While most of the attention early in the Giants offseason will be fixed on contract extensions for Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkey, we know the Giants have a long list of unrestricted free agents beyond those two.
PFF recently published an article listing one free agent each team could not afford to lose, and it may surprise some that the player they chose for the Giants was Julian Love.
I believe retaining Daniel Jones is essential -- no position is more important than quarterback. But I share the view that the Giants must retain Love. Here's why:
Love embodied what Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll want in their players: smart, tough, dependable. They've preached it over and over again.
Love was as dependable as any Giant this year. He led all Giants in total snaps with 1229 -- more than 100 more than the next guy, Andrew Thomas. He was also fourth in special teams snaps on the team despite starting every game.
As has been the case throughout his career, Love is versatile. As PFF writes:
"Love earned a career-high 71.5 coverage grade in 2022 and lined up everywhere, with 271 snaps down in the box, 154 in the slot and 494 at free safety. He’s a Swiss Army knife on the backend who rarely misses a tackle. Among 43 safeties with at least 150 tackles over the past three seasons, Love’s 13 missed tackles are the second fewest."
NFL defenses increasingly live in subpackages with five, six, even seven defensive backs on the field to defend the pass.
More and more, teams are playing with a third safety on the field, or a "big nickel", so they have a body type out there who can play in coverage, but also fit the run. Love fits that mold.
Beyond his play on the field, Love became a captain in 2022, stepping up as a leader after Logan Ryan was released, and again after Xavier McKinney missed extensive time following his ATV injury.
He also took over as defensive signal caller in McKinney's absence.
Schoen and Daboll will prioritize taking care of their own guys and Love is on the shortlist of players we know they want to bring back. The Giants had extension talks with Love during the bye week but were unable to get a deal done. At his end of the season, Schoen said:
"Julian knows how we feel about him. We had a good exit interview with him yesterday. Again, as we start to get into the offseason planning, we’ll talk to the coaches. We’ll see where he fits in. And if we can get something done, that’ll be good."
The value of retaining Love goes beyond what he does on the field. Schoen wants to send a signal to the entire locker room about what type of player and person gets rewarded.
Love is the perfect exemplar of everything they want in a player: a captain, a leader, and a professional on and off the field. That's why they need to bring him back.