NY Giants need to lock up Markus Golden before free agency

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 20: Markus Golden #44 of the New York Giants reacts after making a sack during the second quarter of the game against the Arizona Cardinals at MetLife Stadium on October 20, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 20: Markus Golden #44 of the New York Giants reacts after making a sack during the second quarter of the game against the Arizona Cardinals at MetLife Stadium on October 20, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

Re-signing Markus Golden ahead of free agency would allow the NY Giants to head into the period with much less desperation.

We’ve seen it before. A team has a quality player on its own roster, yet chooses cap space and the illusion that they can land top-level targets while letting that solid player walk. The NY Giants need to be wary of this, as they have plenty of cap space but the edge-rushing market will dry up fast, with many of the elite options likely to get tagged.

Markus Golden was the heart and soul of the 2019 Big Blue defense. While that may not be saying much – as the unit was one of the worst in football – he gave 100% effort at all times, was a vocal leader that connected with younger players, and ended the year with 10 sacks. It was a major rebound year for the former double-digit sack artist, and the 28-year-old with undoubtedly be looking to get paid this offseason after playing for a one-year prove-it deal in 2019.

Never before have I seen a player’s sacks picked apart more than analysts have done with Golden, with the main knocks on him being that many of his sacks were ‘hustle’ or ‘effort’ plays — like that’s a bad thing. For my money, a player that has a motor like Golden’s that never gives up a play is likely to translate positively over the long run over a guy with just physical tools.

You can’t teach a defensive lineman timing, depth perception and hand-eye coordinator – three things Golden excels at. Even still, it’s not like the former Missouri Tiger is some small, slow player. Golden is a legit load at 260 pounds — don’t be fooled by his Michael Bennett-ish shoulder pads. He comes hard off the edge all game long, eventually breaking the will of the opposing offensive line and outsmarting them with a savvy array of moves.

Let’s take a look at one of his better sacks in 2019, which throws some cold water on the notion that he doesn’t have it in him to win one-on-one reps.

Via Twitter:

This is as pretty a pass-rush rep as you’ll see, let’s break it down.

Golden lines up very wide, which gives tackle Charles Leno Jr. the illusion that he’s going to attempt to run around him and take the long way to the quarterback. However, Leno cheats and opens his hips too early; Golden smells the blood in the water and immediately shifts inside with a nasty club, staying on the same level as the quarterback before taking Trubisky down.

Another one of his sacks that helps dispel this notion was on the first drive of the game against the Buffalo Bills. Facing a third and eight, Josh Allen could not elude Golden as he whipped his man off the line and corraled the young signal-caller. Without even taking a deep dive into his film, that’s already 20% of his sacks that were of the one-on-one variety.

There are few better players at finishing plays than Golden. He was a consistent force in the run game, as well. While there are surely some big fish out there on the open market, again, many of them are likely to be retained.

The NY Giants will have upwards of $80M in cap space when free agency begins. They could sign Golden to a healthy contract extension before it opens, and still have $65-$70M to add another premier edge-rusher and fill other holes. Having Golden already signed to go along with Lorenzo Carter and O’Shane Ximines would allow Gettleman to operate from more of a position of strength, further assuring he won’t have to panic and overpay for a mediocre player.

Markus Golden showed us in 2019 that he is fully healthy and can still ball out. While smart executives only pay for what a player should do going forward – not what they’ve already done – it’s hard to feel like Golden doesn’t deserve a little extra love for playing on such a team-friendly deal and delivering in 2019.

His influence on the younger players – namely O’Shane Ximines – was palpable, and a number of those guys spoke highly of Golden’s leadership. Unlike our previous captain that shall remain nameless, Golden actually makes plays and would be respected because he practices what he preaches. A defensive captainship should be a certainty if he is retained.

So, what’s where does his market value currently stand? That’s up for debate, depending on who you talk to. Most believe it’s somewhere between the $10-$15M per year range, and that seems fair for a player of Golden’s caliber at such an important position. The main issue will come down to guarantees as some are worried about his injury history, although that’s overblown because torn ACL’s are recovered from like nothing ever happened these days.

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Although Dave Gettleman is likely mainly focused on retaining Leonard Williams right now to save face, he should also be chatting with Golden’s now while they have exclusive rights. Double-digit sack guys don’t grow on trees, and Golden will not be a player that tails off after getting paid by the NY Giants.

Doing any type of dive into his background shows you the type of man Golden is, and it isn’t one that’s going to lie down after an achievement — he’s going to only come harder.

Hypothetical offer: 4 years/$50M ($25M GTD)