So far things have been a curious mix of busy and quiet for the New York Giants in free agency.
They haven’t been silent, placing the franchise tag on Leonard Williams, placing a second-round tender on Aldrick Rosas, signing (in principle) cornerback James Bradberry, linebacker Blake Martinez, and tight end Levine Toilolo.
But these moves haven’t been the needle-moving splash plays many expected from the Giants with over $75 million in cap space entering free agency. And as the hours wind down until the new league year officially opens, there is one area on the defense that still needs attention.
The Giants have yet to address the EDGE position, and it seems as though they are not in the market to pay Jadeveon Clowney $20 million, or more, per year.
So then, who could be some other options at the next tier of pass rushers who could help the Giants?
Dante Fowler Jr. (Los Angeles Rams)
Fowler is coming off of the best year of his career after being a non-factor for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Fowler posted 11.5 sacks, 16 tackles for a loss, 16 quarterback hits, and 35 quarterback hurries in 2019. While he certainly benefited from teams doing whatever they could to try and slow down Aaron Donald, it should also be noted that this was Fowler’s first full year in a 3-4 defense and it seemed like a perfect match. The 25-year-old posted a strong 22.5 percent pass rush win rate, and won 17.6 percent of his rushes when double-teamed, fourth-best in the NFL per ESPN.
(Note: Pass rush win rate is measured using the NFL’s player tracking data. A “win” is charted when a pass rusher beats a pass blocker in 2.5 seconds or less.)
Vic Beasley (Atlanta Falcons)
Beasley is another player who simply did not live up to his draft pedigree for his original team. Beasley had a great sophomore year back in 2016, but has never come close to replicating that. At 27 he is still in his athletic prime, and Beasley has some upside with eight sacks, 12 quarterback hits, and a 19.7 percent pass rush win rate. Like Fowler, he might fare better in a scheme that will let him play more of an outside linebacker role. Likewise, Falcons’ fans have been crying out for defensive tackle help, and that is one thing the Giants have in spades on their defense. Perhaps a strong interior defensive line could help Beasley get back to something like that 15.5-sack season.
Devon Kennard (Detroit Lions)
A familiar name, Kennard was originally drafted by the Giants back in 2014, but was allowed to leave via free agency after the 2017 season. Signed by the Detroit Lions, Kennard has notched 7.0 sacks and 9.0 tackles for a loss each of the last two years, with 14 quarterback hits (25 pressures) in 2018 and 15 QB hits (30 pressures) in 2019.
Note: It was originally reported that Kennard was released Tuesday afternoon. However, it seems as though the Lions are attempting to find a trade partner.
A slight plot twist: The #Lions are having conversations with teams about trading Kennard. He’ll be on the move, but it could be in a trade. https://t.co/OTyg8rZkuG— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 17, 2020
Assuming he is released, Kennard wouldn’t count against the Giants’ future compensatory picks.
Leonard Floyd (Chicago Bears)
Floyd was released Tuesday after the Bears signed Robert Quinn. Floyd was widely seen as a target of the Giants in the 2016 NFL Draft, until the Bears traded up to draft him ahead of the Giants. A long, athletic linebacker, it was expected that Floyd’s tools could be molded into a full-time EDGE player, but that never came to be. He is long, athletic, and a solid player on the defensive side of the ball, but much more of a “Swiss Army Knife” than a true EDGE. But his versatility could still have a use on a multiple defense.