New York Giants: 2019 Free Agent Targets At The Linebacker Position

Last offseason, the Giants attempted to improve their linebacker position via trade. The Giants acquired Alec Ogletree and a 2019 7th round pick from the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a 2018 4th round pick and a 2018 6th round pick.

Despite this trade, the Giants’ linebacker position was still below average in 2018. Alec Ogletree finished the season with a 50.7 overall grade, ranked 81st out of all linebackers in the league. He was inconsistent in coverage and missed many tackles that left fans frustrated with the defensive captain. B.J. Goodson performed better (66.2 overall PFF grade), but was still only the 41st ranked linebacker in the NFL.

Luckily for the Giants, there are plenty of options to upgrade the linebacker position in the 2019 offseason. There are options in the 2019 free agency class. The Giants can certainly find quality linebackers to start for 2019 and beyond.

Free Agency:

If the Giants want to make a splash in free agency, there are a couple of big-name free agents they could look to sign. However, it does not stop there. There are not only big-name free agents, there are solid depth pieces they could look to sign on cheaper contracts.

Anthony Barr:

One big-name linebacker they could sign is Anthony Barr from the Minnesota Vikings. Barr is a jack-of-all-traits. He can rush the passer, defend the run, and play in coverage. Anthony Barr has been selected to the Pro Bowl each of the past four seasons.

Anthony Barr accumulated 23 pressures on just 94 pass-rush snaps in 2018. On top of that, 2018 featured a career high in sacks for Barr 3 total sacks. This is especially impressive considering Barr’s high number of pressures and low number of pass-rush snaps. This prompted some to believe he should be converted to a full-time edge defender like he was in college

However, it would not be surprising if Barr remained at linebacker because of his ability to play in coverage. His 22 total passes defended in only 5 seasons proves he is a playmaker at the linebacker position.

He had a down year in 2018. He posted a career worst tackle total with only 55 but that could work to the Giants’ benefit. His 2018 campaign could lead him to a lower market value this offseason. If Barr could return to form, he could take the Giants’ defense to the next level.

Jordan Hicks:

Jordan Hicks is another big-name free agent that the Giants could look to sign. Stealing an impact player from a division rival could reap plenty of benefits. He could give the Giants some insider info on how to beat the Eagles’ defense. On top of that, Hicks is one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL. He had 5 passes defended in 2018.

After missing 9 games in 2017 with a leg injury, Hicks bounced back with a solid campaign in 2018. In only 12 games, Hicks posted 91 total tackles. Hicks also totaled 3 sacks and one fumble recovery.

Hicks was still working his way back from injury in 2018, but if he is completely healthy in 2019, he could return to form as one of the best linebackers in the NFL. In 2016, Hicks played all 16 games and was lockdown in coverage. He had 5 interceptions and 11 passes defended in 2016. The Giants’ defense would welcome that production with open arms.

Deone Bucannon:

Deone Bucannon from the Arizona Cardinals is not a top-tier, big name free agent. He should be a cheaper option in free agency, but he could very well be a match for the Giants. Bucannon has a connection to the Giants’ defensive coordinator, James Bettcher. Bettcher was the defensive coordinator of the Cardinals before he joined the Giants in 2018.

Bucannon used to play safety for the Cardinals, but Bettcher had the wits to convert him to linebacker because of his tackling ability. In 2015, when Bucannon was playing both safety and linebacker, he racked up 109 tackles. He also had an interception, 3 passes defended, and 3 forced fumbles.

Unfortunately, Deone’s production has not been as stellar as 2015 in recent years. In 2018, Bucannon only started in 6 games, played in 13, and racked up just 38 tackles. He has become more of a rotational player. However, it is possible that a reunion with Bettcher could bring out the best in Bucannon.

New York Giants: How The Giants’ Offensive Line Graded Out On PFF In 2018

New York Giants, Nate Solder

The New York Giants’ offensive line struggled all throughout the 2018 NFL season. Giants’ General Manager Dave Gettleman will certainly be grinding the film sessions to evaluate the offensive line’s performance. The line improved in the second half of the season, however, it was still inconsistent and below average. Pro Football Focus’s grading system helps add context and aid in the evaluation process.

The Left Side Of The Line

Giants fans know the offensive line has been a weakness for years now. Finally, in 2018, Gettleman showed Ereck Flowers the door, and things began to improve. However, there is still much room for improvement along the offensive line.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants offensive line ranked 21st in the league in 2018. The two best players along the offensive line were the rookie second-rounder, guard Will Hernandez, and the big free agent signing, left tackle Nate Solder.

PFF stated that Solder started the season off poorly, allowing six sacks and 20 total pressures through the first eight games. However, he finished the season strong, allowing only one sack and 13 total pressures over the second half of the season.

Will Hernandez had a great rookie season with the Giants in 2018. His 65.8 overall grade was above averaged and ranked him 21st out of all guards in the NFL. Out of all rookie interior-offensive linemen, Hernandez ranked second, showing his potential to be a star on the line for years to come. An impressive stat that PFF notes is Hernandez’s two penalties on 1,027 snaps. That is incredibly clean and efficient play from the young “Hog Molly.”

The center position also looks set for 2019 and beyond, if the players can remain healthy. Jon Halapio was playing great football until he went down with a lower leg injury in only the second game of the season. He missed the rest of 2018, but Dave Gettleman has made it clear he intends to resign Halapio this offseason. Halapio started the season off with a 69.4 overall grade before his injury. He was playing the best out of any lineman on the Giants’ roster at the time.

The Right Side Of The Line

The left side of the offensive line looks set for 2019 and beyond. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the right side of the offensive line. Right tackle Chad Wheeler struggled all season. He finished with an overall grade of 47.4, ranking him as the 78th tackle in the NFL.

The Giants acquired their right guard, Jamon Brown, midway through the season. Brown was an upgrade over Patrick Omameh, however, he is not likely to be a long-term solution at the position. The team played better with Brown out there, and he has potential to grow with a second year in the Giants’ offense, but his overall PFF grade of 51.7 ranked 64th out of all guards in 2018. Brown could be a great depth piece along the offensive line if the Giants are able to acquire more talent.

Things look set along the left side of the line and the center position for the Giants heading into 2019. If the Giants are able to acquire a couple of difference-makers on the right side of the line via free agency or the draft, they could have a turnaround similar to the Colts in 2018. The Giants will need to make an upgrade at right tackle, and luckily for them, there are plenty of options this offseason. The Giants’ offensive line has potential to be great in 2019.

New York Yankees: Neil Walker Signs With Marlins Despite Return Rumors

New York Yankees utility man Neil Walker has reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Miami Marlins, for two million dollars. Entering this off-season, there became a lot of talks about the Yankees possibly resigning him for another year.

Before the Yankees got Troy Tulowitzki and had announced they had serious interest in Manny Machado, Walker may have been an option to start the season at second base while Gleyber Torres shifted to Shortstop to fill the shoes of the injured Didi Gregorious.

Yankees’ Walker 2018 performance:

In 2018, Neil Walker had statistically his worse season after getting off to a dreadful start, before finally picking it up just before the all-star break. He hit .219. had an OBP of .309, and had a slugging percentage of .354, all career lows. Though he did have several clutch hits to start rallies and a couple walk-offs.

He wasn’t able to really get it going until he saw more of a role with the team. He first saw an everyday role when Gleyber Torres saw DL time in July, then playing some RF when Aaron Judge was injured and Giancarlo Stanton needed to rest or DH to nurse hamstring tightness.

Walker had previously not seen OF action, but needed to when the team was in a ‘next man up mentality’. He also learned how to play third base after Brandon Drury had gone down with an early season injury, and knowing that they may need help on defense with Andujar having fielding skills that need development.

How he will impact the Marlins

Walker will serve as a veteran in another utility role in Miami, but most likely playing more first base. Ex-Yankees Starlin Castro and Martin Prado occupy second base and third base, and the most support will be needed at first base.

The Marlins no longer have a true first baseman after they traded Justin Bour to Philadelphia, now signing with the Los Angeles Angels. The Marlins have a very young, underdeveloped team that needs veteran support and all-around depth. I know that Walker would much rather play for a contender, but this is a good fit for him.