Keenan Robinson

Giants Sign LB Akeem Ayers, G John Greco

The Giants announced that they have signed linebacker Akeem Ayers and guard John Greco. They also placed linebacker Keenan Robinson (quad) on injured reserve and elevated wide receiver Kalif Raymond from the practice squad. To make room, they cut defensive end Devin Taylor and waived wide receiver Ed EaganAkeem Ayers (vertical)

Ayers auditioned for the Giants in September and again on Nov. 8. In the most recent workout, he apparently made a good impression on coaches. Ayers finished out last season with 18 tackles, two sacks, and one interception for the Colts. He graded out as the No. 54 edge defender in the NFL out of 110 qualified players, per Pro Football Focus’ metrics. He didn’t exactly set the world on fire last season, but he does offer experience as a starter from his time with the Titans (2011-2013) and Rams (2015). In 2014, he won a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots.

Greco, 32, joined the Saints in early October but was released without having played a down. Injuries forced him to miss six total games from 2015-16 for the Browns, but he was effective while healthy. Last year, he graded as the league’s No. 18 guard among 75 qualifiers last season, per PFF. All told, Greco offers 111 games — and 70 starts — worth of experience.

The Giants aren’t playing for much at this point, but they are curious to see if Ayers, Greco, and Raymond can be worthwhile players for 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Keenan Robinson Rejected Multi-Year Offers

Before re-signing with the Giants, linebacker Keenan Robinson received multi-year offers from other clubs, as he explains to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com.Keenan Robinson (Vertical)

“Other teams offered multiple-year deals, but I’m still young,” said Robinson. “A one-year deal is fine. I’m still 27, so, like I said, right now I’m in a great situation. So I wanted to be a part of it. I was willing to make it work and be flexible as far as that goes.” 

Robinson, who visited the Bengals and Bills prior to re-upping with New York, ultimately received $2.6MM ($1MM guaranteed) from Big Blue. Returning in a similar role, Robinson will likely serve as the Giants’ nickel linebacker in 2017, per Raanan — the fifth-pro played 70% of the team’s defensive snaps in that capacity last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Folk, Hawley, Sensabaugh

Let’s take a look at the details of a few recently-signed contracts:

Giants To Re-Sign Keenan Robinson

Keenan Robinson paid visits to the Bengals and Bills this month, but his most recent NFL employer looks to have made a suitable offer. The Giants reached an agreement to re-sign the linebacker, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).

Robinson spent one season with Big Blue, 2016, after playing three with the Redskins. He will continue to serve as a key component on the Giants’ second level, which has by far the least capital allocated to it on a team stacked with high-end defensive end and cornerback contracts. The Giants categorized Robinson as a lower-tier priority this offseason but engaged in talks with the UFA before free agency’s outset. After tending to bigger business, Big Blue agreed to retain the former fourth-round pick.

[RELATED: Latest On DT Johnathan Hankins]

The Bengals signed Kevin Minter soon after Robinson’s Cincinnati summit, and the Bills used a second-round pick on Reggie Ragland last year. The Giants aren’t especially keen on paying linebackers big deals. That trend should continue, with Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul having $17MM-AAV contracts. Robinson’s deal will likely be a midlevel accord.

A former multiyear Redskins starter, the 27-year-old Robinson made 79 tackles and deflected a career-high seven passes. Pro Football Focus, though, assigned Robinson a grade that placed him among the 10 worst full-time ‘backers last season. Playing on 71 percent of the Giants’ defensive snaps, Robinson started six games and played in every contest for a defense that made immense strides after a putrid 2015 performance.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Meet With Keenan Robinson

Keenan Robinson logged his second visit of the offseason by making a trip to Buffalo to meet with the Bills, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Last week, Robinson visited the Bengals, but Cincinnati ended up agreeing to a deal with higher-profile UFA linebacker Kevin Minter to help keep Robinson unattached.

The Giants had Robinson stationed as a player they wanted to re-sign, but Big Blue traditionally doesn’t spend much on linebackers and has several returning players. New York also re-signed Mark Herzlich today to add to their defensive second level.

PFR’s No. 11 remaining UFA linebacker, Robinson started six games and played in all of Big Blue’s contests last season, making 79 tackles and seven pass deflections. He started in 21 games for the Redskins in 2014 and ’15.

The Bills could well lose Zach Brown, who’s been a coveted commodity as a UFA after recording 149 stops last year. They still have Preston Brown and 2016 second-rounder Reggie Ragland, who missed all of last season due to injury. The Bills are transitioning back to a 4-3 look after two years in Rex Ryan’s 3-4. Robinson, though, has experience in both, with the Redskins using a 3-4 alignment and the Giants in their traditional 4-3.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 3.0: Defense

The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.

Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for 2017:

Edge defender:

  1. Dwight Freeney
  2. Elvis Dumervil
  3. Chris Long
  4. Mario Williams
  5. Connor Barwin
  6. Paul Kruger
  7. Trent Cole
  8. Erik Walden
  9. Jason Jones
  10. Darryl Tapp
  11. Devin Taylor
  12. Eugene Sims
  13. Howard Jones
  14. Wallace Gilberry
  15. Sam Acho

The pass rushing market has been completely depleted during the first week of free agency, as 14 of our original top 15 edge players have now been franchised, signed, or, in the case of DeMarcus Ware, retired. As such, a 37-year-old with 15 NFL seasons under his belt is now the best pass rusher on the market. Dwight Freeney played on roughly a third of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in 2016, and posted three sacks and 18 hurries. Capable of playing in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, Freeney can still help out a club on the cheap.Dwight Freeney (Vertical)

Three players on this list — Elvis Dumervil, Connor Barwin, and Eugene Sims — were released by their respective clubs last week, meaning they won’t count against the compensatory formula if and when they’re signed. Dumervil, now 33, was hampered by injuries last season but still earned strong pass-rushing marks from Pro Football Focus. Barwin, meanwhile, wasn’t a good fit in Jim Schwartz‘s 4-3 defense, but he should flourish if he signs with a team running a 3-4 look. So far, he’s met with the Bengals (who use a 4-3) and Rams (3-4).

Chris Long has already indicated he won’t be returning to the Patriots, indicating he wants to join a roster where he’ll earn more playing time. Erik Walden, too, won’t re-sign with his 2016 club (the Colts), but he has taken a visit with the division rival Titans. Further down the list, Howard Jones has also met with at least one club, as he was hosted by the Jets on Tuesday. Jones, 27, is recovering from a torn ACL, but did post five sacks in five starts last season.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Johnathan Hankins
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Jared Odrick
  4. Vance Walker
  5. Sen’Derrick Marks
  6. Ricky Jean-Francois
  7. Roy Miller
  8. Al Woods
  9. Tony McDaniel
  10. Cullen Jenkins
  11. Frostee Rucker
  12. Cam Thomas
  13. John Jenkins
  14. Tyson Jackson
  15. Tyson Alualu

Although top-flight players such as Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams have already been signed, the crop of interior defenders remains strong at the top. The buzz around Johnathan Hankins has been virtually non-existent, as the only club that’s been even tangentially linked to the 25-year-old is the Redskins. He’s one of the youngest free agents on the market, and therefore is probably looking for a massive payday. But the lack of interest around Hankins may be an indication that he’s simply asking for too much money.Johnathan Hankins (Vertical)

The same issue could be surrounding Dontari Poe, although he’s not wanting for meetings around the league. He’s visited with the Colts, Falcons, Jaguars, and Dolphins, while the 49ers and Raiders also reportedly have some level of interest. Clubs may have concerns about Poe’s lingering back issues, and he might have to accept a one-year deal in order to prove he’s healthy and willing to provide full effort.

The remaining defensive interior players are mostly over-30 veterans, with names such as Tony McDaniel, Cullen Jenkins, Frostee Rucker, and Tyson Jackson still looking for new deals. While most of these guys can still play, they may have to wait awhile — possibly into the summer — before signing on with their next club. Jared Odrick (Patriots) and Vance Walker (Bears) have both taken visits, but the most intriguing lineman here may be Sen’Derrick Marks, who offers a good amount of pass rush from the interior.

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Bengals Hosted LB Keenan Robinson

The Bengals met with free agent linebacker Keenan Robinson on Monday, reports Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link).Keenan Robinson (Vertical)

Cincinnati is on the hunt for linebacker depth after seeing veteran Karlos Dansby leave for Arizona. Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, additionally, is a candidate to be released (a move that would save the Bengals roughly $3.6MM), so the club is now looking for an experienced player who can fill in behind Vontaze Burfict, Vincent Rey, and Nick Vigil, preferably at a low cost. Robinson, for what it’s worth, earned just north of $2.5MM on a one-year deal with the Giants last year.

Robinson, 27, spent last season with New York after playing for the division rival Redskins from 2012-15. While he only started six games for Big Blue, Robinson appeared in all 16 contests and saw action on more than 70% of the Giants’ defensive snaps. In that time, Robinson posted 79 tackles and seven passes defensed, but graded out as a bottom-10 NFL linebacker, according to Pro Football Focus. Robinson does offer special teams value, however, as he chipped in on 129 ST snaps in 2016.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Not In Running For Adrian Peterson?

The Giants have been heavily connected to Adrian Peterson ever since his option was officially declined by the Vikings. It turns out, they might not be a player for No. 28. The Giants aren’t in the running for Peterson, according to multiple sources who spoke with Jordan Raanan of ESPN.comAdrian Peterson

Last year, the Giants went on a free agent spending spree that saw them add three high-priced players to the defense. This time around, it could be a much quieter March. In addition to Peterson being unlikely, Raanan hears the Giants are not expected to go after a high-end left tackle, guard, middle linebacker, or wide receiver. All of those positions are needs for the G-Men, but they won’t be satisfied with the best players at each spot.

This spring might not be as exciting as the last one, but the Giants are still willing to loosen up the purse strings to lock down their own top free agents. They are working hard to re-sign defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and to extend Jason Pierre-Paul after his franchise tag. There have also “been talks” about new deals for free agents like linebacker Keenan Robinson, guard John Jerry, backup quarterback Josh Johnson, and cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, Raanan writes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Notes: Graham, McAdoo, Free Agents

During the 2015 offseason, defensive end Brandon Graham received interest from the Giants. As the 28-year-old Eagles lineman prepares to play New York this weekend, he understands that he made the correct decision to stick with the team that drafted him.

“It was real,” Graham said of the Giants interest (via Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com). “I wasn’t that close. I wanted the Eagles here to get it right, as far as keeping me here. Obviously I made the right decision. I couldn’t be cool with myself going somewhere where I play the Eagles twice a year. I would have had to go outside the division.”

Graham ultimately inked a four-year, $26MM contract ($13MM) to remain in Philadelphia, and the former first-rounded has rewarded his team with 25 tackles, four sacks, and two forced fumbles this season.

Let’s take a look at some more notes out of MetLife Stadium…

  • The Giants continue to deny rumors that they had discussions with Alabama’s Nick Saban to become their next head coach. George Willis of The New York Post believes we still haven’t seen enough from Ben McAdoo to determine whether he’s the right man for the job. However, if the Giants continue to collect losses, the writer believes the team could revisit their talks with Saban this offseason.
  • According to Hall of Fame boxing promoter Bob Arum, it was Saban’s wife who didn’t want to leave Alabama for the Big Apple. Had his wife decided to make the move to New York, Willis wonders if Saban would currently be coaching the Giants.
  • NJ.com previews the Giants players who are playing for a new contract. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul leads the list, and he’s joined by defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, linebacker Keenan Robinson, right guard John Jerry, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, and tight end Larry Donnell.

East Notes: Redskins, Garoppolo, Romo, Revis

With the Redskins off to an 0-2 start, some of quarterback Kirk Cousins‘ teammates have reportedly expressed dissatisfaction with his early season output. That doesn’t surprise former Redskins linebacker Keenan Robinson, who spent the first three years of his career with Washington before signing with the Giants over the winter. “When I was there, three out of four years, it was the same thing,” he said Tuesday (via Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com). “Once they get down, they start pointing fingers. And that is true. That is what happens. And for the Redskins — I’ve only been on one team before I came here, and that was them — and all I saw was not the right way to handle it. I feel like they didn’t handle it the right way when I was there.”

Robinson is glad to have left the Redskins in favor of the Giants, saying, “I like it here better. I would say that for sure.”

As we wait for this Sunday’s tilt between Robinson’s ex-team and his current one, here’s more from the East divisions:

  • The Redskins’ offseason decision to place the franchise tag on Cousins in lieu of signing him to a lucrative long-term deal looks prudent now, opines John Keim of ESPN.com. But if Cousins is unable regain something resembling his 2015 form, it’ll leave the team looking for a quarterback again, Keim notes. Ideally, he’ll emerge as a legitimate franchise-caliber passer and prove himself worthy of a major commitment for the foreseeable future.
  • On one hand, it’s possible quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be the successor to Tom Brady in New England. On the other, Ryan Hannable of WEEI writes that Garoppolo might never play a meaningful snap as a Pat again once Brady returns from his four-game Deflategate suspension in Week 5. Brady is signed through the 2019 campaign, his age-42 season, and Garoppolo is only under contract through the end of next year. The best-case scenario for the Patriots would include retaining both, but that will look unrealistic as long as Brady continues as one of the league’s elite signal-callers.
  • Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had a back exam and a brief pregame throwing session in Washington, D.C., over the weekend, Ed Werder of ESPN.com tweets. One observer was surprised by Romo’s velocity and lack of restrictions. The 36-year-old is hoping to return sometime in October and it seems he is on track to do just that.
  • While Brian Costello of the New York Post expects cornerback Darrelle Revis to rebound from his early season issues, his $13MM salary for 2017 will still be an anvil, Costello opines. Cutting the 31-year-old Revis after the season would leave the Jets on the hook for $8MM in dead money, which means he’s likely to remain with the club, per Costello. In the Jets’ first two games this year, the five-time first-team All-Pro has given up 10 catches and 152 yards to Bengals receiver A.J. Green and allowed an 84-yard touchdown to a far less formidable wideout, the Bills’ Marquise Goodwin.

Zach Links contributed to this post.