fifth-year option was declined, and the market should be significantly lesser for him in a pass rushing class that may consist of Yannick Ngaukue, Matthew Judon, Melvin Ingram, and the two pass rushers listed above. I believe Graham would put Reddick into the best position to succeed, and Reddick would be an excellent curl/flat defender for Cover 3, while also being a quality force player. He’s the cheaper option, but that may be the reality of the Giants’ 2021 free agent class.
Other players to consider:
Yannick Ngakoue, Baltimore - The Giants flirted with the idea of acquiring Ngakoue from the Jaguars, but it never materialized. Ngakoue was traded to the Vikings and then subsequently traded to Baltimore in a contract year while playing on the franchise tag. He wants a big contract, and while he has 45 career sacks at the age of 25, it may not be in the Giants’ best interest to invest massive money in a player that isn’t great against the run. His third down value can’t be understated, so he had to make this list in some capacity.
Matthew Judon, Baltimore - A big, heavy-handed 28-year-old pass rusher who has 35 sacks to his name. Judon fits in well with Wink Martindale’s heavy pressure scheme, and he’d have a place in Patrick Graham’s system as well. His physicality would be appreciated, and he has enough athletic ability to drop into the flats as a Cover 3 curl/hook defender to the boundary, albeit that’s not what you want a player like Judon doing too often. On the season, he has 31 pressures and 4 sacks. He’s looking for a big pay day after being franchise tagged last year.
Melvin Ingram, Chargers - An accomplished 31-year-old pass rusher who seems to be declining and can’t stay healthy. He’s played injured all season, and missed several games, but still recorded 28 pressures. If he wants a big pay day, then I’m out on Ingram, which is more than likely the scenario. I still wanted to mention the man who has 58 sacks to his name because he would be a great fit with Patrick Graham.
Allen Robinson, Chicago
Robinson just turned 27 and he continues to play with struggling quarterbacks who hold back his fantastic skill-set. The 6-3, 211-pound receiver would be a great addition as the “X” in Jason Garrett’s offense. His professional quarterbacks consist of Blake Bortles, Mitchell Trubisky, and Nick Foles. He’s still amassed 428 catches on 717 targets for 5,674 yards, and 37 touchdowns. He was reportedly disgruntled in the beginning of the season, due to the lack of a contract extension from Ryan Pace and the Bears. Robinson is one of the best contested catch receivers in the NFL, and he would work well with Daniel Jones.
Kenny Golladay, Detroit
He’s been struggling with injuries throughout 2020, and only has 20 catches for 338 yards and 2 touchdowns, but the impact he has when he’s healthy warrants respect. Golladay catches a high percentage of his passes and is a true deep threat. He’s been targeted 308 times and has caught 183 passes for 3,068 yards, and 21 touchdowns. His best season was in 2019 when he only had a healthy Matt Stafford for half a year. Even with the likes of David Blough and Jeff Driskel, Golladay was still able to finish with 1,190 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. The 6-4, 213-pound, 27-year-old would also be a great addition for Jones and the deep passing game of the 2021 Giants. The addition of Robinson or Golladay would would really make the Giants’ offense tough to defend, especially if Jones continues to progress and Saquon Barkley comes back healthy.
Corey Davis, Tennessee
The 25-year-old former top 5 selection in the 2017 draft did not have his fifth year option selected, which renders him a free agent. Davis would be a much cheaper option than Golladay and Robinson, but he still has upside, despite not having the career many envisioned. He played with a struggling Marcus Mariota and was the second, or arguably third, passing option for Ryan Tannehill on a run oriented offense. Davis is 6-3, 209 pounds, and has a solid overall skill-set. He’s caught 196 passes on 320 targets for 2,582 yards, and 12 touchdowns in his career. He’s progressed through his short career, but Tennessee is not the place to maximize his skills - can New York be?
Potential cheaper options -
Curtis Samuel, Carolina - A 25-year-old gadget type of player, who is having a good season at receiver. A backfield with Samuel and Barkley would be very entertaining and hard to defend. Can he reunite with Dave Gettleman in New York?
Sammy Watkins, Kansas City - Often injured, and underwhelming. He’s 28 and still has some talent that can be had on the cheap.
Josh Reynolds, LA Rams - Buried on the depth chart behind Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks for much of his career, but Reynolds was a stud at Texas A&M. If he’s let go by the Rams, he would be an excellent cheap signing by a savvy team.
William Jackson III, Cincinnati
He’s a long, fast cornerback who has been on a pretty bad defense for quite some time, albeit he’s flashed. Jackson had a very good rookie season in Paul Guenther’s zone-based defense. Since then, he’s played under two different defensive coordinators, one being former Giants’ defensive coach Lou Anarumo. He just turned 28 years old, and he’s had a solid career. He’s only allowed three touchdowns in his career, but only has one interception. He’s a big 6-foot, 196 pounds, and he plays a physical style of coverage. There should be a competitive market for Jackson. I think he would excel with the teaching defensive staff of Patrick Graham and Jerome Anderson, but he may be out of the Giants price range.
Shaquill Griffin, Seattle
The 25-year-old former third-round pick has had a somewhat up and down year. While he’s struggled with consistency, he also profiles as someone who can grow.
Much like Jackson, I feel Griffin would sbenefit from the coaching of the Giants’ staff. Griffin has surrendered a 67 percent catch rate, to Jackson’s 57 percent. Griffin has surrendered 5 touchdowns in his career, with 2 interceptions, so ball production isn’t exactly there. He’s a solid tackling corner who has been healthy most of his career until 2020 where he’s missed 4 games. He plays in a similar cover 3 type of defense with Seattle, and would be a welcomed addition to play opposite of James Bradberry ... but much like Jackson, his price range may be a bit much.
Patrick Peterson, Arizona
Peterson is now 31 years old, and it’s clear that his best days are behind him. With that said, he’s still playing at a quality level for Arizona and has done a good job against some of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Peterson is being trusted to guard number one wide receivers in man coverage, and isn’t doing that bad of a job. If he could be had on the cheap, he’d be a nice addition for Patrick Graham, and it would allow the Giants to play more man coverage. He won’t be expensive, but prying him away from Arizona may be challenging.
Other players to consider:
Michael Davis, LA Chargers - A 25-year-old, former undrafted free agent in 2017 who has done nothing but impress. He’s not a name that collects a lot of buzz, but watch out for him in free agency. He’s a long instinctive boundary corner, and I’ll be quite surprised if the Chargers let him leave the building, but he’s a very underrated player
Richard Sherman, San Francisco - He deals with a lot of nagging injuries in his age 32 season, but he’s still one of the smartest defensive backs in the game. He’s only played in one game this season for the 49ers, and he’s not the same cornerback as he once was, but he’d be an excellent addition as a second cornerback.
Chidobe Awuzie, Dallas - The 25-year-old was progressing nicely from 2018 into last season, before suffering a hamstring injury that landed him on the I.R. in 2020. He’s now activated and seeing the field. He has good size, is physical, and does an adequate job staying in phase in man coverage. This type of signing would be a cheap upgrade on the position, but Awuzie has yet to reach the potential he displayed at Colorado.