What Will The Giants DL Look Like in 2021?
Coming out of the 2020 season, The New York Giants overperformed in many NFL fans eyes — given a first-year head coach taking the reigns, Saquon Barkley suffering a season-ending injury in Week 2, plus they boasted no elite talent on the defensive side of the ball. Yet, the Giants eked out a 6-10 record.
Giants play hard and physical under Joe Judge – there’s no denying each drop of sweat left out on the football field. This reputation was embedded in their defense, particularly on the defensive front.
The Giants defense stood out as ranked 12th overall in YPG allowed and ninth in rushing YPG allowed. The man leading the havoc for Big Blue was Leonard Williams. Williams had a career-high 11.5 sacks while being a superb plug-in-the-run game.
Unfortunately, Judge may lose his ace in the hole — Williams is due to be a free agent coming off his career season. Not only is Williams due to be a FA, but DT Dalvin Tomlinson and DE Jaabal Sheard are soon to be free agents.
How will the Giants attack this free agency period and try to overwhelm the pedestrian NFC East foes? I’m going to untwine the potential routes that Judge could take — assuming the Giants lose a couple DL to other teams.
If there was one quality player who was inevitably not going to return to the cap-strapped Saints, it would be Sheldon Rankins. The Saints DT that was also rumored to be on the trade block prior to the trade deadline, could now be out of the big easy and in a Giants uniform.
Rankins only compiled 1.5 sacks, 3 TFLs, and nine QB hits in 12 games last season. Yet, the Saints boast one of the top rotations among all defensive lines, so Rankins could find more opportunities filling in big shoes for Judge’s defensive unit and away from a deep rotation in New Orleans.
Rankins bursted onto the scene in 2018 with eight sacks and 15 QB hits. Even though he hasn’t been inches closer to getting those takedowns since 2018, he’s one of the quickest DTs in the game, which allows him to take double teams well and create more opportunities for players like Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport, and Trey Hendrickson on the edges.
The Atlanta Falcons recently cut loose the long-time Kansas City Chief in a cap-saving move. The cut saved Atlanta four million dollars. Bailey isn’t the most explosive defensive lineman on the market, but he could be one of the top value acquisitons on the D-Line.
The 31-year-old recorded 1.5 sacks, five QB hits, two TFLs, on the year (four starts). The veteran DT can also kick out to DE and he could bring that versatility (hybrid defense) that Judge’s scheme uses — one of the things that helped Leo Williams break out.
The 6’3 290 DL could be a good locker room player, versatile force on the football field (23 career sacks), and he should have some plays left in the tank at 31 years old.
Re-sign Leonard Williams
I believe it would be best for both parties — Giants and Williams to agree on a deal. Williams clearly flourishes in a scheme where he can move around and play with his ears pinned back consistently. Also, the Giants can’t afford to lose their backbone AKA run defense strength, especially when Williams is merely 26 years old.
According to Empire State Media, Williams will likely command 17+ million a year. It would be strange if the Giants kept Williams on his 16 million-year franchise tag, only to see him leave the big apple.
I believe that Williams is one of the most valuable profiles on the team, even over a stud playmaker like Evan Engram. I could see Tomlinson leaving, along with another player cut/traded, then an agreement coming between NYG and the former USC legend soon.
The Giants could make Leonard Williams a priority entering March, but if the plan falls apart — a player like versatile Sheldon Rankins would be a great value replacement. Allen Bailey could be versatile player and help fill in for Tomlinson, with or without Leonard Williams.