Giants 2023 NFL free agency: About Bobby Okereke and more ‘things I think about’ after Day 1

If you objectively read the tea leaves in regards to what New York Giants decision makers did and said prior to the start of 2023 NFL free agency on Monday, nothing the Giants should have surprise.

Take care of theirs

In his season-ending press conference following the Giants’ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, general manager Joe Schoen made his intentions clear.

“Ideally for me, known products that are good football players that you know will be our first priority,” Schoen said. “And then we’ll look outside the building, if we need to, to complete the list.”

The Giants stuck to that script.

They gave quarterback Daniel Jones a four-year, $160 million contract. They tagged Saquon Barkley. After taking care of those two big fish, the Giants began a deluge of internal signings on Sunday.

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard, running back Matt Breida, punter Jame Gillan and guard Wyatt Davis were all brought back.

Why does Schoen prefer to stay in-house when he can?

“I think the good thing about extending people internally (is that) you know their work ethic. You know their durability. You know their injury history. You know how they train. You know how they practice,” he said. “So in terms of removing some of the margin of error, it’s a known product.”

A great linebacker!

Linebacker play for the Giants has been abysmal in 2022. We knew doing something about that would be a priority for the Giants this offseason.

The Giants were never going to pay anything like the $72 million over four years ($50 million guaranteed) that Tremaine Edmunds got from the Chicago Bears. As the first day of Monday’s trading window unfolded, it was frustrating, I’m sure, for Giants fans to see TJ Edwards, Germaine Pratt and David Long Jr. – all potential targets for the linebacker. – get out of the board before the Giants have signed anyone.

Then Bobby Okereke arrived.

Big Blue View reader Chris Chianese emailed Monday night asking why the Giants had paid so much (four years, $40 million, $22 million guaranteed) for Okereke when Edwards, Pratt and Long would have received much less money.

My take is this. Clearly, the Giants had a connection with Buffalo’s Edmunds. However, they weren’t going to spend that kind of money. The only thing I can take from the money they paid Okereke is that looking at the other options, Okereke had to be the player they really wanted – excluding Edmunds from the equation .

Think about it. Okereke is a talented player with 132 and 151 tackle seasons. He’s going to be 27 and just entering his prime.

He’s also the kind of defensive linebacker coordinator that Wink Martindale seems to be craving. I’m paraphrasing, but Martindale said something at the start of the 2022 season that if you have a slow center linebacker, you have a slow defense.

Okereke’s 4.58-second dash for 40 yards at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine put him in the 82nd percentile. He has the speed that Martindale dreams of. It also has length, with a wingspan at the 98th percentile.

The Giants always say they want “smart, tough, reliable” guys. Okereke went to Stanford. In four years, he missed two games through injury. Go back and watch his 17 tackles (13 solo) game against the Giants in Week 17, a meaningless game for the Colts, and you know he’s a tough, committed player.

Okereke’s presence should give the Giants a huge boost for the next few seasons. It’s worth getting excited about.

Dealing with that ‘not great’ defensive line depth

Schoen has made no secret of the fact that the Giants need to improve against the run in 2023, and that part of it will be finding better depth behind Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams.

“Not great” is how Schoen described the depth of the team’s defensive line when asked about it at the combine.

“It’s a privileged position. Again, talk about allocating resources to a position. It is important. We have to be better next year by stopping the race,” Schoen said. “I think part of that is our depth where Dexter doesn’t have to play the number of snaps he’s played or Leo doesn’t have to be there as much as he was there. . It is important.”

Enter veteran defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches. Nunez-Roches, 30, most likely replaces Justin Ellis, whose game left something to be desired in 2022. After his only season with the Giants, Ellis is a free agent.

Nunez-Roches is what he is after eight years in the NFL. And what he is is a run-stopping spinning defensive tackle. Pretty much exactly what the doctor ordered for the Giants. The 548 snaps Nunez-Roches played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022 was a career high.

Nunez-Roches has just 3.5 sacks in 102 NFL games, including 38 starts. The Giants sign him to provide depth and help them defend the run, especially when Lawrence or Williams are off the field.

Nunez-Roches is also a symbol of the mid-level depth type of player Schoen, handicapped by a salary cap mess he was left with when he became general manager, couldn’t hunt a season ago.

Good bye Nick

I know I’m not the only one wishing/hoping/praying that Nick Gates will return to the Giants for the 2023 season. over three years with the commanders in Washington. It’s a deal that could net him up to $18 million with incentives.

The reality is that the Giants were never going to sign the popular now ex-Giant for that kind of money, or even that kind of contract length.

Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News revealed a great story on Monday about how Gates was nearly cut by the Giants before making his emotional return to the pitch last season.

The Giants clearly preferred Jon Feliciano, with whom general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll have ties to the Buffalo Bills, at center. Also, if the Giants’ ultimate plan is to draft and develop a center, Feliciano shouldn’t cost them what the COs will pay Gates.

On guard, as Gates and Ben Bredeson split the time, Bredeson played more snaps when both were available. Additionally, the Giants have youngsters they drafted in Joshua Ezeudu and Marcus McKethan.

The game was still stacked against a Gates return to the Giants. Good luck to him with the commanders.

What about the wide receiver?

The Giants will do anything to help their passing offense. A trade for a wide receiver is always a possibility, which the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy and I discussed on Monday’s “Valentine’s Views” podcast. A mid-level free agent signing is possible. Bringing Odell Beckham Jr. back seems possible, but unlikely.

What seems like a realistic possibility is to add a tight end that catches passes. Mike Gesicki of the Miami Dolphins is a name that keeps coming up. ESPN’s Jordan Ranaan pitched Minnesota Vikings’ Irv Smith as a possibility.

Stay tuned for this one.

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