One of the most interesting decisions New York Giants general manager Joe Schoen has to make this offseason involves whether or not to try and bring free agent edge defender Lorenzo Carter back to the team in 2022.
Let’s dive into it.
2021 salary cap hit: $2.445 million
Making the case
This is a tough call. Do you put more weight on the 2018 third-round pick’s first 3½ NFL seasons, during which he looked like a player with immense physical gifts who wasn’t really able to use them to produce game-changing plays? Or, do put more weight on Carter’s final four games of 2021, easily the most productive stretch of his career? During that stretch he had all five of his 2021 sacks, including at least one in each game. He had six of his eight 2021 quarterback hits, five of his six tackles for loss, four of his five passes defensed and his only two forced fumbles of the season.
Do you look at those final four games and think they hinted that Carter, entering his fifth NFL season, is about to make a Shaq Barrett or Leonard Floyd-type leap?
Barrett, after compiling 14.0 sacks in four years with the Denver Broncos, went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019 and had 19.5. He has backed that up with 8.0 and 10.0 the past two seasons.
Floyd had 7.0 sacks as a rookie with the Chicago Bears, but only 18.5 total in four seasons of good but not top-tier play. He went to the Los Angeles Rams in 2020 and has had back-to-back outstanding seasons. He has totaled 20 sacks and those two seasons established career best for total pressures — 55 in 2020 and 73 in 2021.
The Giants have three second-year players on the edge. Azeez Ojulari was the team’s second-round pick and delivered 8.0 sacks. Ojulari’s pass rush win percentage of 9.9 percent was actually lower than Carter’s 11.7 percent, and 84th of 99 qualifying edge defenders charted by Pro Football Focus.
Smith was a fourth-round pick who barely played due to injuries. Roche was a sixth-round pick the Giants picked up after he was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He finished with 2.5 sacks and carved out a consistent role.
The Giants could use a dominant edge player, even though Don ‘Wink’ Martindale has historically been able to scheme pass rush pressure with good but not great individual rushers.
Carter has the versatility to rush, play the run and drop adequately into coverage that might fit nicely into Martindale’s defensive scheme.
The question becomes price. Is someone willing to overpay based on potential, based on Carter’s tantalizing athletic tools and the eye candy of that season-ending flourish?
If that is the case, the Giants probably can’t — and likely should not — go there. If they can get Carter to bet on himself, to take a one-year “prove it” deal for maybe $5 million or else I would be fine with roll of the dice.
How about you, Giants fans?