Giants’ GM Joe Schoen makes brilliant Blake Martinez and Sterling Shepard moves

New York Giants, Austin Mack, Sterling Shepard

It is no secret the New York Giants desperately need to clear salary space if they want to make moves during free agency. After former general manager, Dave Gettleman went on a spending spree last off-season, the Giants will have to wait until 2023 to make any big deals, but they can plug spots and look for value gems on the market that can compete for starting jobs.

New general manager Joe Schoen indicated he needs about $40 million in salary space to make the proper moves this off-season, which will be a very difficult challenge to solve. He’s already released Kyle Rudolph, Devontae Booker, and Riley Dixon, clearing about $10 million in salary space, but his team still remains in negative territory.

However, once the new restructured contracts for Sterling Shepard and Blake Martinez are released, Schoen should have a bit of maneuverability, and with the decision for James Bradberry coming up this week, they could open up a nice chunk of money to sign their draft picks and make some low-key moves.

Schoen acted brilliantly with Shepard and Martinez, retaining both players by reducing their salary hits to a point of similar savings if they simply release the players.

If the Giants would’ve cut Shepard, they would’ve saved $4.5 million, counting $8 million against the cap in dead money. With Martinez, they would’ve saved $8.5 million, presenting a $5.5 million dead money hit. The expectation is that both players will take a salary reduction to a number below well below their dead-money hit, which should open up a bit more flexibility for the Giants while maintaining two leaders on the team. Martinez’s restructure will save the Giants $6 million, a nice addition to their salary situation while keeping the player.

Shepard’s deal was expected to be heavily incentive-laden with a max value of $5.25 million. Having been scheduled to make $8.5 million, that is a massive pay cut. Given Shepard’s inability to stay healthy throughout his career, there’s a solid chance he never even reaches the incentives in the first place, so this is an extremely healthy contract for the Giants to save a ton of money in the process.

The main brilliance from Schoen here is the retention of the players. He could’ve easily moved on and signed stopgap options or looked to the draft as a supplement, but having two experience leaders on both sides of the football who are well respected within the organization is a great holdover from the previous regime.

Despite Sterling’s inconsistent health, he is a playmaker when on the field and helps the offense run smoothly. Martinez is the MIKE linebacker on the defense and plays an essential part in stopping the run. Having torn his ACL against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3 last year, Martinez is expected to be ready for the start of the 2022 season, so saving the player and lowering his salary hit significantly was a win-win move.

Giants looking to retain Blake Martinez, but what could a contract restructure look like?

New York Giants, Blake Martinez

With the New York Giants trying to improve their team cap space in the coming weeks, they will have to make a few big decisions regarding prominent players on the roster who are set to earn significant money this upcoming season.

The team currently has -$7.6 million available in funds, so restructuring contracts, trading players, or simply cutting them are all options on the table.

Aside from James Bradberry, Sterling Shepherd, and even Logan Ryan, linebacker Blake Martinez holds a massive cap hit for the 2022 season. The team is preparing to pay $14 million to Martinez, but if they cut him, they would save $8.5 million and accrue a $5.5 million dead money hit.

Given Martinez is coming off a torn ACL, paying that type of money is unrealistic at this point. If the Giants don’t cut him, restructuring his contract and reducing his cap hit makes logical sense.

The break-even point for the Giants is an $8.5 million reduction in his salary, which is how much they would save if they cut him alternatively. That reduces his cap hit to $6 million for the 2022 season, a far more appropriate number given the injury he sustained.

However, let’s take a look at another linebacker who suffered a similar fate after the 2020 season. Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr sustained a torn pectoral muscle in a Week 2 against the Colts two years ago, missing the majority of 2020.

Barr was in the middle of a five-year, $67.5 million deal, paying him $13.5 million per year on average. Instead, Minnesota tore up his contract after the injury and signed him to a one-year, $8.6 million contract, allowing him to stay with the team but not destroy their salary space in the process.

Barr was earning a bit more than Martinez per season by about $3 million, so tearing up the current Giants linebacker’s contract and offering him a one-year, $6-7 million deal makes sense, given the example.

As one of the league’s most productive tacklers and easily the best linebacker on the roster, losing him would be a significant blow. Just two years ago, during his first season with Big Blue, Martinez recorded 151 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, and tallied five passes defended. He was on pace for another solid season before going down against Atlanta Falcons in Week 3.

The Giants would be hard-pressed to find a better replacement than Martinez on the free agency market given their salary situation, so keeping him on a reasonable contract after the injury is the most efficient move.

Giants could look to enact pay-cuts from several prominent players on roster

new york giants, sterling shepard

The New York Giants have a few big decisions to make this off-season regarding players and their bloated contracts. Former general manager Dave Gettleman left the team in shambles, so Joe Schoen, who was recently hired to lead the charge into the modern era for Big Blue, will have to shed some dead weight.

With that being the case, names like James Bradberry, Sterling Shepherd, and Blake Martinez bubble to the surface as potential cap cuts. The Giants already released Kyle Rudolph and Devontae Booker on Wednesday, clearing over $7M in salary space, but the team is still in the negative.

Both Shepherd and Martinez will be coming off significant injuries next season, as the Giants linebacker suffered a torn ACL, and their veteran receiver mourned an Achilles injury to end the season. Both will spend the off-season recovering and trying to make an impact in 2022.

If the Giants elect to cut both players, they would save $4.5M from Shepard‘s contract but pay nearly $8M in dead money next season and save about $8.5M from Blake Martinez’s contract, counting $5.5M in dead money. However, Schoen could enact a more productive method of reducing salaries while retaining the player at the same time.

The Giants have reportedly asked WR Sterling Shepard to take a big pay-cut next season, per Ryan Dunleavy of the NY Post:

The Giants asked receiver Sterling Shepard to take a significant pay cut in order to return on a shortened one-year contract next season, according to a league source.

If the Giants convince Shepard to reduce his salary hit significantly, they could theoretically save the $4.5M and retain him on a cheaper contract. Shepard likely won’t make an impact until the latter portion of the 2022 campaign, given the injury he sustained, but given his veteran leadership and familiarity with the team, his best bet may be to stay local. Realistically, he’s not going to earn much elsewhere, especially over multiple seasons coming off a torn Achilles.

As for Martinez, the Giants haven’t seen what he’s capable of after the torn ACL, so reducing his salary hit might be beneficial for both parties. No team is willing to add a $14 million cap hit for a player in his situation via trade, so the Giants can either cut him or lower his salary hit enough to retain him on a more cost-efficient contract. The breakeven point for the Giants would be $8.5 million for Blake. They would need to lower his salary hit next season down to about $5.5 million to make it work.

New York Giants: Carter Coughlin should see his role increase Sunday

New York Giants, Carter Coughlin

The New York Giants were hit with brutally bad news on Monday morning. During Sunday’s painful loss to the Atlanta Falcons, inside linebacker Blake Martinez went down with a knee injury. On Monday it was announced that Martinez tore his ACL and would miss the remainder of the season.

Blake Martinez is a huge loss on the Giants’ defense. Last year, in Martinez’s first season with the Giants, he recorded 151 combined tackles. This was his fourth year in a row totaling 140 or more combined tackles.

Without Blake Martinez on the field, the Giants are going to need some young linebackers to step up and start making plays. Tae Crowder had a career game against Atlanta filling in for Blake Martinez, according to PFF. Unfortunately, Crowder is also dealing with an injury now. Tae is dealing with a hamstring injury and is QUESTIONABLE for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

With Blake Martinez OUT and Tae Crowder hampered, second-year linebacker Carter Coughlin should see his role increase on Sunday.

Carter Coughlin stats and highlights

In his rookie season with the Giants, Carter Coughlin played edge rusher, as he did in college. He had some impressive moments as a rookie and showed some real promise. Coughlin racked up 17 combined tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack in 14 games and two starts.

Heading into year two, the Giants had Coughlin transition to a new position: inside linebacker. After the preseason, this transition seemed to be a great success. According to Pro Football Focus, Carter Coughlin graded out 91.8 on 24 snaps in his preseason debut at inside linebacker. Coughlin totaled five tackles, one sack, and one tackle for loss in the Giants’ first preseason game. He finished the preseason with eight tackles, three pressures, and two sacks on 69 snaps.

Carter Coughlin looked phenomenal in the preseason. However, he has barely played in 2021 (11 defensive snaps in three games). Carter Coughlin has shown promise in the past. With injuries piling up at the position, it seems to be about time Coughlin enters the lineup and sees his role increase.

New York Giants: LB Blake Martinez OUT for the season with a torn ACL

blake martinez, giants

The New York Giants experienced another crushing loss this morning. It was reported that inside linebacker Blake Martinez suffered a torn ACL during yesterday’s pitiful loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Martinez will miss the remainder of the 2021 season as he hopes to recover fully and bounce back in 2022.

Blake Martinez went down with this injury early in the first quarter of yesterday’s game. It was feared to be an ACL injury, but there was no confirmation until now.

This is a huge loss for the Giants’ defense. Martinez is arguably one of the best inside linebackers in the NFL. He has totaled 140 or more combined tackles in each of the last three seasons. The Giants also invested a significant amount of their salary cap space (3 years, $30.75M) into Martinez, the captain of their defense.

How will the Giants supplement this loss?

The Giants will be without their starting inside linebacker for the rest of the year and they do not have an abundance of depth at the position. Tae Crowder played all but one of 62 defensive snaps yesterday, filling in for Blake Martinez.

The Giants’ new inside linebacker options are Tae Crowder and Reggie Ragland. Both are viable players, however, they are nowhere near the same level of quality as Blake Martinez. Carter Coughlin could also see more playing time as a result of this development.

Tae Crowder had a career game against Atlanta. The 2020 seventh-rounder played 60 defensive snaps and recorded 11 combined tackles. He also allowed just two receptions from four targets for seven yards and recorded a forced incompletion in coverage. – Pro Football Focus on Tae Crowder in Week Three

The Giants should be encouraged by Tae Crowder’s development. The second-year player has big shoes to fill as the Giants’ starting inside linebacker with Blake Martinez out for the year. Crowder, Ragland, and Coughlin will attempt to supplement this humungous loss for New York’s defense.

Reggie Ragland signed this offseason to back up Martinez as a run-stuffing inside linebacker. Carter Coughlin transitioned from edge rusher to inside linebacker this offseason. Coughlin could provide the Giants with a solid pass-rush boost through the interior. The Giants will feel the absence of Blake Martinez, but they do have some quality depth pieces to fill-in in the meantime.

New York Giants name 2021 team captains ahead of Week One

New York Giants, Nick Gates

The New York Giants are days away from kicking off their regular season. The team has announced its new team captains for the 2021 season with kickoff only six days away. There are a few players returning as captains with a couple of new names also added to the mix.

New York Giants 2021 Captains

Offensive Captains:

  • Daniel Jones
  • Saquon Barkley
  • Nick Gates

Defensive Captains:

  • Blake Martinez
  • Logan Ryan

Special Teams Captains

  • Jabrill Peppers
  • Graham Gano


New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is entering his second season as a captain of the team. This is his third career season, one that fans expect to be a big breakout year. He is a carryover captain, along with star running back Saquon Barkley. Saquon was named a captain in 2019 and has maintained that role ever since.

The new captain on offense is starting center Nick Gates. Entering his third season with the team, Gates has been named a captain. Nick Gates has proven to be the definition of a good teammate and a hard worker during his time in New York.


For the first time in his nine-year career, Logan Ryan is a captain. Ryan spent many years as one of the best players on the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots defenses but was never named a captain. The Giants signed Ryan late last offseason and he instantly proved himself as one of the team’s best leaders. The Giants have awarded Logan Ryan with a captain’s patch in his second year with the team.

Blake Martinez is a captain for the second consecutive season. Martinez was one of the Giants’ splash signings in last year’s free agency period. He quickly proved himself as one of the best players on the team and had a career year with the Giants last season.

Special teams

Graham Gano is another new captain on the Giants. Another player entering his second season with the team, Gano earned his captain’s patch after having a phenomenal 2020 season where he made 31 of his 32 field goal attempts.

Jabrill Peppers earned his captain’s patch for the second consecutive season. Peppers brings that energy every Sunday and leads the team’s defense and special teams. Peppers contributes primarily as the team’s starting safety, but also as a punt returner. The Giants are expecting a huge year out of Peppers in 2021.

New York Giants: PFF lists Blake Martinez as a potential first-time All-Pro selection in 2021

New York Giants, Blake Martinez

The New York Giants had one of the NFL’s best defenses in 2020. The unit ranked top-ten in points allowed per game as Joe Judge and Patrick Graham made strong impressions during their first year coaching the Giants. The Giants’ defense really turned things around after allowing the third-most points per game in 2019.

The acquisitions that the team made in the 2020 offseason were crucial for the defense’s success last season. New York made a few splash signings on the defensive side of the ball, adding the likes of James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, and Logan Ryan. This new core of veteran defenders surrounded by young talent allowed the Giants’ defense to outplay all expectations last season.

James Bradberry was selected to his first-career Pro Bowl in his first season with the Giants in 2020. Many felt like Blake Martinez should have been selected to one too, however, the Giants’ star linebacker received no such honor. According to Pro Football Focus, heading into 2021, Blake Martinez has a great chance of earning an even more prestigious honor: an All-Pro selection.

Why Blake Martinez could be an All-Pro in 2021

Blake Martinez was phenomenal for the New York Giants in 2020. The Giants have suffered through various struggles from the inside linebacker position for years. Last season, that changed with the arrival of Blake Martinez.

Martinez spent the first four years of his career with the Green Bay Packers. In 2020, he signed a three-year, $30.75 million contract with the Giants. Blake Martinez was the fifth-most valuable off-ball linebacker in the NFL, according to PFF’s Wins Above Replacement metric. His PFF grade was an impressive 75.9 overall last year.

In 2020, Blake Martinez totaled 151 combined tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles in his career year. This was the fourth season in a row that Martinez totaled 140 or more combined tackles. He has been consistently one of the best run-stuffing linebackers in the NFL throughout his career, but Blake Martinez has never been recognized as such. That could change in 2021 if Martinez can put together another impressive season with the New York Giants.

The New York Giants have one of the best, yet most underrated linebackers in the NFL

New York Giants, Blake Martinez

The New York Giants had a top-ten defense in the NFL last season. The team made a couple of key moves in the 2020 offseason to propel their defense into being one of the league’s best units. The Giants allowed only 22.3 points per game defensively, which ranked ninth-best in the NFL.

Two key free agency additions made their marks and revamped the Giants’ defense: cornerback James Bradberry and linebacker Blake Martinez. The Giants saw their newly-acquired cornerback, Bradberry, make his first career Pro Bowl in a season where he led the NFL in forced incompletions (PFF).

Blake Martinez, however, did not receive any recognition for a stellar 2020 campaign. Martinez has never made a Pro Bowl in his NFL career. He was listed as the sixteenth-best linebacker in the league by PFF this offseason, but Giants fans feel Blake Martinez deserves more credit.

Blake Martinez stats and highlights

The New York Giants enjoyed watching Blake Martinez have a “breakout” season in 2020. Though it was a career year for the five-year veteran, it was anything but a “breakout.” Martinez has been one of the best inside linebackers in the NFL for a few seasons now. Blake Martinez leads the NFL in total tackles over the last four seasons.

Martinez has racked up an insane 594 combined tackles since 2017. He led the NFL in combined tackles in 2017 and has posted 140 or more combined tackles in every season since. Last year, Blake Martinez totaled 151 combined tackles in his first season with the Giants. He also added nine tackles for loss, three sacks, and notched 57 defensive stops and forced two fumbles for the Giants in 2020 (PFF).

If there is one weakness to his game, Blake Martinez does struggle at times in pass coverage. But the Giants’ defensive schematics were excellent in 2020 and played to their players’ strengths. Martinez was not asked to play in coverage that often, masking any deficiencies he might have in that aspect of his game. Patrick Graham allowed Martinez to be a pass-rushing and run-stuffing linebacker. That clever New York Giants scheme allowed Blake Martinez to play to his strengths and emerge as one of the best linebackers in the NFL.

New York Giants: Blake Martinez comes in underrated in PFF linebacker rankings

New York Giants, Blake Martinez

The New York Giants have one of the best inside linebackers in the league in Blake Martinez – but he might be underrated still when compared to others. Martinez, of course, went under the radar as a good addition until the season started and he proved himself on the field.

Many thought the Giants were overpaying and doubted the move, but Martinez went on to register 151 tackles and 3 sacks in his debut season.

His numbers last year placed him with some of the position’s top tacklers, but Martinez still comes in relatively low in this year’s linebacker rankings from Pro Football Focus.

16. Blake Martinez, New York Giants

Only Zach Cunningham and Lavonte David have racked up more defensive stops over the past two seasons than Blake Martinez, whose first season with the Giants was a career-best for him in terms of overall PFF grade (75.9). He notched 57 defensive stops and forced two fumbles for the Giants, and he’ll look to build on that and be even better in 2021.

To be fair, the list involves more than just inside linebackers. Part of the reason why Martinez falls outside the top fifteen is competition from pass rushing outside linebackers.

Still, even including OLBs, the number looks low considering Martinez’s performance last season which saw him competing with some of the leading LBs in the league statistically as well as helping the Giants make a big improvement on the interior compared to previous years.

Going into this season, though, Martinez might have a chance to get more recognition. He is, after all, entering the year already having proved himself last season. The league in general will be more aware of Martinez’s ability, so we’ll see soon enough if he can keep up his standard of play from 2020.

New York Giants’ Blake Martinez details ‘awesome’ free agency and atmosphere around Big Blue

New York Giants, Blake Martinez

The New York Giants have had an eventful off-season, littered with high-profile free agent signings and a strong draft class. Acquiring WR1 Kenny Golliday, CB2 Adoree Jackson, and a bevy of adequate depth pieces, the Giants are heading into the 2021 season with a revitalized sense on both sides of the ball.

For current players, watching the Giants go out and spend big money to acquire more talent was exciting; it represented the progress and forward momentum of the organization.

This present-day Giants team is far different than the one we experienced in recent years, ranging from personnel to front office decisions. Even the players noticed a change, compared to their old teams or just in one off-season with Big Blue.

Arizona radio station interviewed Giants’ LB Blake Martinez, who described the difference between playing in New York and Green Bay — they were quite extreme:

“I think the biggest difference between both is the age of the given guys on either team. I think in Green Bay, it was a lot of older, veteran guys, where in New York it was a lot of young guys still in that college mindset and everyone hung out with each other and had that camaraderie. Not that we didn’t have that camaraderie in Green Bay, but it felt more like a high school (or) college vibe in New York,” Martinez said.

The locker-room aspect of any given team is extremely important, but the camaraderie the Giants currently have is outstanding. The coaching staff has put together a disciplined roster containing a variety of demographics, ranging from youth to veterans. With so much youth on the team, there has a college feel to it, which boosts morale and excitement.

The New York Giants had an “awesome” offseason:

“It’s awesome. Throughout the whole thing, I was excited, especially with the free agency process and the guys we brought in on offense and defense. In the draft, we got multiple defensive guys — a couple outside linebackers, a cornerback, the list goes on. The sky’s the limit, and I think the potential is there, but each and everyday as a group, we just have to keep going back to that foundation and that culture and put that work in to be able to reach that potential. If we do that, I think it’s going to be a very successful year.”

That is exactly what you want to hear from your mike linebacker, who played such an integral part in boosting the defense to a top 10 year in 2020. Martinez finished his first season in blue with 151 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, six QB hits, 3.0 sacks, and a career-low 6.2% missed tackle rate. Martinez is a reliable player, playing at all 16 games despite battling injury at points of the season. He set the example for the younger guys, and with Martinez’s excitement, should come an even better 2021 campaign.