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Can Alex Anzalone help the Giants’ linebacking corps?

Let’s talk about another free agent linebacker

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The New York Giants’ attempt to rectify their linebacking corps could be pursued via free agency, and it may consist of multiple free-agent contracts. If the Giants opt to invest in the position, a player like Alex Anzalone could be a cheap option to compete for the starting role next to another free-agent addition or a rookie.

Anzalone is a veteran player who would be an immediate upgrade over the Giants' 2022 linebackers. He’s not the most noteworthy free agent available, nor is he the most athletic, but he would upgrade the biggest liability the Giants had on the defensive side of the football - their run defense.

The basics

Age: 28 in the 2023 season
Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 237
Position: Inside linebacker
Experience: 6 seasons
2022 stats: Games: 17 | Tackles: (125) | Tackles for a loss: (7) | Stops: (34) | Pressures (21) | Interceptions: (1) | Passes defended: (2) | Reception percentage: (80 percent) | Missed tackles (17)

The skinny

Anzalone was a third-round selection out of Florida by the New Orleans Saints in 2017. He played adequately through his rookie contract. He spent the last two seasons in Detroit where he wore the green dot in his first year with the team. He was one of their defensive captains, and head coach Dan Campbell couldn’t speak higher of the individual.

He signed a one-year $1.5 million contract with the Lions in 2021. Detroit resigned him in 2022 on a $1.035 million contract. If the Lions do not retain him for 2023, he will likely be set for a contract similar to the last two he signed in Detroit.

For reference, the Giants signed linebacker Reggie Ragland to a one-year $1.127 million contract for the 2021 season. Anzalone would be a better player than Ragland was for the Giants.

A contributing factor that may lead to this small contract is Anzalone’s history of shoulder injuries. He wasn’t affected by it in 2022, but his 2021 season was stopped in Week 15 after Anzalone injured his right shoulder. His history with right shoulder injuries dates back to his time as a Florida Gator.

Anzalone dislocated his right shoulder three times in college. The issue was one reason why he fell to pick No. 76 in the 2017 NFL Draft. He also missed most of the 2019 season with the Saints, due to a shoulder issue that required a second shoulder surgery.

One may argue, why would the Giants take a flier on a linebacker with past shoulder issues? It’s a fair question. The retort would be Anzalone’s cost, experience, and adequate play when healthy with the Giants in a financial predicament.

New York may invest in the linebacking corps through the draft with high capital; if that’s the case, they may not be in a position to sign a Tremaine Edmunds if they’re allocating $35+ million to quarterback Daniel Jones, so what player will guide the rookie into a leadership role? Second-year players Micah McFadden? Darrian Beavers?

Adding a player with the experience of wearing the green dot will benefit the Giants’ linebackers, albeit Anzalone wouldn’t be the defensive play-caller in a Wink Martindale system. He isn’t a perfect player, but he’d likely be an upgrade over anything the Giants had at linebacker through the last two seasons.

New York desperately needs linebackers who understand where to be and when to be there. They can add players in a few different ways, and several kicks at the can shouldn’t be out of the question. Adding Anzalone is a low-cost, modest-upside type of addition that will, however, bring competency to a position group that must be upgraded.