By Spiro Kasabian @nyspawtsguy_spi
The New York Football Giants have had a hole at the Inside Linebacker position since Antonio Pierce hung up his cleats. Dave Gettleman thought he could fill said hole by trading for Alec Ogeltree two years ago, but that experiment blew up in the Giant GM’s face. Ogeltree was cut by the team this week. So, the New York Giants will be going back to the drawing board once again.
In the 2019 draft, Gettleman selected Ryan Connelly out of Wisconsin in the 5th Round. Connelly played well in his brief stint, but suffered a torn ACL early in the season and will be a question mark heading into 2020. The Giants do not have anything in the form of depth at the Inside Linebacker position, so I expect this to be a focus this offseason for the Giant front office. They have one of the weakest ILB units in the NFL.
Luckily for the Giants, there are several good players available in Free Agency this year at the ILB position. Let’s look at the best options.
Free Agents Linebackers:
Blake Martinez is a tackling machine (led the NFL last year and finished 2nd in the previous two seasons) that can also get after the QB (10 career sacks in 4 years). Martinez will struggle in pass coverage though (something us Giant fans are accustomed to) and is considered under-sized at 6-2, 235 LBS. At 26-years-old, with a ton of experience under his belt, Martinez will command top dollar on the market, but I am not sure he is the best fit for the Giants.
Many believe that the 26-year-old, Littleton is the best option on the market. He will also command a lot of money given his age and production. Like Martinez, Littleton can also rack up the tackles, finishing with over 125 tackles each of the last two years for the Rams. He also has 8.5 career sacks while only really started each of the last two seasons. Littleton can also excel in coverage, where he racked up 22 pass breakups and 5 interceptions since becoming a full-time starter in 2018. If the Giants are going to splurge, this might be the guy they choose to spend on.
Widely considered the second-best option on the market, Schobert is also only 26-years-old and is primed to get big money this offseason (sensing a trend here?). Schobert sure picked a great time to put forth his best season in the NFL, as he finished with 133 tackles, 2 sacks and 4 INTs in 2019. Another do-it-all LB (slightly weaker against the run) that can play all three downs and in different situations, Schobert never leaves the field. It is between Schobert and Littleton for the top choices, but both will cost a ton.
Joe Judge might have a little bias here. Collins is a bit older than the other Linebackers listed above, but he is no less productive. The 31-year-old Collins put up 81 tackles, 7 sacks, and 3 INTs last year for the Patriots. Judge has had an inside look at Collins for several seasons now and that could push him into the front-running option if the price is right (likely to command less than the previous three options). Collins excels in pass coverage (10 career INTs) and getting after the QB (24.5 career sacks), so he would be a welcome addition to this defense that lacks playmakers.
Spi’s Take: How Dave Gettleman goes about his business looking at this position in Free Agency will be very telling on how much they love Isaiah Simmons as an option as a 1st round pick.
I would like the Giants to go big at one position in Free Agency, and ultimately, this might be the spot. With Littleton, Schobert, Collins and Martinez on the market, the Giants have the ability to make a big splash and put some real talent at the heart of their defense for years to come.