New York Giants: Listing all of the defensive free agents and who should be retained

New York Giants, Leonard Williams
Sep 27, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens (4) throws a pass while pressured by New York Giants defensive end Leonard Williams (99) during the first quarter of a NFL football game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have a long off-season ahead of them, with many different decisions they have to make regarding free agent signings and retaining familiar faces. We are going to take a look at all of the defensive players hitting the free-agent market this off-season and who the Giants should retain.

However, with the salary cap expected to drop as much as $25 million from $200 million to $175 million, it will be incredibly difficult to keep some of their high priced players. They will likely have to make some sacrifices due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial castration of the cap.

New York Giants’ defensive free agents for this year:

S Adrian Colbert (Walk)

Colbert only made six appearances in 2020, earning 13 combined tackles. His influence was minimal, and the Giants need as much savings as they can possibly get, so expect them to let Colbert walk in FA.

S Nate Ebner (Keep)

Ebner’s influence is not defensive but more Special Teams oriented. He is listed as a safety, earning just 4% of defensive snaps this past season, but he is a leader on Special Teams, and I believe head coach Joe Judge values him significantly. I expect the Giants to retain him for the 2021 season.

LB Kyler Fackrell (Walk)

Kyler made some impact plays in his first season with New York, but he did miss four games. With his $4.6 million, I believe the Giants can roll that into a more productive pass rusher moving forward. Arizona Cardinals’ outside linebacker Haason Reddick stands out, and if they can lock him into a multi-year deal, I would rather roll over the cash instead of retaining Fackrell.

CB Madre Harper (Walk)

Another defensive back, Madre Harper, made nine appearances with the Giants in 2020. At 23 years old, he still has some potential left to realize, but as his Special Team snaps decreased as the season progressed, Harper found himself fighting for playing time. I believe the Giants will move on from him in 2021.

DT Austin Johnson (Keep)

Former Tennessee Titans DT Austin Johnson was actually quite productive when called upon in the trenches. Over 16 games, he picked up 18 combined tackles and 1.0 sacks while only played in 21% of defensive snaps. He is a cheap rotational option, considering he already knows Patrick Graham’s scheme, I believe keeping him would be beneficial.

CB Ryan Lewis (Keep)

Cornerback Ryan Lewis took over after the Giants released Corey Ballentine earlier in the season. He only put together five performances but showed some promise during his short stretch of action. At 26 years old, he’s an incredibly cheap player who has some potential. Keeping him around isn’t the worst idea.

DE Jabaal Sheard (Walk)

The Giants had to dip into the free-agent market to help bolster their outside linebackers unit. Jabaal Sheard was one veteran they plucked off Jacksonville’s practice squad, and he played nine games for a Big Blue. He ended up collecting 1.5 sacks for the Giants, representing a decent supplement. He’s another extremely cheap player, and while keeping him around might be beneficial, I believe the Giants want to stay younger at the position and give some of their homegrown guys a chance.

DT Dalvin Tomlinson (Walk)

One of the bigger decisions this off-season is Dalvin Tomlinson, who was drafted by the Giants in 2017. He has never missed a game in the NFL and has gradually improved every season. This past year, he collected 3.5 sacks and 49 combined tackles, including a career-high 10 quarterback hits and eight tackles for loss. In other words, he represents quality as a nose tackle who lines up in the 0 and 1-technique. Personally, I am a big fan of Tomlinson and hope the Giants can re-sign him, but they are going to have to make difficult decisions this off-season due to the cap dropping, and I believe he will be a sacrifice.

DE Leonard Williams (Keep)

Considering how fantastic Leonard Williams played in 2020, I believe GM Dave Gettleman will do everything in his power to keep him around. Considering he gave up a third and fifth-round pick two years ago for the defensive tackle, letting him walk would look really bad for Dave. Williams is going to command upwards of $18 million per season, and the Giants don’t have much money to spend, but I believe they will back-load his deal considering he hasn’t missed a game in his career either. Based on his health history, they feel confident he will be a focal point for them moving forward and is a key piece in Graham’s defense. The Giants do you have a bit of cap space in 2022 to work with, so expect them to rely on that to make any free agent signings this off-season.