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Post-draft free agent options who could help the Giants

Ex-Giant Landon Collins among options worth considering

Washington Football Team v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Joe Schoen selected eleven new players in the 2022 NFL Draft to help shape the New York Giants roster. The first-year general manager traded back twice in the second round to the 114th and 147th selections in the 2023 draft, picks used on Iowa safety Dane Belton and Indiana linebacker Micah McFadden.

The 2022 Giants draft class had three investments in the offensive line, two linebackers, a budding star at EDGE, a shifty wide receiver, a tight end, a nose tackle, and two defensive backs. Schoen did a good job fortifying several holes on the roster, but further veteran depth should be explored.

The Giants added five veteran offensive linemen in free agency and a developmental tackle out of Nigeria - Roy Mbaeteka - from the International Player Program. Giants fans rejoiced with the attention devoted to adding depth along the offensive line before the three selections in the draft.

Wink Martindale added players with familiarity to assist his defense. Martindale signed nose tackle Justin Ellis to replace Danny Shelton and edge/defensive lineman Jihad Ward, who spent a season and a half in Baltimore with Martindale.

The Giants also added a competent backup quarterback in Tyrod Taylor; tight ends Jordan Akins, and Ricky Seals-Jones were also added to the roster. Undersized wide receiver Richie James and running backs Antonio Williams and Matt Brieda were skilled position additions added.

The Giants lost defensive tackle Austin Johnson, edge Lorenzo Carter, tight end Evan Engram, ytefas Jabrill Peppers, and guard Will Hernandez in free agency. The Giants also released safety Logan Ryan, tight end Kyle Rudolph, and running back Devontae Booker.

Including James Bradberry, the Giants currently have 83 players on the roster. The exceptional cornerback will likely be a cap casualty so the Giants can afford their rookie class. That will leave another hole in the secondary; Bradberry played 1,160 snaps last season, and Ryan played 1,003, ranking first and fourth on the team.

New York has little room for maneuverability, but I still expect them to add some veteran depth to help the roster. Here are some names to monitor.

Darrel Williams, RB

New York didn’t address the running back position in the draft like many anticipated, but there are still inexpensive productive backs on the free agent wire. Williams was a crucial part of the Chiefs’ offensive attack after Clyde Edwards-Helaire suffered an early injury in 2021.

Williams rushed for a career-high 558 yards; he wasn’t the most efficient with a 3.9 yards per carry mark, but his best work was at receiver. He caught 47 of 57 targets for 452 yards and two touchdowns, including a primetime Moss-style touchdown catch in the end zone to propel the Chiefs to victory over the Raiders.

Williams spent his entire NFL career with Giants’ offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. Even when the Chiefs running back room was healthy, Williams would earn snaps. He would be a perfect complement to Saquon Barkley with Matt Brieda as the change of pace back.

Anthony Barr, OLB

The former first-round pick by the Vikings in 2014 may not be willing to sign for a veteran minimum deal, but I have interest in the 6’5, 255-pound defender. Barr has the type of versatility that Martindale desires. He’s 30 years old now, and his best days are behind him, but he can be a good veteran leader on the Giants’ defense.

Barr had 13 pressures and three sacks on a one-year deal for Minnesota last season while also coming away with three interceptions. Martindale wants SAM linebackers who can physically play the run, blitz, and drop into coverage - Barr has plenty of experience with all three of those assignments.

He is very familiar with Giants’ defensive line coach Andre Patterson. The former Vikings’ coach raved about Barr’s leadership when Barr missed the first few weeks of the 2021 season.

“Anthony Barr’s leadership, calming influence in the huddle, and his ability, especially as a pass-rusher, are the three biggest things the Vikings will get back once he returns to the field” - KFAN.

Barr’s play is declining, but he could mentor and help guide young pass-rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari.

Kenny Young, LB

Young spent the 2021 season with the Los Angeles Rams before the eventual Super Bowl champions traded him to Denver for a pick exchange that saved the Rams $1.3 million against the cap. The Rams acquired Young from the Ravens in 2019.

Young was included in the Marcus Peters trade. He played two seasons with the Ravens and knows Martindale’s system. He’s athletic, young at 27-years-old, and has enough size at 6’1, 234-pounds. With two teams, he recorded 55 tackles, 30 STOPs, with only six missed tackles. His missed tackle rate is only 8.3 percent.

Jimmy Smith, CB

Smith is the first name that jumps out because of his experience playing with Wink Martindale. Smith was a first-round pick by the Ravens in 2011; he’s a 6’2, 210-pound 33-year-old safety with an injury-plagued past.

He only played 293 snaps last season for Baltimore. In the previous two seasons, Martindale started using Smith’s experience and declining athletic traits at safety. Smith played 89 snaps at free safety during the previous two seasons. Smith would be a depth move for familiarity purposes because his age and injury history would likely prevent him from being a full-time starter.

A.J. Bouye, CB

Bouye broke onto the NFL scene as an undrafted rookie for the Houston Texans back in 2013. Bouye signed a big deal with the Jaguars in 2017. He’s played for Denver and Carolina since 2017. He has man coverage upside at 30 years old.

Bouye’s had 16 passes defended, an interception, and five touchdowns surrendered in the last three years. He has played over 400 snaps in the last six consecutive seasons. Last season with Carolina, he predominantly played in the slot. I’m only interested in adding outside cornerback depth; if he can still do that at a solid level, I’m interested in Bouye on a veteran minimum deal.

Maurice Canady, CB

The 27-year-old 6’1, 193-pound defensive back played in Martindale’s system for a season and a half before joining the Jets and playing for the Dallas Cowboys last season. Canady has five passes defended, a pick, and two touchdowns surrendered in the previous two seasons. Canady can play inside the slot and outside at cornerback. He would be a depth addition, which still carries value.

Landon Collins, SAF

The Giants need safety help after Peppers and Ryan’s departure - could there be a reunion? Jerry Reese and the Giants traded up to the top of the second round of the 2015 draft to select Collins. He played four admirable seasons in New York and almost won defensive player of the year after an eight interception season in 2016.

His contract expired at the end of 2018, and the former regime allowed him to pursue a lucrative deal from Washington - which was the right move by Dave Gettleman, in my opinion. Collins signed a six-year, $84 million deal that was supposed to last through 2024, but he’s now available.

The three-time Pro Bowler struggled with injuries in Washington; the now 28-year-old tore his Achilles to end his 2020 season. He returned in 2021 and played adequately before suffering a foot injury in week 15 that landed him on injured reserve. He played 675 snaps in 2021 with 30 STOPs, 58 tackles, two picks, and two sacks.

Collins was never an uber athlete at safety, but a physical presence who can impose his will at the line of scrimmage. Martindale uses a lot of multi-safety looks and likes to align them near the line of scrimmage. Rookie Dane Belton can do that effectively, but I don’t hate the idea of adding Collins as a rotational piece in a now thin safety room.

Collins quibbled with Eli Apple while they were both in New York. Collins was one of the young leaders on the team, and he did call Apple a locker room cancer. I can’t speak to Collins’ leadership, but I haven’t heard many criticisms of Collins’ inability to mesh into a locker room. If he fits the Giants’ new culture, I would give him a shot to return to blue and earn snaps on a defense that uses various looks and body types.

Jaquiski Tartt, SAF

The 6’1, 215-pound safety finds himself on the free-agent wire after seven years in San Francisco. Tartt mostly played in zone-heavy schemes, and he’s coming off a down year where he missed 13.2% of his tackles with four penalties, but he’s 30 years old with a ton of experience.

He played 932 snaps last year for the 49ers. He landed on the injured reserve for four weeks in the middle of the season and returned for the playoff run. He famously dropped a would-be game-sealing interception in the NFC Championship game versus the Rams. Despite that ugly look, he’s a veteran presence who still has some football left.

Final thoughts

The Giants need secondary help. I am optimistic about the development of Aaron Robinson on the outside, but nothing is certain. If the Giants suffer one injury at safety or cornerback, they could be in significant trouble.

I wish there were more enticing options at safety, but I do like the idea of Collins at a low price. New York did a good job addressing their offensive issues through the offseason. With little money to spend, the focus should now be on the defensive holes.