The New York Giants invested valuable assets into their edge position over the last two NFL drafts. Big Blue choose Azeez Ojulari in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft before selecting Kayvon Thibodeaux as the fifth overall pick in the subsequent draft. Despite the attention to the position, the Giants still need assistance on the edge.
Elerson Smith and Ojulari have both struggled with health. Tomon Fox was a solid rotational piece as an undrafted free agent, but one who is replaceable, and Oshane Ximines and Jihad Ward are currently slated to be free agents.
The youth movement at edge is exciting and was overdue. Still, the importance of Jihad Ward as a leader was essential to the makeup of the Giants’ locker room at that position. With the futures of Ximines and Ward undetermined, 22-year-old Ojulari is the most experienced edge defender with Fox being the oldest at 24 years old.
Which brings us to free agent Tanoah Kpassagnon.
Age: 29 in the 2023 season
Height: 6-foot-7 | Weight: 289
Experience: 6 seasons
2022 stats: 15 games | Tackles: (22) | Tackles for a loss: (3) | Stops: (9) | Pressures (16) | Sacks: (2.0) Missed tackles (3, 10.7 percent)
Kpassgnon has rare size and length for the edge position. He has a solid first step but isn’t a bender in his lower half. He spent his first four years with the Kansas City Chiefs, where Andy Reid spent a second-round pick on the raw Villanova product in 2017. He was a part of the Super Bowl LIV victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
He spent the last two seasons with the New Orleans Saints after signing a two-year, $4.5 million contract. He recorded 32 pressures and six sacks on 576 total snaps through two seasons with New Orleans. A nagging calf injury, followed by an ankle injury, held Kpassgnon to eight appearances in 2021 - he only played 220 snaps that season.
The 6-foot-7 Kpassagnon was healthy in 2022 but played a rotational role for Dennis Allen’s defense. The addition of Kpassgnon would attempt to supplement the potential loss of Jihad Ward - a 6-5, 287-pound EDGE rusher. I deliberately use the term ‘attempt’ because I’m not certain Kpassgnon would be an upgrade over Ward.
Ward played 740 snaps in a familiar defense for the Giants in 2022. He had 24 pressures, and three sacks, while acting as a solid strong-side EDGE rusher on early downs until Kayvon Thibodeaux was able to assume that role more full-time. Kpassagnon is longer, bigger, and maybe a tad more explosive, albeit their athletic profiles are similar.
Both Ward and Kpassgnon have the upside to be kicked inside for passing situations, although neither are dynamic pass rushers. Ward’s role was important for the Giants, who must add edge depth this offseason. If the Giants decide to move on from Ward, Kpassgnon is a solid lateral-type replacement who can fill a role for the Giants’ defense.
Kpassgnon has never played more than 70 percent of defensive snaps throughout his career. Last year, he played 36 percent and his highest percentage played was the year the Chiefs won the Super Bowl (2020) where he was on the field for 67 percent of snaps. Ward also has never played 70 percent of snaps; in 2022, he played on 58 percent of the Giants' snaps, the second-highest amount of his career.
If it came down to Kpassgnon or Ward, I lean toward the latter because of his infectious personality and what that meant for this young defense.
If the Giants were interested in Kpassgnon, he would likely earn no more than the average annual value of his last contract, which was $2.25 million; his next contract should be less than that after two modest seasons in New Orleans.