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NFL free agency: 5 cheaper EDGE players the Giants could pursue

The Giants might not have to spend big money to upgrade their pass rush

Jacksonville Jaguars v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

It’s no secret that the New York Giants need to upgrade their ability to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback. Defensive lineman Leonard Williams was able to harass opposing quarterbacks to the tune of 11.5 sacks, despite the fact that there were no viable EDGE players opposite of the impending free agent.

New York was hoping for breakout seasons from third-year and second-year pass rushers Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines - both were done for the season by week five. The inexorable consequence was street free agents and young players who filled in admirably next to Kyler Fackrell (who was injured for several games as well), but not enough to have consistent success in the playoffs.

Signing a top EDGE player is within the realm of possibility for New York, as is signing a top wide receiver. Retaining Leonard Williams and even Dalvin Tomlinson have to also factor into the equation, so allocating big money to an EDGE player may not be the solution. If the Giants don’t go down the avenue of signing Shaquil Barrett, Matt Judon, or Bud Dupree, then adding cheaper players and drafting EDGE talent has to be discussed. I’m all for bringing back Kyler Fackrell on a reasonable deal, but he’s not going to be included in this list.

Tanoh Kpassagnon, Kansas City Chiefs

Measurables for days: Kpassagnon is 6-foot-7, 289 pounds, has 35 ⅝” arms, and big 10 ⅝” hands. Here’s his spider chart:

Kpassagnon had 30 pressures last season and 2 sacks in a more situational role. He never really lived up to his second-round selection when he came out of Villanova, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have an important role for the Giants in sub-packages and on special teams. Kpassagnon’s 2019 was more productive; he had 40 pressures and 4 sacks for the Super Bowl champions. He’s also blocked a few kicks in his career. The addition would be cheap and I trust that Patrick Graham would put Kpassagnon into positions where he can leverage his gifts. I’m not saying he’d be a Pro Bowler, but I think it would be a wise cheap signing for the Giants.

Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Football Team

Kerrigan has been nothing but a nuisance for the New York Giants since he was drafted in the first round out of Purdue back in 2011. He’s been one of the more productive pass rushers over the last decade and I feel he’s been undervalued, as a whole, in terms of his ability to affect the game. However, that ability has faded a little bit recently.

Kerrigan has been in a situational role behind star pass rushers Montez Sweat and Chase Young. Kerrigan is coming off of a 5.5 sacks season, which honestly would be welcomed here in New York. He has 95.5 career sacks, but age is catching up to the 32-year-old. His snaps have decreased in half over the last two seasons, which I feel is a good thing. I would welcome Kerrigan as a third-down pass-rushing specialist on a cheap deal. I don’t want him defending the run. One issue with adding Kerrigan is the lack of versatility; if the Giants add him to the roster, it limits their ability to defend the run in their manner, and he’s not ideal as a flat coverage defender. The Giants can work around this and, at the right price, Kerrigan could be a good addition to help bolster this pass rush next to a, hopefully, newly-signed Leonard Williams.

Dawuane Smoot, Jacksonville Jaguars

He’s not well known, but the former third-round pick out of Illinois had some quality production for the Jaguars. Smoot is coming off a 32-pressure, 5.5 sack, 5 tackles for loss season. Smoot is 6-3, 264 pounds and has lined up on both sides of the line. It took some time for Smoot to develop - he had zero sacks in his first two seasons, but he’s second on the team in sacks over the past two years. He had 6 sacks in 2019.

The 5.5-sack total for an EDGE is modest, but it was 30 percent of Jacksonville’s sacks; that’s right, the Jaguars had 18 sacks in 2020 and Smoot had several more than any other player. He built on his 2019 season and had a good 2020 campaign on a bad team. He just turned 26 years old and I think his best football is ahead of him. Smoot shouldn’t garner a lot of eyeballs on the open market, but he could be a sneaky addition for the Giants.

Samson Ebukam, Los Angeles Rams

Ebukam has been a consistent contributor on the Rams defense since he was drafted in the fourth round out of Eastern Washington. He’s a bit undersized, but he’s had 14 sacks in four seasons. Ebukam is still only 25 years old and could be a solid situational pass rusher for the Giants. He’s coming off a 20-pressure, 4.5-sack season. There’s a lot to like about Ebukam’s athletic profile, and one could argue that he hasn’t scratched his ceiling quite yet. On a reasonable short-term deal, a deal could benefit both parties.

Vince Biegel, Miami

The 27-year-old Biegel was traded to the Dolphins at the beginning of the 2019 season where he played a full year under Patrick Graham. Biegel had his best season by far in Graham’s defense. He recorded 34 pressures, 2.5 sacks, and 7 tackles for a loss under Graham’s tutelage. From what I’ve seen, I like the way Biegel plays football. He always competes, never gives up, and has some impressive footwork/speed at the line of scrimmage.

Biegel would no doubt come cheap. He’s 6-3, 246 pounds, and he can hold up solidly as an edge setter. The problem is Biegel suffered an Achilles tear in training camp and missed the entire 2020 season. New York already has an EDGE player coming back from an Achilles injury. Would they want to allocate funds, albeit inexpensive funds, to a player like Biegel in an effort to upgrade the EDGE position?

Honorable mention: Deatrich Wise Jr. (New England), Aldon Smith (Dallas), Jordan Jenkins (New York Jets), Tarell Basham (New York Jets), and Jeremiah Attaochu (Denver)