February 26th, 2020 at 10:34am CST by Zachary Links
The Giants have released linebackers Alec Ogletree and Kareem Martin, per a club announcement. By cutting the two veterans, the Giants will save roughly $10MM against the 2020 salary cap.
The Giants acquired Ogletree via trade with the Rams in 2018. Despite his experience and soft hands (he has a dozen interceptions to his credit), the savings were too good to pass up. Ogletree appeared in 26 games for the G-Men in his two seasons and led the team with 173 stops in that span. He also set the franchise record for INTs by an LB in 2018 with five picks – two of which were brought back for touchdowns.
Martin joined the Giants on the same week as Ogletree. In his first campaign, Martin had perfect attendance with seven starts at linebacker and notched a career-high 48 tackles with 1.5 sacks. Last year, a Week 1 knee injury pretty much wiped out his season. He played in just five contests and logged a grand total of six tackles. He had one more year to go on his deal, but few expected him to see that final season.
By dropping Ogletree and Martin, the Giants will head into March with approximately $70MM in breathing room.
The Giants have made a series of roster moves this morning, via ESPN’s Jordan Raanan (via Twitter). The team placed safety JabrillPeppers and linebacker Chris Peace on injured reserve. Linebacker Kareem Martin was activated from the injured reserve, and safety Sean Chandler is being promoted from the practice squad.
The Giants acquired Peppers in the Odell Beckham Jr.trade this past offseason. The former first-rounder was on pace to have his best NFL season, as he had compiled 76 tackles, five passes defended, three forced fumbles, and one pick-six in 11 starts. The 24-year-old suffered a transverse process fracture during the Giants’ late-November loss to the Bears, but coach Pat Shurmur had expressed optimism that Peppers would be able to finish the season. Peppers didn’t play in last weekend’s loss to the Packers.
Peppers will be replaced on the roster by Chandler, a former undrafted rookie out of Temple. The 23-year-old has spent his two professional seasons with the Giants organization, and he’s compiled 23 tackles and one sack in 25 career games. Chandler was waived by New York in early November, and he later caught on with the team’s practice squad.
Martin spent the first four seasons of his career with the Cardinals before landing a three-year, $21MM ($7.5MM) deal with the Giants in 2018. He appeared in all 16 games (seven starts) during his first season in New York, compiling a career-high 48 tackles and 1.5 sacks. The 27-year-old suffered a knee injury in Week 1 and was placed on the injured reserve. He was designated for return in late November.
Peace, an undrafted rookie out of Virginia, was claimed off waivers from the Chargers back in September. The linebacker has appeared in four games for the Giants this season. He was listed on the injury report with a knee issue earlier this week.
Amari Cooper left the Cowboys‘ Thanksgiving Day game because of a knee injury, but it appears the wide receiver avoided a significant setback. An MRI Cooper underwent Friday revealed no structural damage in the knee, Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes. The Cowboys do not have a 10-day break, set for a Thursday-night game in Week 14 in Chicago, but Cooper looks to have avoided a multi-game injury. That will obviously be pivotal to a 6-6 team vying for the NFC East title with the 5-6 Eagles.
Here is the latest from the NFC East:
The Giants announced they have designated outside linebacker Kareem Martin to return from IR. A 2018 free agent signing, Martin played only in Week 1 this season. The former Cardinal has rehabbed from a knee injury and will soon be set to make it three ex-Cardinals among the Giants’ linebacking corps. New York has seen Markus Golden stand out on his one-year deal, and Big Blue added ex-Arizona first-rounder Deone Bucannon during Martin’s IR stay.
Evan Engram will miss his third straight game. After being declared out, the Giants’ third-year tight end will miss his 11th career game. The Ole Miss product is dealing with a mid-foot sprain. Engram was playing well prior to this injury. The Giants must decide on the 2017 first-rounder’s fifth-year option by early May. Blocking tight end Rhett Ellison will also miss New York’s 12th game, leaving the 2-9 team without much of note at this position.
Long out of playoff contention, the Redskins are playing only for evaluation and draft position at this point. A player the team does not need to evaluate, though, will miss his first NFL game. Ryan Kerrigan‘s 139-game streak will come to an end because of a concussion, Bill Callahan said Friday. Washington’s top edge rusher has posted double-digit sacks in each of the past three seasons but will have a tougher time running that streak to four with this news. The ninth-year outside linebacker is sitting on 4.5 sacks after 11 games.
The Eagles gave kicker Jake Elliott a five-year extension, keeping the former Bengals practice squad leg tied to Philadelphia’s roster through the 2025 season.
September 11th, 2019 at 4:55pm CST by Sam Robinson
Sterling Shepard is uncertain for Sunday’s Week 2 Giants-Bills game, so Big Blue is turning back to recently released receiver. The Giants brought back T.J. Jones on Wednesday.
Jones was with the Giants during the preseason but did not make their 53-man roster. In moving him to the roster now, the Giants placed outside linebacker Kareem Martin on IR.
While Jones has experience as a receiver and return man from his Lions run, the Giants may need him as a pass catcher Sunday. Shepard is in concussion protocol and did not participate in Wednesday’s practice, and Golden Tate‘s suspension runs three more games. The Giants are down to former Broncos backups-turned-second-year Giants Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler, along with fellow Year 2 Giant Russell Shepard.
Playing behind Tate and Marvin Jones in 2017, T.J. Jones established career highs in receptions (30) and yards (399). T.J. Jones caught 19 passes for 190 yards in 15 games last season.
The Giants signed Martin to a three-year, $15MM deal in 2018. One of James Bettcher‘s former Cardinals charges, Martin suffered a knee injury Sunday that Pat Shurmur indicated (via Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com, on Twitter) would take weeks to heal. The sixth-year pass rusher has notched just 1.5 sacks in 17 Big Blue games. Martin will be eligible to return after eight weeks.
The Giants are expected to sign former Cardinals outside linebacker Kareem Martin, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Martin, of course, has history with new Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher, so he should be a natural fit. It’ll be a three-year deal for the defender worth $21MM ($7.5MM guaranteed), according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan (via Twitter).
Martin, our 14th ranked edge defender, appeared in all 16 games for the Cardinals last season, including ten starts. He finished out with 22 tackles, one sack, and nabbed his first career interception.
Martin earned a solid 75.2 overall score from Pro Football Focus, the best of his career. He ranked as the 57th best edge defender out of 106 qualified players.
The 26-year-old made a career-high 10 starts last season and recorded a sack and 18 tackles, along with his first career interception. The Cardinals took Martin in the third round of the 2014 draft out of North Carolina.
Martin is likely to work in a backup role with the Giants as they have Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon on the edges. He’ll work in with a group that also includes Ray-Ray Armstrong and Thurston Armbrister. The Giants were going to be thin with their depth at defensive end as Kerry Wynn is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Martin becomes the Giants’ second free-agent addition over the last two days, with the team agreeing to terms with running back Jonathan Stewart on Monday as well.
NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.
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 2018:
As a positional group, pass rushers comprise interesting market on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not often that a list of best available players is topped by a 38-year-old, but Peppers is the top free agent edge defender after the Cowboys and Lions deployed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah, respectively. As with quarterbacks, NFL clubs are extremely reluctant to allow pass rushers to hit the open market, so top-tier options are rarely ever truly “available.” Peppers, for his part, hasn’t even declared whether he’ll return in 2018, but indications are that he’ll suit up for a 17th campaign after posting 11 sacks last year.
Alongside Peppers, other veterans populate the edge market, and while William Hayes may not be a household name, he’ll be a contributor for whichever team signs him. A stout run defender, Hayes is also capable of generating pressure despite managing only one sack in 2017. The Dolphins used Hayes on only 271 defensive snaps a season ago, and have since replaced him by acquiring fellow defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. Now that he’s entering his age-33 season, Hayes should come cheap, but will almost assuredly outplay his contract.
Nearly every other available pass rusher has some sort of flaw which will likely limit his market next week. Trent Murphy is only 27 years old and put up nine sacks in 2016, but he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with injury. Pernell McPhee, Alex Okafor, Junior Galette, and Derrick Shelby have also been plagued by health questions in recent seasons. And Adrian Clayborn famously registered the majority of his 2017 sacks (and 20% of his career sack total) in one game against overwhelmed Cowboys backup Chaz Green.
The two names that I keep coming back to are Aaron Lynch (49ers) and Jeremiah Attaochu (Chargers). Yes, Lynch has been suspended for substance abuse, struggled with his weight, and was reportedly in danger of being waived prior to last season. He’s also extremely young (he won’t turn 25 years old until Thursday) and ranked fifth in the league with 34 pass pressures as recently as 2015. Attaochu, a 25-year-old former second-round pick, also has youth on his side, and while he hasn’t quite flashed as much as Lynch, he’s also been buried on LA’s depth chart for much of his career.
Interior rushers are getting more respect in today’s NFL, but that still hasn’t translated to them being paid on the level of edge defenders — the 2018 franchise tag for defensive tackles, for example, is roughly $3MM cheaper than the tender for edge rushers. While the 2018 crop of interior defenders boasts some impressive top-end talent, none of the available players figure to earn a double-digit annual salary. Sheldon Richardson may have the best chance to do so, but Seattle determined he wasn’t worth a one-year cost of $13.939MM, so is any other club going to pay him $10MM per year? I’d guess he comes in closer to $9MM annually, which would still place him among the 25 highest-paid defensive tackles.
Dontari Poe will be an intriguing free agent case after setting for a one-year deal last offseason, but the most interesting battle among defensive tackles will take place Star Lotulelei and Muhammad Wilkerson, and I’m curious to see which player earns more on the open market. Both are former first-round picks, and it’s difficult to argue Wilkerson hasn’t been the more productive player — or, at least, reached higher highs — than Lotulelei. Wilkerson also won’t affect his next team’s compensatory pick formula given that he was released, but his off-field issues, which include a reported lack of effort and problems with coaches, could limit his appeal.
While Beau Allen and Denico Autry are potentially candidates to be overpaid based on their youth, there are bargains to be had at defensive tackle. Tom Johnson is 33 but he’s offered consistent pressure from the interior for years — his last contract was for three years and $7MM, so he shouldn’t cost much this time around. Haloti Ngata was injured in 2017 but plans to continue his career, and he can still stop the run. And Dominique Easley was outstanding as a 3-4 end in 2016 before missing last season with a torn ACL, meaning the former first-round pick could be a value play for any number of teams.Read more
Although there are a number of high-quality starting linebackers available in free agency this year, I predict most contracts signed by LBs over the next few weeks will come in lower that most expect. The linebacker market is relatively stagnant, and unless the player is a legitimate star or inking an extension with his original club, he’s usually disappointed with his annual value. The most expensive deal for an unrestricted free agent ‘backer who signed with a new team was Bruce Irvin‘s $9.25MM/year pact with the Raiders, and Irvin can almost be considered an edge rusher. After Irvin, it’s Danny Trevathan, whom the Bears signed for a $7MM annual value in 2016.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise if no linebacker listed above is able to top Trevathan’s two-year-old average, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t starting-caliber LBs on the market. Zach Brown, the poster boy for having to accept cheap contracts, is coming off another solid season, but is reportedly asking for top-three inside linebacker money. Good luck. Similarly, Demario Davis is looking for $8-10MM annually, while the Jets — who have interest in re-signing him — view him as a $3-4MM/year player.
Nigel Bradham and NaVorro Bowman should both come in around Trevathan’s $7MM average after posting excellent 2017 campaigns. While the Eagles would surely prefer to re-sign Bradham, the club’s dire cap situation may mean Bradham will hit the open market next Wednesday. Bowman, meanwhile, was traded from the 49ers to Raiders last season, and he seems like a good bet to stay with Oakland after new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther heaped lavish praise on the 29-year-old.
Top-to-bottom, the cornerback market is the deepest positional group on the defensive side of the ball. Need a No. 1 defensive back with experience in both man and zone? Trumaine Johnson is your guy. How about a top-end cornerback who, while admittedly up-and-down at times, has the ability to shut down opposing wide receivers? Malcolm Butler has you covered. A former first-round pick who has finally played up to his potential over the past two seasons? Take a look at Morris Claiborne. Or is a career journeyman who posted 10 excellent games last year more your speed? Look into Rashaan Melvin.
Slot cornerbacks are also prevalent in this year’s defensive back market, and while I ranked Aaron Colvin, T.J. Carrie, Patrick Robinson, and Nickell Robey-Coleman in order of my preference, they could each be plugged into a starting nickel package immediately. I originally though Robinson could land a disappointing deal given his age (31) and his track record of underwhelming play prior to 2017, but he’s already garnering interest from the Giants, Raiders, and Cardinals, so his market should allow him to reach at least $5MM annually. Colvin could garner even more than Robinson thanks his youth (26), and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com expects Colvin to have a “legit” market.
If teams are looking for a bargain at cornerback, they should target Ross Cockrell, whom the Steelers dealt to the Giants last year for a seventh-round pick. Cockrell has always been overlooked in the NFL, but he keeps producing results. In 2017, Cockrell finished first in Football Outsiders’ success rate, which measures cornerbacks on their ability to consistently stop opposing wideouts short of the sticks. In fact, Cockrell was one of only eight defenders who stopped a receiver short of a successful gain on over half their tackles a season ago, as FO’s Aaron Schatz recently tweeted, but the league consistently undervalues him and his skill-set.
The best free agent safety was taken off the board earlier today when the Rams used the franchise tag on Lamarcus Joyner, and the remaining market is extremely top-heavy. Eric Reid, Morgan Burnett, Tre Boston, and Kenny Vaccaro could all be in line for at least $5MM annually, but the rest of the class could struggle to find multi-year deals. Among the top-tier safeties, Vaccaro stands out as perhaps the most interesting name. A first-round pick in 2013, Vaccarro has posted three exemplary campaigns and two dreadful years; in 2017, Pro Football Focus ranked Vaccaro as the single-worst safety in the league among 87 qualifiers. But given his draft pedigree and his ability to man the slot, Vaccaro should land a solid deal.
While I like Reid and Burnett a bit more as players, it wouldn’t be a shock if Boston actually lands the largest contract. Reid and Burnett spend a lot of time close to the line of scrimmage, and both have been used as de factor linebackers from time to time. Boston, on the other hand, is a deep safety who can play coverage, and that repertoire is much more difficult to find on the open market. Similarly, Tyvon Branch has been great in coverage during his career with the Raiders, Chiefs, and Cardinals, so he could also see a nice pay bump next week.
After Branch, the crop of available safeties steeply drops off. Every other free agent we’ve listed above will be at at least 29 years old when the 2018 gets underway except for the Lions’ Tavon Wilson, and he was one of the NFL’s worst starting defensive backs last season. Veterans like Corey Graham or Ron Parker can still play as third safeties who see time in “big nickel” packages, but if you’re looking for a starting safety, you’ll want to bring in one of the top six defensive backs on the board.