The New York Giants have been a consistently poor pass rushing team in recent years. In 2017, the Giants had only 27 sacks. In 2018, they improved slightly to 30 sacks. This ranked 31st in the NFL in 2018. The Giants have are 8-24 in the last two seasons, and the lack of pass rush is a big reason why. In order to win more games in the future, the Giants will need to get better at rushing the passer.
Luckily for the Giants, the 2019 free agent class is full of quality pass rushers. There are plenty of good edge rushers set to hit the open market this offseason, as well as interior pass rushers. Three edge defenders the Giants should pay attention to in free agency are Shaquil Barrett, Ezekiel Ansah, and Za’Darius Smith.
Shaquil Barrett was listed on Pro Football Focus as one of the top ten under the radar free agents in 2019. Barrett has had a rocky career in Denver. He became a starter in 2017 and proved to be an above-average pass rusher with a 79.4 pass-rushing grade, but the Broncos then drafted his replacement in 2018 with Bradley Chubb. Barrett recorded 43 pressures in 2017.
In 2018, Barrett only played 276 snaps and mustered out three sacks in his limited playing time. Shaquil has never gotten a fair chance to be a starter in the NFL, but he has a lot of potential. Barrett said recently that he wants to be a starter, hinting he will leave in free agency this offseason. This talented pass rusher is only 26 years old, meaning he has a lot of time to progress as a player. His lack of experience could make him a cheap option in free agency, with an estimated market value of $7.4 million annually. The Giants should consider taking a chance on Shaquil Barrett.
Ezekiel Ansah is high end free agent who will cost a lot more than Barrett if the Giants want to sign him. Ansah has an estimated market value of $13.2 million annually. Ezekiel was drafted by the Lions in 2013 and has since established himself as a top pass rusher in the NFL, when healthy.
Unfortunately, the 30 year old has been dealing with an injury for a while now, ending up on injured reserve in 2018. Ansah is aging and the Lions are looking to get younger. In 2017, Ansah was healthy and recorded a high total of 12 sacks. Whatever team signs him this offseason will be hoping to get 2017 production out of Ansah in the future.
Finally, the Ravens’ young edge defender Za’Darius Smith will be looking for a pay day in 2019. Since it is such a deep free agents class of edge defenders, Za’Darius will probably be an affordable player on the market. He too was listed as one of Pro Football Focus’ top ten under the radar free agents, coming in at number one. Smith only started 8 games this season, but he racked up 8.5 sacks. On top of that, Smith totaled 60 pressures. If the Giants can get a good deal on the 26 year old Za’Darius Smith, he could be a solid defensive building block for years to come.
Other big name players have expiring contracts this offseason but are not expected to depart from their current teams. Players such as Demarcus Lawrence, Dee Ford, and Jadeveon Clowney are likely to receive the franchise tag. However, if they do not receive the franchise tag, they will be superstar players with big markets in free agency, and the Giants should be a part of their markets.