To say the New York Giants had a glaring hole at linebacker is a true understatement, but how does Giants’ general manager Joe Schoen rectify the situation?
Schoen certainly has his work cut out for him, with depth concerns throughout the entire roster. Building through the draft will always be the priority for the Giants under Schoen, and they currently have 11 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. Supplementing the roster through free agency is secondary, but should the Giants look to place a tourniquet on one of their biggest issues at linebacker?
Let’s explore Tremaine Edmunds from every angle.
Age: 25 in the 2023 season
Height: 6-foot-5 | Weight: 250
Position: Inside Linebacker
Experience: 5 seasons
2022 stats: 15 games | Tackles: (102) | Tackles for a loss: (6) | Stops: (42) | Pressures (10) | Sacks: (1.0) | Interceptions: (1) | Passes defended: (10) | Reception percentage: (68.7 percent) | Missed tackles (10, 7.7 percent)
Edmunds is a unique middle linebacker with rare length and experience for his young age. At the time of the 2018 NFL Draft, Edmunds was the second-youngest player ever selected at 19 years, 11 months, 24 days old. The Buffalo Bills exercised his fifth-year option, and he is scheduled to be a free agent this March. The Bills may not be able to afford Edmunds after resigning linebacker Matt Milano to a four-year $41 million contract last offseason.
Schoen’s first draft as Brandon Beane’s right-hand man was in 2018, where the Bills selected quarterback Josh Allen at No. 7 and Edmunds at No. 16.
Schoen has stressed the importance of keeping players in-house. One of his primary reasons is that he understands how the player works and approaches the game. Schoen spent four years in Buffalo with Edmunds, so he and head Brian Daboll know Edmunds’ work ethic.
As a player, Edmunds is long, physical, and an athletic solid tackler. He has a career missed tackle rate of 11.1 percent; for reference, Tae Crowder missed 23.7 percent of his tackles in 2022. Edmunds’ role in Leslie Frazier’s defense allowed him to play both man and zone (the Bills ran Cover-1 on 19.8 percent of snaps), albeit the defense was primarily zone coverage.
He’s not 49ers LB Fred Warner, but he’s fluid enough to carry the No. 3 or tight end up the seam; he did so in Frazier’s defense. He also has experience aligning on the line of scrimmage and bailing to a deep middle hook in Tampa 2.
The prior relationship (if positive) and the glaring need at linebacker for the Giants signifies presumed interest, but the Giants have many questions about their own free agents that must be answered.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Giants are set to have $44.5 million in cap space. They’ll likely make moves to free up space, but contracts to quarterback Daniel Jones, running back Saquon Barkley, and maybe safety Julian Love will absorb some of the space.
Edmunds is entering the prime of his career about to sign his first non-rookie deal. I’m not certain if he’ll reset the linebacker market like Baltimore’s Roquan Smith, who makes top-linebacker dollars with his newly inked five-year, $100 million contract with $45 million guaranteed. Still, I’d imagine Edmunds’ deal won’t be far off.
Spotrac estimates Edmunds’ market value at four years, $44.035 million, or $11 million per year.
Here are the top linebacker contracts, according to OverTheCap.com:
Even if it’s on the cheaper side for Edmunds, he’s looking at a Foyesade Oluokun-type deal, which was signed last offseason by the Jaguars with a $17 million average annual value. I expect Edmunds to garner more than that on the open market, and that's likely out of the Giants' price range.
I think Edmunds is an interesting name. He’s smart, tough, and dependable. He’s played in over 900 defensive snaps in all five seasons for the Bills. He makes sense for a lot of reasons for New York. Still, it’s a money-driven league, and the Giants have holes on this roster.
Adding Edmunds is not completely impossible, but the Giants will have to get creative. Leonard Williams is set to make $32 million dollars next season (yeah, you read that correctly). It’s the third-highest non-quarterback contract in the NFL. Big Blue is set to pay a wide receiver they don’t use $21.4 million; he may likely be released, but that leads to dead cap down the road.
The Giants could structure the contract to kick money to the backend of his deal, allowing more operating space in the immediate. Schoen voiced concerns for that in the past, but maybe Edmunds’ age might allow him to permute his idealistic approach. Or maybe Edmunds is just too pricey for the 2023 New York Giants. Either way, he’s an interesting name to monitor before the 2023 NFL free agency period.