When the NY Giants inked ILB Blake Martinez to a 3-year $30 million deal, we knew which direction the defensive was moving in. Martinez is a smart player who the Giants can (and will) rely on to make their defensive calls. The 26-year-old certainly has the leadership skills and demonstrative football intelligence for this role, as he’s worn the communications helmet since 2017 while a member of the Green Bay Packers.
Overall, he brings legitimacy to this new defense. He’s smart, strong, and capable. He also has more combined tackles than anyone in the league over the past three years (144 – ‘17, 144 – ‘18, 155 – ’19) – which, although skeptics like to discredit as being tackles “not for losses” still highlights the hustle in his game.
While I think his presence can only help this defense, it will also be interesting to see just how well he’ll work under his former inside linebacker coach, Patrick Graham. Although Graham has a track record of running blitzing schemes, his team’s lack of an apparent pass-rusher leaves many hoping that one may emerge this season.
Regardless, I think Martinez will prove to be an impact player who will draw support from the other players around him. And while Martinez is not a pure pass-rusher, stick a lynchpin in this Gettleman signing because Martinez’s projected success on defense will translate into the team turning around their defensive woes of the past.
The NY Giants also made noteworthy additions to their linebacker unit with their final 5 draft picks this year by adding depth with the signings of Cameron Brown, Carter Coughlin, TJ Brunson, and Tae Crowder. Not to mention, the team is counting on returning player Ryan Connelly (drafted blank in 2019) who turned heads last season, recording a sack, 20 combined tackles, and 2 interceptions, before being placed on the IR with a torn ACL in Week 4.
Clearly, this team is bringing in a lot of talent for Joe Judge’s highly touted coaching staff to work with.
During free agency, the Giants also gave former Packers OLB, Kyler Fackrell chance for a bounce-back season. His 1-year $4.6 million deal indicates just what the Giants are expecting from him – a chance to succeed.
He has high-upside edge rusher potential, which remains the only sore spot on this team that has not significantly upgraded unless you count the tender offer to Markus Golden to come back – and even that isn’t enough of an improvement.
When GM Dave Gettleman placed the UFA Tender on arguably the Giants’ best defender in 2019, it set Golden’s 2020 player salary next season at ~$4.125 million – 110% of his 2019 salary and far from the $10 million annual salary he wanted.
Still, it allows Golden to seek his asking price for a new contract from any other NFL team before July 22nd(by which time he would be locked into a deal with Big Blue per the terms of the UFA Tender). However, it now appears that negotiation talks have re-opened between the Giants and their 2019 sack leader.
Regardless, retaining Golden for this season and beyond would strengthen the linebacker unit tremendously, while allowing the Giants to keep their best pass rusher. He led the team with 10 sacks last year in addition to a career-high 72 combined tackles.
While we still lack a bonafide pass rush (in the event Golden and the Giants cannot come to a resolution, or another team pays him more than the Giants want to pay this season), the undrafted player to watch out for in camp is OLB Dominique Ross.
His size at 6’4, 228 LBs and versatility in lining up in the box, on the edge, or dropping down in coverage against backs and slot receivers very attractive for a rebuilding team that’s looking for versatility.
Here’s how the depth chart looks ahead of Training Camp in late July (22nd)*
Weakside Linebacker WLB: Kyler Fackrell, Oshane Ximines, Devante Downs, Cameron Brown
Left Inside Linebacker LILB: David Mayo, Josiah, Tauaefa, T.J. Brunson
Right Inside Linebacker RILB: Blake Martinez, Ryan Connelly, Tae Crowder
Strongside Linebacker SLB: Lorenzo Carter, Chris Peace, Carter Coughlin