In a rather stunning twist of events, the New York Giants announced the release of inside linebacker Blake Martinez on Thursday afternoon. Martinez was originally signed by ex-Giants general manager Dave Gettleman in March of 2020.
Martinez was the defensive signal caller and the leader of the defense and recorded 174 tackles in his two-year tenure with the franchise. He was also a captain both seasons. Last September, Martinez tore his ACL in the first quarter of a game against the Atlanta Falcons, and the Giants defense missed him greatly down the stretch.
The writing was on the wall for the impending release of Martinez, though. Despite all but three of the Giants’ projected starters not playing in the final preseason game, Martinez curiously played in Sunday’s loss against the Jets. The speculation about Martinez ramped up on Tuesday afternoon, as he was not voted as a captain on the 2022 team despite 10 of his teammates receiving the honor.
Martinez has not looked particularly healthy in his return from the torn ACL, and was even outplayed by his fellow projected inside linebacker starter Tae Crowder this summer. The Giants needed to shed about $4 million by next week to get under the salary cap for the 2022 season, and despite GM Joe Schoen saying Thursday that he expected to do so by restructuring some contracts, he cut Martinez and saved $3 million.
The Giants’ inside linebacker position might be the weakest area of the roster on the team now. Crowder, who has been very inconsistent in his young career, will likely start alongside preseason superstar Austin Calitro, who has already played for nine different teams during his five-year career.
The only other inside linebackers on the roster are rookie Micah McFadden, Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown, the latter two of whom are more special teams stars and unlikely to receive reps on defense.
Rookie linebacker Darrian Beavers likely would have started alongside Crowder, but he tore his ACL during the second preseason game and is out for the season.
The Giants’ goal for the 2022 season is to develop their young core, and with Martinez clearly not in the team’s future plans anyway, giving the majority of playing time to hopeful up-and-coming players like McFadden and Crowder seems to fit the new regime’s mindset.