Despite losing Dalvin Tomlinson, the New York Giants still have a top-tier defensive line

New York Giants, Dexter Lawrence

The New York Giants improved in many ways during the 2021 offseason. New York landed premium playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. The focus was placed mainly on the offense, but the Giants still invested resources in their defense as well.

The Giants signed Adoree’ Jackson to be their new starting outside cornerback opposite of James Bradberry. They also added talented edge rusher Azeez Ojulari in the draft. The Giants also made sure to lock up star defensive lineman Leonard Williams to a long-term deal.

These moves will all be impactful, but they were all quite costly. The Giants had to make a difficult decision and part ways with defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson this offseason. Re-signing Dalvin would have made it impossible for the Giants to upgrade the positions that they did in this offseason. However, despite the loss of Dalvin Tomlinson, the Giants still have one of the most talented defensive line units in the NFL.

The Giants’ defensive line stats and highlights

Leonard Williams will return in 2021 after nearly hitting the open market this offseason. Big Cat spent the 2020 season on the franchise tag, but the Giants made sure to lock him in long-term after a career-year last season. Leonard Williams posted a career-high 11.5 sacks in his first full season with the Giants. He also made PFF’s list of top 1010 players from the 2020 season.

According to Pro Football Focus, Leonard Williams set a career-high in pressure with 62 combined sacks, hits, and hurries — seven more than his previous best. PFF also points out Leo’s typical run-defending excellence, stating that he had had 30 defensive stops in 2020.

The Giants have their top pass-rusher on the interior with Leonard Williams. But he’s not the only hog molly that can get after the quarterback. Dexter Lawrence has been a solid pass-rushing interior defensive lineman in his first two seasons, and he is only getting better. Sexy Dexy bumped his PFF pass-rush grade from 64.5 as a rookie to 73.2 last season.

Dexter Lawrence recorded 4.0 sacks, 53 combined tackles, and 6 tackles for loss in 2020. At 340 pounds, Lawrence moves quick for a man his size and also does a phenomenal job controlling the line of scrimmage, plugging holes in the run game.

With these two stud defensive lineman returning in 2021, the Giants’ defensive line is in good shape regardless of who mans the nose tackle position that Dalvin Tomlinson left vacant. Regardless, the Giants managed to add solid talent to fill Tomlinson’s shoes.

The Giants signed Danny Shelton this offseason. Shelton has been a solid, consistent run-defending nose tackle his entire career. According to PFF, Danny Shelton graded 69+ overall in 4 straight seasons from 2016-2019 before going to Detroit in 2020.

The loss of Dalvin Tomlinson will be felt on the Giants’ defense as he was a tremendous talent for them since 2017. However, the Giants still have a plethora of talent on the defensive line. The Giants should still have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL with Williams, Lawrence, and Shelton.

New York Giants could supplement the loss of Dalvin Tomlinson through the NFL Draft

The New York Giants had a phenomenal offseason. They spent big money and landed top free agents like Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson to fill huge positions of need. Kyle Rudolph was another great addition that the Giants made in free agency.

While New York managed to add a lot of talent this offseason, they did also lose a crucial piece of their defense. Dalvin Tomlinson walked in free agency, signing with the Minnesota Vikings, leaving a hole on the Giants’ defensive line. Tomlinson was one of the Giants’ best defenders over the past four years. Now, they will need to replace the four-year starter.

The 2021 NFL Draft will provide the Giants an opportunity to replace Dalvin Tomlinson. However, this year’s draft class is considered to be a bit weak at the interior defensive line position. The top of the class has only one interior defensive line prospect considered to be a first-round lock. But the Giants would not be likely to take an interior defensive lineman in round one anyway. However, in the second or third round of the NFL Draft, there is a defensive line prospect that the Giants should make a top target.

Alim McNeill stats and highlights

Run-stuffing interior defensive linemen are a dime a dozen. But interior defensive linemen that can rush the passer and possess great athleticism are a little rarer. NC State’s Alim McNeill is a rare prospect. He’s a big boy, playing his 2020 season at 340 pounds. But he has some sneaky athleticism to his game. Check out this video of McNeill hitting 18 miles per hour on a treadmill:

Empire Sports Media was fortunate enough to speak with Alim “Dream” McNeill in an exclusive interview this month. Right now, McNeill said he is 319 pounds, the weight he plans on playing at in the NFL. This will give Alim positional flexibility. When we asked him about his defensive alignment at the next level, Alim said he is “comfortable in all the positions on the D-Line, whether it’s the 0, 1, 2i, 3, 4i, whatever it is.”

McNeill primarily played nose tackle/0-tech at NC State. The Giants just lost their nose tackle, Dalvin Tomlinson, in free agency. Alim McNeill makes a lot of sense for the Giants as a replacement. He is a talented defensive line prospect that can stuff the run and provide the added bonus of being an explosive pass-rusher.

Alim McNeill posted 10 sacks through 32 career games and, according to Pro Football Focus, had a 9.3% pass-rush win rate, far above the draft class average from his position.

Alim’s run-defense grade via PFF was 92.1 with a 77.5 pass-rushing grade. He has the ability to make plays in both facets of the game. If he is on the board in the second or third round, the Giants should greatly consider drafting Alim McNeill. As an added bonus, McNeill did mention in his interview with ESM that he “would love to be a Giants!” Giants fans would love to have Alim McNeill, a smart, young, explosive defensive lineman that can make plays against the run and the pass.

Giants lose Tomlinson to Vikings in free agency, but Leonard Williams is on the horizon

New York Giants, Dalvin Tomlinson

The New York Giants haven’t been active on the first day of legal tampering in free agency, retaining DT Austin Johnson and signing RB Devontae Booker. Unfortunately, they lost more than they gained, with star interior defender Dalvin Tomlinson signing with the Minnesota Vikings.

While Leonard Williams remains on the horizon for the Giants, they now have a massive hole in the middle of their line that Johnson can’t fill alone. Tomlinson showed incredible growth since his rookie season in 2017. At 26 years old, Tomlinson is just entering his prime and is considered an elite run-stuffer at the NFL level. The Vikings are gaining a rock on the interior and will have a much improved run-stopping game due to the signing.

Williams, on the other hand, is holding the Giants back from spending, as he sits on the franchise tag at $19.3 million. The Giants must extend him and lower his cap hit significantly if they want attack the market with more urgency.

New York Giants will keep Dalvin Tomlinson “if they can” says report

New York Giants, Dalvin Tomlinson

Free agency is the biggest story for the New York Giants right now, and specifically, the team’s salary cap situation. The Giants are over the cap and need to save more money going into next season, and it looks like some veteran players are going to have to go. One player the Giants will want to bring back but might not be able to afford is Dalvin Tomlinson.

Tomlinson has been a consistent impact player on the defensive line since getting drafted in the second round and has started in every game since the 2017 season as one of their most consistent performers. Last season, he put together a performance with 49 combined tackles and 10 quarterback hits. But, the Giants will have to prioritize him in their salary cap plans or watch him go elsewhere.

Which way are the Giants leaning?

New York Giants “love” Dalvin Tomlinson

According to Pat Leonard’s recent report, the team has a high view of him and will keep him if they find a way to do so.

The Giants love DT Dalvin Tomlinson. They will keep him if they can. But there is a good chance Jerry Reese’s 2016 second-round pick gets paid elsewhere… Dave Gettleman and Joe Judge have a very high opinion of Tomlinson. He and Lawrence each played 60% of the defensive snaps in 2020 (Williams’ 74% led the Giants’ D-linemen). The facts simply say it might not work out.

It looks like the big choice will be between Tomlinson and Leonard Williams but the Giants could save cap money depending on what happens with the offensive line. It looks like the Giants might be cutting two of their highest paid players, Kevin Zeitler and Nate Solder, if they fail to take a pay cut to stay with the team.

And if they do so, they may just have the money to avoid losing Tomlinson to the open market. For now, however, the future is cloudy for one of the Giants’ most consistent defenders.

Why the New York Giants should do everything in their power to retain Dalvin Tomlinson

New York Giants, Dalvin Tomlinson

This off-season presents a number of challenges for the New York Giants and teams across the NFL. With the projected salary cap expected to drop a minimum of $15 million, teams will be shedding players to get underneath the cap.

The reality is, the Giants are $3 million over the cap right now, so we should expect them to cut several players, including wide receiver Golden Tate and left tackle Nate Solder.

There’s only so much money they can open up before they are forced to renegotiate contracts to lower the amount of dead money they have to pay out in 2021. There are a few players they could look to extend this off-season, including guard Kevin Zeitler, linebacker Blake Martinez, and corner James Bradberry. By extending them, they can push their cap hits down the road, lowering their price tag for this upcoming season and allowing them a bit more financial flexibility in free agency.

One big question mark this off-season is defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, who has been a staple for the Giants in the trenches since entering the league in 2017. At 26 years old, Tomlinson has never missed a game, showing fantastic consistency and developing into a focal point over center. This past season, he finished with 3.5 sacks, 49 combine tackles, 10 QB hits, and eight tackles for loss. His numbers almost match up perfectly with his 2019 statistics, and the dynamic duo he has formed with Leonard Williams makes him arguably indispensable.

“I’ve been blessed to be here,’’ Tomlinson said. “I love this organization. I always want to be a Giant.’’

How much will the New York Giants have to pay Tomlinson?

The expectation is that Tomlinson will earn in the $10-12 million range per season, which is a lofty price tag the Giants simply can’t afford. They will have to make some tough decisions to fit him into their salary cap, but the defensive front is their most intimidating unit, and breaking them apart could be a significant blow to the entire roster. Considering the defense was top 10 in points allowed per game this past season and the offense ranked 31st in the NFL in points per game scored, hurting their most valuable unit could be catastrophic.

“Our defensive line is the strength of our team,’’ safety Logan Ryan said. “They’re a special group, they have a lot of fun and they’re very violent, physical, big men down there in the box.’’

Tomlinson has only improved over the course of four years, and one year of experience and chemistry with Williams could compound into an even more successful 2021. He has slowly developed his pass rush traits and is considered one of the best run defenders in the NFL. While he did miss seven tackles this past season, he created a career-high 15 pressures and four passes defended.

Replacing Tomlinson at nose tackle would be difficult, but the NFL draft does offer some supplemental pieces. Ultimately, the Giants have let run-stoppers go in the past, using the draft to solve the issue. They’ve had good success with this mentality, but Tomlinson is a bit different since his success is closely tied to Williams’.

An exciting defensive line prospect for the New York Giants to target if they lose Dalvin Tomlinson

The strength of the New York Giants is their defense. Undeniably the strongest positional group on New York’s defense is their defensive line. The trio of Dalvin Tomlinson, Leonard Williams, and Dexter Lawrence dominated in 2020. This group cost numerous assets to put together, but the Giants saw plenty of returns on their investments this past season.

Leonard Williams had a career-year with 11.5 sacks. Dalvin Tomlinson also continued to stand out, racking up 3.5 sacks and 49 combined tackles. Dexter Lawrence was phenomenal in his second year, posting 4 sacks and 53 combined tackles. It will be a major point of emphasis for the Giants to keep this trio together and build the defense around this unit.

However, the Giants are entering a crucial free agency period where they could lose one or two of these defensive linemen. Both Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson are free agents. It will be a top priority for the Giants to sign these players to contract extensions. But if one of them walks, it would be a huge blow to the defense and would force them to turn their attentions towards the interior defensive line prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Fortunately, there are some really intriguing defensive line prospects in the middle rounds of this year’s draft class. One exciting prospect to keep an eye on is Alim McNeill out of NC State. McNeill is a sleeper prospect that has begun rising up draft boards in recent weeks. If the Giants lose Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency, Alim McNeill would be the perfect nose tackle replacement to target in the draft.

Alim McNeill stats and highlights

Describe a unicorn. How about a 315-pound nose tackle that can hit 18 miles per hour on a treadmill and rush the passer with great efficiency? That sounds like a unicorn. That also sounds like Alim McNeill. Alim McNeill is a freakishly athletic interior defensive lineman that might somehow fall into the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

McNeill was initially projected as a third or fourth-round draft pick. However, in recent weeks, talent evaluators like Pro Football Focus have begun to hype up McNeill and tout him as a second-round prospect. It is not difficult to see what PFF sees when they praise Alim McNeill.

Nose tackles that can defend the run are common. But nose tackles that can pass-rush are rare. Alim McNeill was proficient at doing both in college. McNeill lined up as a 0-tech in college but was still able to find production as a pass-rusher, which is highly uncommon from that defensive alignment. McNeill’s athleticism comes from his history playing running back in high school. It is shocking how frequently that athleticism shows up on his game tape playing defensive line in college.

Alim McNeill might not be the most technically refined or advanced pass-rusher. But he has elite explosiveness and the ability to barrel through offensive linemen en route to the quarterback. McNeill posted 10 sacks through 32 career games and, according to Pro Football Focus, had a 9.3% pass-rush win rate, far above the draft class average from his position.

McNeill’s run-defense grade via PFF was 92.1 with a 77.5 pass-rushing grade. He has the ability to make plays in both facets of the game. The hope is for the New York Giants to re-sign Dalvin Tomlinson this offseason. But if they are unable to make that happen, drafting Alim McNeill would be quite the backup plan.

How the New York Giants could replace Dalvin Tomlinson if he leaves in free agency

New York Giants, Dalvin Tomlinson

The New York Giants have a few difficult decisions to make this off-season, and one of them revolves around interior defender Dalvin Tomlinson. After being drafted back in 2017, Tomlinson has taken gradual steps forward in his development and is now a key in stopping the run for the Giants’ defense. However, he is expected to earn a contract extension that could be out of their price range, as the salary is expected to drop significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This isn’t just a problem for New York, though, as teams around the league will have to shed players in line to earn extensions. Of course, retaining Tomlinson would be ideal, considering his dynamic pairing with Leonard Williams, who posted 11.5 sacks in 2020.

Nonetheless, replacing 0-1 technique interior defenders is probably the easier thing to do on defense. Whether the Giants look toward the draft or a supplemental piece in free agency on a cheaper deal, Tomlinson seems to be the odd man out. We’ve seen them do similar things in the past with Linval Joseph and Jonathan Hankins, letting them walk and earn bigger contracts elsewhere while using the draft to supplement the position in the mid-rounds.

Two draft prospects the New York Giants could look at to replace Tomlinson:

Tommy Togiai:

Tommy Togiai is a solid replacement for Tomlinson in the second round, after enjoying an impressive season with the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2020. He projects as a high-level run defender, exactly what Tomlinson dominated in during his tenure in blue.

The OSU interior defender soaks up double teams and uses a strong base to control offensive linemen at the line of scrimmage and corral runners. He is an above-average A and B-gap defender, which is exactly what Tomlinson is utilized for Patrick Graham’s defense. He would easily fit into their 3-4 scheme, and there is some more potential as a pass rusher from the interior. Ultimately, they need to find a solid nose tackle to line up over the center, and Togiai can do that well.

At 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, adding a bit more size could be helpful to his game, but he did show some production as a pass rusher with 3.0 sacks in 2020.

Alim McNeill:

Another solid option is McNeill, who projects as more of a pass rusher from the IDL. McNeill is a great athlete with explosiveness off the LOS, which is exactly what you want from a player who can line up over the center or in a three-technique. At 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, he has the lateral quickness and pass rusher mentality that allows him to press on and collapse the pocket. His motor seems to never stop, but his ability to penetrate gaps is what makes him so attractive. If the Giants want to go with a more interior pass rush look, McNeill is the right player to go with, but if they want to focus on stopping the run, Togiai represents a more refined talent.

New York Giants projected to keep Tomlinson but not Williams in PFF prediction

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

The New York Giants have some big choices up ahead when it comes to managing the cap, and the most apparent one is the selection of Dalvin Tomlinson or Leonard Williams. It’s looking like the Giants are going to have to choose between a more consistently solid defensive lineman and one who stepped up his game big time as of recent to contribute more in the sacks department. And if they handle things wrong, they may see the line take a big step back this year.

With the flashier numbers last season, however, it may be Leonard Williams that’s the most likely to leave in free agency. That’s what Pro Football Focus predicted when they ranked 100 free agents, including giving predictions on their destinations.

Williams was traded from the New York Jets to the New York Giants in 2019 and had to move his locker across Metlife Stadium. He may be moving much further than that after the 2020 season unless he can agree to a long-term extension with the Giants coming off the franchise tag. A second franchise tag for Williams would cost the Giants $19,351,200 (120% of his current tag) and isn’t out of the question. That number also provides a solid floor for Williams in negotiations in terms of an average per year amount.

Prediction: Panthers sign Williams for four years, $80 million ($20M APY): $47.5M total guaranteed, $32.5M fully guaranteed at signing.

On the other hand, the Giants are predicted to sign Tomlinson to a four year and $52.5 million dollar deal with $26.5 million guaranteed. Williams is rated as the 20th best free agent while Tomlinson is rated as the 39th best.

Williams raised his performance to complete the season with 11.5 sacks, the most from a Giants pass rusher in recent memory. Arguably, Williams turned into the best pass rusher the Giants have had since they fully started rebuilding.

Tomlinson on the other hand doesn’t bring in numbers as flashy as that, but has more consistently shown up for the Giants in four seasons with the team. After all, he’s started every game during those four seasons and his numbers haven’t jumped around wildly like Williams’ have.

At the end of the day, the Giants will want to keep both players, but it’s increasingly looking like they won’t be able to do that. If one of the two is going to leave, it would make sense that the more expensive of the two goes elsewhere to make more money.

Should the New York Giants let Dalvin Tomlinson walk in free agency?

New York Giants, Dalvin Tomlinson

The New York Giants have a few big decisions to make this off-season, and one of them centers around defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson.

Tomlinson is a former second-round pick by the Giants in 2017 and hasn’t missed a game in four years. Ultimately, the Giants like healthy players in the trenches, similar to Leonard Williams, who has also never missed a game due to injury. Their dynamic duo in 2020 combined for 15 total sacks, 106 total tackles, 22 tackles for loss, and 40 quarterback hits.

Letting Tomlinson walk this off-season after the conclusion of his rookie deal would undoubtedly have a significant impact on the Giants’ defensive line. He is one of the best run stoppers and routinely puts pressure on the pocket from a 0-1 technique standpoint. He can line up over the center and over the inside shade of guards.

His impact is well recorded within the Giants brass, who value him highly, especially after earning one of his best pass-rush grades from the 2020 season.

Per PFF, Tomlinson had a career-high 74.7 pass-rush great but did struggle with his tackling efficiency this year. He missed a career-high 12.5% of his tackles, but it didn’t show up as a significant difference-makers on film. He did generate 18 hurries on opposing quarterbacks and made 26 stops, which attests to his value in the trenches and stopping the run.

The big issue is breaking up the trio of big men general manager Dave Gettleman has put together on the defensive front. Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Dexter Lawrence all represent a hard nose style of football that the Giants have adapted to after the hiring of Joe Judge. They like to generate pressure from the interior, allowing the outside linebackers to dominate in 1V1 matchups on the outside.

That is a primary reason most expect the Giants to acquire an above-average pass rusher this off-season so that the interior defense can maximize their efforts. When the outside linebackers are lackluster, it forces the interior to do a majority of the work with little support. Tomlinson is a primary factor in their scheme, especially under Patrick Graham’s 3-4 defense that prioritizes big men in the trenches.

The expectation is that Tomlinson will command at least $10 million in free agency per year, and the Giants only have so much money they can spend.

There were reports during the trade deadline this past year that the Green Bay Packers tried to acquire Tomlinson. However, Judge indicated his confidence in the roster, as the Giants elected to stay quiet without making any significant deals. It is no secret that Dalvin wants to stay in blue for the remainder of his career, but football is a business, and players depart frequently.

The friendship that Williams and Tomlinson have created this season is special, and their tandem will likely blossom in 2021 with a year of experience in Graham’s scheme. Adding another piece to the secondary to help shore up the CB2 spot will only help them in the trenches. In my opinion, the Giants need to do everything it takes to retain Tomlinson and Williams for the future, but given the cap situation, it will be incredibly difficult.

Why the New York Giants need to re-sign Dalvin Tomlinson this offseason

New York Giants, Dalvin Tomlinson

The New York Giants are entering a crucial roster-building offseason. New York has numerous key players set to hit free agency, in need of new contract extensions. The Giants’ defense exceeded all expectations this season, mainly riding off of their strong defensive line.

Unfortunately for the Giants, two of their most crucial players are impending free agents. Both of those players are defensive linemen. Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams are both set to hit free agency in March. It will be difficult for the Giants to keep both of these players and remain under the salary cap.

This has led to many fans pointing out Leonard Williams as the “must-sign” player between the two. However, both of these players are necessary to keep this defense thriving and the Giants should look to extend both of them in March.

Dalvin Tomlinson stats and highlights

Ever since he was drafted by the Giants in 2017, Dalvin Tomlinson has been one of the best, and most consistent members of the team. Dalvin has not missed a single game in his career yet.

Additionally, Tomlinson has improved as a pass-rusher every year. When he entered the league, Tomlinson was strictly a run defender and did not apply much pressure to the quarterback. He totaled one sack in his first two years in the NFL.

Since then, Dalvin Tomlinson has greatly improved as a pass-rusher. After posting zero sacks in 2018, Tomlinson turned things around in 2019 with 3.5 sacks. He matched that same total in 2020, proving that his improvements last season were not a fluke.

Seven sacks in Dalvin’s last two seasons demonstrates his value in both facets of the game. Additionally, it is no coincidence that Tomlinson’s pass-rushing productivity improved upon the arrival of Leonard Williams midway through the 2019 season. The Giants need to prioritize re-signing both of their free agent defensive linemen, not just Leonard Williams.

Leonard Williams was excellent for the Giants in 2020, racking up a career-high 11.5 sacks. But New York’s top interior defender benefits from playing alongside two other talented hog mollies, Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence. Lawrence is entering only his third season, so he will stick around for a while longer. But with Tomlinson set to hit the open market, the Giants need to recognize the importance of keeping this trio of defensive linemen together and re-sign both of their impending free agents.