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Should the Giants pursue DT Kawann Short?

Short spent the last eight seasons with the Carolina Panthers

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers released two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kawann Short after eight seasons, the team announced Tuesday.

Short has spent his entire NFL career in Carolina. He impressed early in his tenure, reaching two Pro Bowls in his first six seasons and earning a five-year contract extension in 2017. But after making his second Pro Bowl appearance in 2018, Short has played in just five games over the past two seasons due to recurring shoulder issues.

The Panthers, feeling the pressure of the lower projected cap due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, chose to part ways with Short and take on the $11 million in dead cap. Now as a 32-year-old free agent, Short will have to take less money than he was due in Carolina if he wants to play for a new team.

That brings us to the pressing question: Should the Giants be interested in Short?

An important positive to Short is his connection to Giants general manager Dave Gettleman. When Short was drafted back in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, he became a member of then-Panthers GM Dave Gettleman’s first draft class - a year in which Gettleman invested heavily in the defensive front. There is therefore a shared history between Gettleman and Short.

Gettleman is an important factor to consider as he enters his fourth year with the Giants. In each of his first three seasons in New York, the Giants have never tallied more than six wins. Gettleman is under pressure to get the Giants back to their winning ways - and fast.

That being said, the Giants’ defensive line was arguably the biggest strength of the team in terms of their production and impact last season. The Giants were 12th in the league in yards allowed per game with 349.3 and 10th in rushing yards allowed per game with 111.4. New York’s defense, highlighted by the defensive line, was often the reason the Giants remained competitive in games.

With the growing success and momentum of the Giants’ defensive line, it could therefore be risky to introduce a new player into the mix. The current line of Dalvin Tomlinson, Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence has developed a clear chemistry and cohesion on the field.

Tomlinson and Williams are set to become free agents, meaning Short could step in as a potential replacement. Williams, who played on the franchise tag last season, will draw attention when he hits the open market. He posted career highs in quarterback hits with 30 and sacks with 11.5 last season, the latter the first double-digit sack season of his career and a big jump from the half-sack he recorded in 2019. For these reasons, Williams will be costly, regardless of whether or not the Giants decide to keep him or not.

Salary cap is important to keep in mind as it is projected to be lower this upcoming season. Based off a projected cap space of $180.5 million per Over the Cap, the Giants are 20th in the league with $1.3 million in cap space available. Their salary cap position could be worse, but it is still tight.

For this reason, Short might be worth pursuing because he could be a cheaper alternative to Tomlinson.

Again though, Tomlinson had a very strong 2020 campaign. He recorded career-highs in tackles for loss with 21 and quarterback hits with 20. He matched his career high in sacks with 3.5, which was first set in 2019. He is also 26 years old compared to Short’s 32.

So should Tomlinson, a young player who seems to be trending up in his career, be replaced by Short?

When Short was healthy, he was one of the most prolific players for the Panthers on defense. He has recorded 280 combined tackles, including 167 solo, 32.5 sacks and 88 quarterback hits in his eight seasons in the league. But he has only played in five games in the last two seasons. Pursuing Short means betting on his past talent as opposed to recent success, which can be risky.

For me, Tomlinson has made an impact on the Giants defense that goes beyond the numbers. Not only has he put up prolific stats, but he showed strength as the line’s nose tackle by drawing multiple blockers on each play. He is a major part of what has made the Giants’ defensive line successful and I do not see a reason to mess with that at this point.

If salary cap becomes an issue though, Short’s injuries will lower his salary considerably, making him a strong, cheaper alternative. But I think the Giants would be wise to bet on one of their own when it comes to their already-strong defensive line.