With the linebacker market being engaged by multiple teams on the first legal day of free agent tampering, the New York Giants were in the mix for some of the best options available.
Players like Cory Littleton and Joe Schobert remained on the market before general manager Dave Gettleman eventually landed on former Green Bay linebacker, Blake Martinez, knowns for his high tackle totals. Missing out on Littleton and Schobert was a disappointment, but Martinez brings some positives to a defense that struggled to stop the run in 2019.
What the New York Giants are getting in Blake Martinez:
To start, Martinez is one of the best tacklers in the NFL at the linebacker position, racking up 155 combined tackles and 97 solos last season. This is an attribute that makes him attractive as a MIKE linebacker, who is in charge of soaking up tackles in the middle of the field while the TED linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme soaks up blocks to open up holes for players like Martinez.
The former Green Bay defender is exceptionally patient and rarely takes risks at his position, which is something I question about his game. I like my linebackers aggressive and open to plugging holes with force; he’s more of a game-manager at MLB.
The second most attractive part of Blake’s game is his age (26). Being so young allows the Giants and coaches Joe Judge, Brett Bielema, and Patrick Graham to develop his abilities further. Seeing his statistical production is one thing, but after watching film, you can see that he’s a smart player with average athleticism. Coming from Stanford, Martinez has learned how to remain patient and fill holes with his size — something Alec Ogletree struggled to do in recent years. The idea of development is what the Giants are betting on here, and $10 million per season for three years isn’t too pricey.
Lastly, Martinez can rush the passer if called upon, and using him in a diverse role where offenses are unsure of his designation will be a focal point for Graham on defense. Over the last two seasons, Martinez has logged 8.0 sacks, a substantial number for an MLB. Three of his sacks came in 2019.
Two extra positives:
Since there is a lot of hate going around regarding Martinez, I threw in two additional positives. One, his health; Martinez hasn’t missed a game in three seasons, and the three he missed in 2016 were during his rookie campaign.
The second extra positive is his missed tackle-rate, which is low for a player who hits numbers like 155 in the combined tackles category. In 2019, he missed 10.4% of tackle attempts and 7.7% in 2018. If the Giants can bring that number back down into the single-digits next season, they will have a reliable tackler in the middle of the defense.