Giants could target star Vikings pass-rusher in free agency

nfl: chicago bears at minnesota vikings, danielle hunter, new york giants
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The New York Giants, in an ideal scenario, would target one of the top pass rushers available this off-season to complement Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Despite showing promising talent in 2023, Thibodeaux’s full potential was somewhat constrained by Wink Martindale’s defensive scheme. Remarkably, he became the first outside linebacker in Martindale’s system to achieve double-digit sacks, a significant accomplishment.

However, with Martindale no longer part of the Giants, Thibodeaux’s role is expected to evolve under a new defensive coordinator. This change could be advantageous for Thibodeaux, as it would allow him to focus more on his strengths as a primary pass rusher, rather than being utilized in coverage or absorbing blocks in support of heavy blitz packages.

Seeking a Veteran Pass Rusher

The Giants are in need of another skilled rusher to pair with Thibodeaux. Azeez Ojulari, once a promising talent, has faced setbacks due to injuries and inconsistency. While he may still develop into a valuable player, the Giants require an experienced veteran to solidify their defensive front.

Danielle Hunter, formerly with the Minnesota Vikings, emerges as a top free-agent prospect. Having previously worked with Andre Patterson, the Giants’ current defensive line coach, Hunter has established himself as one of the premier pass rushers in the league.

Last season, he played a career-high 1,004 snaps, amassing 80 pressures, including 18 sacks, and demonstrated his all-around prowess with notable contributions in the run defense.

The challenge for the Giants lies in the financial aspect of securing a player like Hunter. He could command a salary around $23 million per season over three years. Brad Spielberger of PFF estimates Hunter might secure a deal worth $67.5 million over three years ($22.5M AAV), with $37.125 million guaranteed. This level of investment requires careful cap management by the Giants.

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Giants’ Financial Implications and Future Decisions

A significant factor in the Giants’ ability to afford such a contract involves the future of Daniel Jones. If the Giants part ways with Jones after the 2024 season, they would free up substantial cap space. By structuring a potential contract to defer the primary cap hit to the second year, the Giants could establish a formidable defensive front with Thibodeaux, Hunter, and Dexter Lawrence.

However, Jones’s contract poses a dilemma. The Giants can save a considerable amount by opting out of his contract, which would incur $22 million in dead money for the 2025 season. This amount can be spread over two years (2025-26), potentially freeing up about $30 million in cap space for the 2025 off-season. Given Jones’s injury history and uncertainties, General Manager Joe Schoen might contemplate moving on from the quarterback.

If Jones remains with the Giants, their ability to pursue free agents like Hunter could be significantly hindered due to cap constraints.

The Giants have multiple needs, including offensive line, secondary support, and potential extensions for players like Xavier McKinney and Saquon Barkley. Balancing these requirements with available financial resources presents a challenging predicament for the Giants’ management.