The conference championships are here and we get to finally witness a playoff bout on Sunday between Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. We also get to see two of the game’s youngest, and most exciting, arm talents battle it out for the AFC crown. These two matchups should make for a very fun day of football. As we enjoy the games, we should also pay attention to some key players who may be available in free agency for the New York Giants. There will be several impending free agents possibly donning their current teams’ jerseys for the last time. Some of these free agents could be targets for Dave Gettleman and the Giants’ front office for one reason or another. Here’s a list of some free agents that will be playing Sunday, and why they may be a target for the New York Giants in free agency:
Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Bucs
It’s a loaded 2021 wide receiving draft class and it’s a loaded free agency cycle as well. Godwin joins Kenny Golladay, Allen Robinson, Corey Davis, and fellow teammate Antonio Brown on the market. Godwin plays most of the snaps in the slot (467 this season), but he is capable of playing on the boundary (301 snaps this season) and he would if he signed with the Giants.
Godwin played through hamstring and finger injuries for most of the season. He still had 74 catches on 101 targets for 953 yards and 8 touchdowns. He only broke 100 yards once and never had double-digit catches in a game, which is not necessarily a referendum on Godwin - he’s in an offense with Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski.
At only 24 years of age, Godwin should be a hot commodity this spring, if the Buccaneers allow him to hit the market which is a big “if.” If the Giants were to add a receiver, I wouldn’t have an issue if Godwin was the selection because he’s just a good football player, although my number one target would probably be Allen Robinson. Nevertheless, after a disappointing game in New Orleans, and a five-drop wild card performance vs. Washington, Godwin should be poised to have a bounce-back game in the tundra known as Lambeau Field.
Shaq Barrett, Edge, Tampa Bay Bucs
The Tampa Bay pass rusher has amassed 27.5 sacks over the past two seasons and is coming off an eight-sack 2020 season. Barrett’s name was loosely linked to the Giants last offseason when he was a free agent, but the Buccaneers slapped the franchise tag on the edge rusher.
Barrett has recorded 41.5 sacks and 55 tackles for a loss in his career. Before arriving in Tampa Bay, Barrett was a situational pass rusher for the Broncos behind Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. It’s safe to say he’s been excellent in his two seasons with the Buccaneers in Todd Bowles’ defense.
In 2020, several edge rushers were franchise tagged by their respective teams; the Ravens’ Matt Judon, the Jaguars’ (now Ravens) Yannick Ngakoue, and the Steelers’ Bud Dupree (tore his ACL this season) all join Barrett as free agents in the 2021 cycle. It’s difficult to say what contract Barrett may earn with the unique situation of the 2021 salary cap, but premium edge rushers aren’t easy to find (see Giants for the last several years). he’s certainly a name to monitor, so, if you’re interested, pay attention to No. 58 on Sunday.
Matt Milano, LB, Buffalo Bills
Since returning from a pectoral strain in Week 13, Milano has established himself as one of the more interesting defensive free agents in the 2021 cycle. Milano is undersized (6-foot, 223 pounds), but he processes the game very well, flies around like his hair is on fire, and he puts pressure on the quarterback in Sean McDermott’s blitzing packages.
Milano would be a good fit with the Giants as a WILL linebacker next to Blake Martinez. I don’t envision this happening due to salary constraints, and the fact that the Giants drafted four linebacker types in last year’s draft, but he’s still an interesting name to monitor. Milano has 273 total tackles, 30 for a loss, 6 sacks, 5 interceptions, and 21 passes defended in four seasons with Buffalo.
Daryl Williams, OT, Buffalo
The Buffalo Bills’ right tackle is a 28-year-old impending free agent who was selected by Dave Gettleman in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Williams has become an above-average tackle and is having his best season in Brian Daboll’s offense. The third-round selection of Matt Peart, and the return of Nate Solder, suggest that a higher-priced free agent at tackle may not make the most sense.
I would say it’s unlikely, but that also depends on how the Giants view Peart and Solder. Peart struggled, understandably, down the stretch of the season and was benched from his normal role. Solder opted out of the season and is now likely to remain on the roster through 2021 due to his contract rolling to the subsequent season at the opt-out. If there are doubts about these two players, and Gettleman’s affinity from the 2015 draft remains, then it wouldn’t be shocking, but I would still say it’s probably not going to happen for Williams.
Kevin King, CB, Green Bay Packers
The 2017 second-round selection out of Washington is a cornerback with the desirable measurables. He’s 6-3 (98th percentile) 200 pounds (78th percentile), with 32-inch arms (72nd percentile), and he plays long as well. Nagging injuries have been an issue for King throughout his career. King can jam and he plays zone coverage well. He’s not the most fluid in man coverage, especially against horizontal routes.
He could also be better at the line of scrimmage maximizing his length. Despite those struggles, his name should still be considered. He’s 26 and he had an impressive 2019 season when he played 15 games, had 5 interceptions, and 15 passes defended. The second cornerback position remains a question mark heading into next season. He’s currently questionable against the Buccaneers, but I still feel his name is worth mentioning.
Tanoh Kpassagnon, Edge, Kansas City Cheifs
Kpassagnon has freakish measurables.
He was a second-round pick out of Villanova back in 2017. He’s still very raw and has not mastered the nuances of playing edge, but those measurables are attractive. He’s coming off of a one-sack season where he had 26 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. In his career, Kpassagnon has 9 sacks, 83 pressures, and 49 STOPS (a stat PFF uses to infer negative offensive plays at the line of scrimmage).
He would be a really fun sub-package player for Patrick Graham to use while also being a key contributor on special teams. Kpassagnon may not command much on the market and the Giants could sign him and still pursue a more equipped edge rusher in the draft or free agency. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Giants show interest in Kpassagnon if Andy Reid lets him walk away from Kansas City.
Steve McLendon, DT, Tampa Bay Bucs
I get it - he’s 35, but the Giants are to have some impending difficult decisions regarding the defensive tackle position. Both Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson are set to be free agents and the retention of both is not certain. They’re both different players, with different skill-sets, but Williams has much more pass-rushing upside on a team that needs pass rushers. Williams is coming off of the franchise tag and just strung together an 11.5-sack season - he’s going to get paid. As for Tomlinson, I’m hoping he’s retained, but that may be difficult, and that brings us to Steve McLendon.
The longtime Steeler, Jet, and now Tampa Bay Buccaneer is an older asset, but he’s still effective as a nose tackle that runs some two gapping concepts. McLendon was traded from the Jets to the Buccaneers after Week 6 this season. Let us not misconstrue what I am saying; McLendon would be a step down from Tomlinson, but they’re similar types of players in terms of roles.
McLendon is an experienced nose tackle who rarely misses snaps and can excel as a run defender. He would allow the Giants to continue playing BEAR fronts on early downs with Dexter Lawerence and either B.J. Hill or Leonard Williams playing as the 3-techniques/4i-techniques (Williams sometimes lines up as an EDGE in these situations). He sounds like a guy that would interest Dave Gettleman if the Giants do part ways with Dalvin Tomlinson. Star defensive tackle Vita Vea is set to return for the Buccaneers, so McLendon may be in a more limited role - he played 23 snaps last week without Vea.
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Green Bay Packers
No, Big Blue View readers ... I am not trying to secure some type of rewards benefits for the Giants with AARP. I am simply trying to find good fits for Big Blue that can help them win in 2021. The Giants have Levine Toilolo for another season, but it’s fair to say that he didn’t exactly live up to his blocking reputation - I don’t think that would be the case for the 36-year-old Lewis.
Lewis is one of the best run-blocking tight ends in the NFL. Watch No. 89 constantly sealing the edge on outside runs for Aaron Jones and company on Sunday. Jason Garrett has an affinity for heavier personnel and establishing a running game and I don’t worry about Lewis transitioning into more of a power/gap type of system; he’s big, physical, and a pro’s pro. He’s not only an excellent run blocker, but he’s truly heralded by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay locker room for his leadership and character. I honestly think he would be a nice addition to the 2021 Giants.