The general reaction from New York Giants fans, if they reacted at all to the signing of a linebacker they barely knew anything about, when the Giants signed David Mayo before Week 1 of the 2019 season went something like this:
“Another Carolina Panthers reject? What the bleep is Dave Gettleman doing? Can we sign some guys who didn’t play for Carolina or Arizona? Please?”
Think I’m exaggerating? Check the comments in here.
Anyway, moving on from B.J. Goodson and signing Mayo proved to be prescient. Goodson ended up as a part-time player with the Packers, playing only 254 snaps, and has now moved on to the Cleveland Browns.
Mayo, after four years in Carolina being the odd man out with a linebacking corps that included Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson, then surprisingly being cut at the end of preseason by the San Francisco 49ers, had a career year for the Giants.
He took over as a starter when Ryan Connelly was lost for the season. He had career highs in starts (13, after only four in his first four seasons), snaps played (632, 57 percent of the Giants defensive snaps), tackles (82) and got the first two sacks of his career. Mayo (90.1) was the Giants’ highest-graded run defender, per Pro Football Focus. He finished second on the team in stops with 37, only two behind Markus Golden despite playing nearly 300 fewer snaps.
Headed back to free agency after his 2019 stint with the Giants that was the perfect time for Mayo, who turns 27 in August, to prove that he could be more than a special teams player.
Mayo told me at the end of last season that returning to the Giants was his first choice. That, of course, came to pass as the Giants signed Mayo to a three-year, $8.4 million contract with $3.5 million guaranteed.
A fifth-round pick by Dave Gettleman in the 2015 NFL Draft, Mayo told me by phone recently that he “just loved” everything about the Giants’ organization.
“I’m really excited. I wanted to be back and we got a deal before free agency, so I’m happy I didn’t have to deal with that,” Mayo said. “Most importantly I’m just happy to be back with the Giants. I’m excited for the upcoming season.”
Mayo is currently stuck at home in Texas with his wife Jordan, 2-year-old son Elijah, and 2-week-old daughter, Everly. That puts him on diaper duty as he, like the rest of us, deals with the interruption and uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Mayo is anxious to get back to normal training and to getting to work with his new teammates and coaching staff to improve a defense that wasn’t good enough in 2019.
“We’re all kind of figuring this out as we go. Nobody planned for this, obviously. I don’t think there’s an end date in sight, so I don’t know how it’s going to pan out,” Mayo said. “We have a new coaching staff and we’ll have a new system. We’ll have a lot to catch up on. I don’t know what to expect now. It’s kind of weird.”
Weird, and difficult.
“The OTA period being delayed, that’s kind of a bummer,” Mayo said. “Even if you have the trainers and training facility it’s hard to replicate football. Delaying our spring practice, OTAs, all that stuff if it goes a lot further that’s going to be a real bummer. That’s when you get to work on individual stuff and, for us, learning a new defense, of course. It’s tough, but it’s tough for guys all across the league, obviously.”
One thing Mayo does know for certain is that he is happy the Giants signed James Bradberry. The Giants, of course, signed the former Panther to a three-year, $43.5 million, hoping to make him the centerpiece of their defensive rebuild. Mayo and Bradberry were teammates for three seasons in Carolina.
“I thought that was a huge find. I was so happy we got him because he’s a pro’s pro. He puts his head down, he works. He’s pretty quiet, but not shy. He’s just kind of a quieter guy, but he’s an outstanding football player. I’m excited to play with him again,” Mayo said.
“He’s extremely underrated. Maybe he doesn’t have some of the flashy stats throughout his career, but, man, he would lock dudes down. He’s going against NFC South receivers (Mike Evans, Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Chris Godwin).”
Mayo said Bradberry will be a good influence on the Giants’ young cornerbacks.
“I think when he comes in and shows the way he works, his professionalism, I think it’s only going to make them [the young CBs] better,” Mayo said.