Blake Martinez

Raiders To Meet With LB Blake Martinez

The Giants made Blake Martinez a surprise cut just before season, releasing the veteran linebacker despite carrying him through to their 53-man roster. The seventh-year defender has resurfaced via multiple scheduled visits this week.

After meeting with the Ravens on Tuesday, Martinez will visit the Raiders on Friday, NFL reporter Jordan Schultz tweets. Martinez has a clear connection in Las Vegas, having worked with new Raiders DC Patrick Graham with the Giants and Packers.

Graham was in Green Bay as the team’s linebackers coach in 2018 and, after a year in Miami, was in New York when the Giants gave Martinez a three-year, $30.75MM contract in 2020. Martinez, 28, played two seasons on that deal, though the second one was interrupted by an ACL tear. The Giants cut bait two weeks ago, doing so despite taking on $7.5MM in Martinez dead money. The team had previously restructured Martinez’s deal this offseason.

When healthy, Martinez stands as one of the NFL’s most prolific tacklers. The former Packers fourth-round pick ripped off a four-season stretch in which he topped 140 tackles each year. He led the NFL with 144 stops in 2017 and notched 144 under Graham, while adding a career-high five sacks, the following year. In his lone healthy Giants slate, Martinez totaled 151 tackles (nine for loss) and three sacks. Big Blue’s Martinez and James Bradberry signings helped the team make a surprising defensive turnaround in 2020, when it ranked ninth in scoring defense in Graham’s debut season. That moved Graham’s name to the HC radar.

The Raiders currently have top inside linebacker Denzel Perryman sidelined due to an ankle injury. Perryman, who missed the Raiders’ Week 2 game against the Cardinals, has not practiced this week.

Ravens Worked Out LB Blake Martinez

Jason Pierre-Paul wasn’t the only big-name linebacker to visit the Ravens yesterday. Baltimore also worked out linebacker Blake Martinez, according to Clifton Brown of the team’s website.

[RELATED: Ravens Meet With OLB Jason Pierre-Paul]

Steven Means suffered a season-ending Achilles tear on Sunday, and with Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo both sidelined with their own Achilles injuries, Baltimore is down to only two outside linebackers in Odafe Oweh and Justin Houston. With limited depth, the Ravens decided to bring in a pair of veterans for auditions, and while no deal has been announced as of Wednesday night, coach John Harbaugh made it clear that he’d appreciate some reinforcement.

“That would be great,” Harbaugh replied when asked if the team has plans to sign an OLB. “I’ve already asked them once, and I’ll ask them again, ‘Are you in shape? Are you ready to go play? Are you ready to run around and help us win?’ Because that’s what I care about; we’re not trying to do anyone any favors here. We want guys who will come in and help us win right now. If you’re ready to do that – that’s really for any player – come on.”

Martinez led the NFL in tackles between 2017 and 2020, compiling 594 with the Packers and Giants. He collected another 23 tackles through the first three games of the 2021 season, but a torn ACL ended his season prematurely. He was cut by New York at the end of the 2022 preseason.

The Ravens did add some LB depth to their practice squad earlier today when they signed Brandon Copeland. The 31-year-old has seen time in 82 games since debuting in 2015, including 16 games with the Falcons in 2021.

Giants Release LB Blake Martinez, Claim G Tyre Phillips

The Giants had Blake Martinez on their initial 53-man roster, but as of Thursday afternoon, he is a free agent. New York released the veteran linebacker.

This removes a seventh-year veteran from Big Blue’s linebacking corps. Martinez accepted a pay cut this offseason, coming after he suffered an ACL tear early during the 2021 slate. As Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com tweets, this was a peculiar move by the Giants; the team basically guaranteed him an extra $2MM before ultimately cutting him. This is believed to be a mutual parting, per ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan (on Twitter). Martinez was at practice Thursday but had been excused Wednesday.

Martinez’s departure will clear a path for Tyre Phillips, the former Ravens guard whom the Giants claimed earlier Thursday. The Ravens waived Phillips on Wednesday. The Ravens had hoped Phillips would clear waivers and return to the team via a practice squad agreement, per ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley (on Twitter), but the former Baltimore starter did not make too far down the league’s priority list.

A former Packers fourth-round pick, Martinez posted four straight seasons of at least 140 tackles over his final three Green Bay years and his 2020 Giants debut. During an offseason that featured then-GM Dave Gettleman dole out big contracts to Martinez and James Bradberry, the former signed a three-year, $30MM deal. Following Martinez’s ACL tear, Gettleman stepped down. Big Blue’s new regime worked with Martinez to bring him back in March, but the team may be moving toward younger pieces at the lower-value linebacker spots.

Martinez, 28, played in two of the Giants’ preseason games after sitting out their August opener. Former seventh-rounder Tae Crowder is in line to start for the Giants, who used a fifth-round pick on Micah McFadden this year.

A 2020 third-round pick, Phillips, 25, started 13 games for the Ravens over his two seasons with the team. He became the team’s Week 1 starter as a rookie and was in position as Baltimore’s starting left guard to start last season as well. But multiple injuries derailed Phillips’ time in Maryland. The Ravens moved on with Ben Powers and Ben Cleveland as their non-Kevin Zeitler guard contingent.

The Giants have been busy up front this offseason. After injuries ransacked their 2021 O-line, the Giants added four first-string blockers (center Jon Feliciano, guards Mark Glowinski and Joshua Ezeudu, tackle Evan Neal). They also placed guard Shane Lemieux on IR Wednesday, sidelining him for at least four games. Phillips would represent a veteran alongside Ezeudu, a third-round rookie.

Giants Have Done “A Ton Of Work” On OT Charles Cross

The Giants, who hold the No. 5 and No. 7 overall selections in this month’s draft, are well-positioned to address two of their biggest needs — offensive tackle and edge rusher — with a top collegiate prospect. Per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post, Big Blue has done “a ton of work” on Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross, one of the top OTs in the class.

Cross is not considered to be on the same level as Alabama tackle Evan Neal or NC State blocker Ikem Ekwonu in terms of overall talent, but one scouting source told Dunleavy that Neal and Cross are the best pure left tackles in the class. While all three prospects project well at right tackle, Ekwonu is better-suited to the right side, and he also has the ceiling of an elite guard.

There is a chance that Neal and Ekwonu, or at least one of the pair, will be available for the Giants when they are on the clock with the No. 5 pick. In that scenario, New York could take the highest-rated OL on its board, or it could simply opt to fill a different need, secure in the knowledge that one of those two players and/or Cross will still be there for the taking at No. 7 (assuming, of course, that a club with a Top-4 selection does not nab Cross). But if the first four picks skew towards O-linemen rather than, say, pass rushers, then new GM Joe Schoen may need to pounce on a protector for QB Daniel Jones.

If he ends up with Cross, an accomplished pass blocker who would complete a strong bookend with 2020 first-rounder Andrew Thomas, Schoen should be happy, regardless of which pick he uses. In 719 pass-blocking snaps in 2021, Cross allowed just 16 pressures.

Schoen recently passed along several injury updates on two starting-caliber players already on the roster. LB Blake Martinez (ACL) and WR Sterling Shepard (Achilles), both of whom recently accepted pay cuts, will hopefully be back in action by August, per Schoen (Twitter link via Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com). OL Nick Gates, who started all 16 games for the Giants in 2020 but who suffered a career-threatening leg fracture in Week 2 of the 2021 season, may be ready for training camp, as Raanan tweets.

Contract Details: Reynolds, Shepard, Martinez

Here’s another detailed look at a deal done this week, as well as some information on some contract restructuring in New York:

  • Josh Reynolds, WR (Lions): Two-year, $6MM. The contract has a guaranteed amount of $2.7MM, including a $1.5MM signing bonus and the full 2022 salary of $1.2MM, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. Reynolds can really see a payday in 2023. That year of his deal has a base value of $1.8MM, a $1MM roster bonus activated on the third day of the 2023 league year, and $400,000 for the year in per game active bonuses (around $23,529 per game). The deal also holds $2MM of annual incentives based on catches, yards, and touchdowns as well as an additional $2MM incentive in 2023 based on team achievements, playoffs, and stats.
  • The Giants recently came to agreements with wide receiver Sterling Shepard and linebacker Blake Martinez to restructure their contracts. The Athletic reporter Dan Duggan confirmed on Twitter that both deals are worth roughly $2.25MM in 2022 with incentives that can push the value up to about $5MM. The intention was to lower the two veterans’ cap hits and they will do that, dropping Martinez’s cap number from $14MM to about $8MM and Shepard’s number from $12.4MM to about $6.5MM.

Blake Martinez Takes Pay Cut To Stay With Giants

The negotiations between the Giants and linebacker Blake Martinez have resulted in a new deal. Paul Schwartz of the New York Post reports that the veteran will be staying with the team, but at a reduced salary. 

Earlier this week, the two sides discussed a re-working of his deal, as part of the wider need for the Giants to shed 2022 expenses. Martinez was due to make $8.525MM (the amount the team would save with a release), but carry a cap hit of just over $14MM. That led to the possibility he could be let go, but now he will stay in the Big Apple – unlike a number of veterans who have been cut in recent days.

The 28-year-old joined the Giants in 2020 after four seasons in Green Bay, including three as a starter. Between 2017 and 2019, the former fourth rounder totalled 443 tackles, nine sacks and a pair of interceptions. He delivered a similar performance in his first campaign in New York with 151 stops, two forced fumbles and five pass deflections.

Unfortunately, a torn ACL limited Martinez to just three games in 2021. His absence was felt on a Giants defense that allowed 129 rushing yards per game, which ranked 25th in the league. With him still in the fold, however, much of the cap gymnastics general manager Joe Shoen faced upon his arrival has taken place. The biggest remaining question on the roster now pertains to James Bradberry. Given the team’s need to cut costs, the highly regarded cornerback has been the subject of trade interest from a number of teams. Much of what Schoen does in free agency will depend on the organization’s handling of Bradberry’s contract.

Giants, Blake Martinez In Talks

The Giants want to keep Blake Martinez, but there’s still some business to discuss. The two sides are in talks to rework his contract for 2022 (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo) and, if they can’t come to terms, they may wind up parting ways. 

[RELATED: Giants Likely To Target Trubisky]

As it currently stands, Martinez is due $8.525MM this season with a sizable cap number of $14.025MM. Those are the terms of the three-year, $30.75MM deal he inked with the Giants back in 2020, but they have some doubts after Martinez’s lost season. The veteran ‘backer tore his ACL in late September of 2021, limiting him to just three games and 23 stops on the year.

Of course, the Giants also know what Martinez is capable of while healthy. As the Giants’ left inside linebacker in his debut year, he tallied 151 tackles, three sacks, five passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and one interception.

Martinez, 28, could be released to save $8.525MM with $5.5MM in dead money. Meanwhile, they could free up additional room by trading other Dave Gettleman holdovers like cornerback James Bradberry and running back Saquon Barkley. Both have been rumored possibilities, though a Bradberry deal seems far more likely than a Barkley blockbuster.

Giants Notes: Cap, Martinez, Shepard, Staff

The Giants doled out a few big-ticket contracts in free agency during Dave Gettleman‘s final years as GM, handing out deals to James BradberryBlake Martinez, Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson. Those contracts are among those that have pushed the Giants over the projected 2022 salary cap. The Giants are more than $11MM over the cap, and GM Joe Schoen told NBC Sports’ Peter King last month he wants to clear about $40MM in cap space before the start of the new league year.

It’s a concern, and it’s real. There are going to be difficult decisions that are going to have to be made,” Schoen said recently, via SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano.

Some cap-casualty candidates include Martinez, Sterling Shepard and Kyle Rudolph. Despite Martinez delivering his usual high-end tackle production in 2020, the veteran linebacker suffered an ACL tear in September. Martinez might need to take a pay cut to stay, Vacchiano offers, though the 28-year-old linebacker is only attached to an $8.4MM salary. Cutting Martinez would save the Giants more than $8MM, while an expected Rudolph ouster will add $5MM to that total. As a post-June 1 cut, Shepard’s release saves nearly $9MM. Shepard is the Giants’ longest-tenured player, arriving as a second-round 2016 pick, but has battled injuries for much of his career. Bradberry serves as Big Blue’s No. 1 cornerback, though Vacchiano adds he should not be considered a lock to be part of next year’s team. A post-June 1 designation makes a Bradberry release worth $13MM. Of course, the Giants would run into a major cornerback need in the event they cut Bradberry. The ex-Panther’s three-year, $45MM deal expires after next season.

Here is the latest from the rebuilding team:

  • Schoen will not retain one of Gettlemen’s top front office lieutenants. Co-director of player personnel Mark Koncz is not coming back, per the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy (on Twitter). Koncz followed Gettleman to New York in 2017, doing so after spending nearly 25 years with the Panthers. Koncz worked with Carolina before the franchise’s 1995 debut and stayed on through a few GMs, finishing up his tenure as the Panthers’ director of pro scouting from 2000-2017.
  • More new staffers are bound for New York. The expected hire of ex-Ravens outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins indeed took place, with the Giants also hiring ex-Bills assistant John Egorugwu to coach their inside ‘backers. Egorugwu, 35, was on Sean McDermott‘s staff for four years before spending the 2021 season at Vanderbilt. The first name mentioned as a staff candidate once Don Martindale took over as Giants DC, Wilkins, 34, worked with the Ravens for 10 years and spent the past two as their outside linebackers coach.
  • The Giants are also adding to Brian Daboll‘s staff from the college ranks, hiring DeAndre Smith as their new running backs coach. Smith comes from Texas Tech and has never coached in the NFL before, spending more than 20 seasons at the college level. This move comes after the Giants offered the job to ex-Chiefs running backs coach Deland McCullough, per The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman (on Twitter). Notre Dame just hired McCullough, who spent the 2021 season at Indiana after coaching the Chiefs’ running backs for the previous three years, for new HC Marcus Freeman’s staff.

Giants’ Blake Martinez Done For Year

Blake Martinez‘s season is over. On Monday morning, the Giants linebacker was diagnosed with a torn ACL (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo). 

This was the immediate fear after Martinez was forced out of Sunday’s game with a non-contact injury. It’s a bad blow for the Giants, on the heels of their latest defeat and a gruesome leg injury for offensive lineman Nick Gates. The Giants are now 0-3, without two of their team captains for the rest of the year.

Martinez moved on from the Packers last year to ink a three-year, $30.75MM deal with the Giants. Installed as the Giants’ left inside linebacker, he tallied 151 tackles, three sacks, five passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and one interception in his Big Blue debut. This year, he’ll finish with 23 stops in three games.

Martinez, 28 in January, will focus on recovery as he looks ahead to his next walk year in 2022. In theory, the Giants will have an escape hatch once Martinez gets medical clearance next year. He’s due to carry a $14MM cap number, but they can save $8.525MM with $5.5MM in dead money if they drop him. But, given his production while healthy, they’ll likely keep him in the fold.

New York Notes: Darnold, Giants, Sanders

Before the legal tampering period kicked off, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com said it was more likely than not that the Jets would trade Sam Darnold, assuming that BYU QB Zach Wilson — whom the Jets would select with the No. 2 overall pick to replace Darnold — “checks the important boxes during the pre-draft process.” Cimini said at the time that there was a market for Darnold, and he named Washington, the Bears, the Seahawks, the Texans, and the 49ers as potential landing spots.

But since then, WFT signed Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chicago acquired Andy Dalton. Obviously, neither of those QBs are long-term answers, but they do at least obviate an immediate need for a signal-caller. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are moving forward with Russell Wilson, Houston may be unable to trade incumbent QB Deshaun Watson in light of the sexual abuse allegations that have been levied against him, and it’s unclear how actively San Francisco is pursuing an upgrade over Jimmy Garoppolo. As such, the Jets might not be able to trade Darnold, and it will be interesting to see if that will impact the team’s decision with respect to Zach Wilson (or any other rookie passer).

Now for more out of the Empire State:

  • In less exciting Jets news, the team is still looking into free agent kickers and wants to find a starting-caliber corner, as Cimini writes. The CB need will probably be filled in the draft; Cimini does not expect the club to pursue Richard Sherman, despite the obvious Sherman-Robert Saleh connection.
  • It might go without saying, but when the Giants agreed to a three-year, $63MM pact with DL Leonard Williams a few days ago, Williams agreed to drop his grievance concerning his 2020 franchise tag, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Williams was tagged as a defensive tackle but believed he should have received a defensive end tag, and if he had prevailed, his tag number for 2021 would have jumped to $21.4MM. Since he got a $21MM AAV on his extension, things worked out just fine for him in the end.
  • Per Dan Duggan of The Athletic, Williams — who is clearly not afraid to bet on himself — pushed for a shorter contract so that he can hit the open market again before he turns 30. Duggan says the Giants have explored restructures for 2020 signees James Bradberry and Blake Martinez, something the club may need to really push for now that it has agreed to a big-money deal for WR Kenny Golladay.
  • The Giants signed veteran TE Kyle Rudolph earlier this week, but his addition does not impact Evan Engram‘s status with the team, a source tells Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. Engram will play out the 2021 season on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal and hopes for a strong platform performance after struggling a bit in 2020.
  • These days, instead of being forced to reach out to agents to convince their clients to play in western New York, agents are the ones calling the Bills, as Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News writes. Head coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane have created a winning club and a positive culture, and players around the league are taking notice and now see Buffalo as an attractive destination. While the Bills didn’t have a ton of cap space heading into this year’s free agent cycle — or many major holes to fill — they did bring in WR Emmanuel Sanders, whom they had targeted for several years. Sanders is a prime example of the changing feelings towards Buffalo, saying “[w]ho wouldn’t want to be part of it?” (via John Wawrow of the Associated Press).