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It’s been far too long since the New York Giants have had proficient deep safety play on the back end of their defense. These players, usually found through the NFL Draft, can make a break a defense and help form championship caliber teams like the Baltimore Ravens with Ed Reed (2002: 1st Round, 24th selection) and the Pittsburgh Steelers with Troy Polamalu (2003: 1st Round, 16th selection). While these two players are very different in styles, they have already cemented their shrines in Canton, Ohio.
As most Giants fans know, free agency has also assisted teams in finding centerfield type players that can help support a championship squad; safeties like Antrel Rolle for example, who was drafted as a cornerback for the Cardinals and came to the Giants as a safety in 2010. These high priced free agents, while providing value, still can create unwanted cap restrictions in the future. Patriots’ Devin McCourty, the Vikings’ Anthony Harris, and Broncos’ Justin Simmons would be welcomed pieces to Patrick Graham’s defense, but it’s a costlier option than bringing in experienced, depth, pieces that can teach the potential young talent on the roster. These experienced players can also help play a key role on special teams; the same role that 2019 special teams captain Michael Thomas played in that campaign, a free agent that I hope the Giants retain. I wanted to highlight some of the discounted upcoming free agent safeties that could earn an important role and possibly compete for a starting job on the 2020 Giants. The future of Antoine Bethea is in question as cutting Bethea would save the Giants $2.75 million on the cap with little dead money, so the team is in the market to explore all their options.
Jayron Kearse, Minnesota Vikings
I wrote about the 6-foot-4, 215-pound safety in the five low cost free agents for the Giants to pursue in 2020.
My theories on the player’s ability to mesh with the Giants still hold true. Stuck behind a lot of talent in Minnesota with impending free agent Anthony Harris and one of the best safeties in the game Harrison Smith starting in front of him. There’s a lot of potential that has yet to be unlocked, and the physical gifts of Kearse are very noticeable. Huge wingspan, position versatility, and a physically intimidating presence with special teams upside. My concerns with Kearse are his stiffness and I don’t feel he possesses the natural athletic ability and hip flexibility to play deep Cover 1 consistently, but by no means does that render him ineffective. Kearse should compete for nickel sub-package roles and, with his height and physicality, he could possibly be used against teams that employ their tight ends; something the Giants have significantly struggled defending over the years. I feel it is worth a shot and it could come at a reasonable price.
I would welcome the 6-foot, 200-pound Adams back to the New York Giants, where he had an exceptional rookie season back in 2016, before being released. In that year, Adams notched 46 tackles, 1 interception, and 5 passes defensed. He’s been in Tampa Bay ever since and recorded 5 interceptions and 14 passes defensed since his time donning blue. Adams’ is not the best athlete in the world, nor are his hips overly fluid to open up, unhinge, and quickly explode to cover ground. A lot of those types of players will never hit free agency; if they did, they would command big bucks, but Adams brings other things to the table that are intriguing for the center field position. Adams is a smart football player who understands spatial awareness and how to utilize the correct angles to maximize his effectiveness on the football field. Adams’ isn’t the only former Giant on this list, but he’s the one I would most want to reunite with, being that he’s only 27, has a high football IQ, and has played in multiple schemes. Wish he was more athletic, but beggars can’t be choosers if a team’s not spending money in free agency, am I right?
Sean Davis, Pittsburgh Steelers
The curious case of Sean Davis, or maybe that’s being dramatic. The 6-foot-1, 202-pound, Davis was a 2nd round pick out of Maryland by the Steelers, and it just did not work out. From 2016-2018, Davis recorded 5 interceptions, allowed 7 touchdowns, and surrendered a 72% catch rate, not ideal, but that’s only half of it; Davis was marginal against the run and was a liability while tackling in some respects. He spent the entirety of 2019 on the IR, outside of Week 2, but I feel this is a risk the Giants should consider. Davis will be cheap, has a high draft pedigree, his best season was 2018 where he played more of a deep role with the addition of Terrell Edmunds in the draft, and he displayed good ball skills in college, so there’s something that can potentially be worked on. It’s a low risk signing and maybe a new voice can command something different from a 26-year-old player that was highly regarded a few short years ago.
See, I told you there would be another former Giant on here. The erstwhile 6-foot-2, 211- pound, third-round pick by the Jerry Reese office has been wearing stars on his uniform for the last two years, and he ended up playing significant snaps in 2019 (425). Thompson was drafted in 2016 to be the deep compliment to Landon Collins who was a second-round pick the year prior. Thompson had insane ball production at Boise State, playing on that SMURF TURF, with 19 interceptions and 6 passes defensed. If there was a ball near Thompson, he gobbled it up, and that truth endeared Jerry Reese. I enjoyed the pick at the time, but my two concerns, which both showed up in the NFL, was athletic ability and length. Thompson only has slightly above 30 inch arms and he tested very poorly at the combine with a abysmal 3-cone and sub-par forty time. It’s evident that Thompson lacks the footspeed, acceleration, and explosiveness to be a deep Cover 1 safety, but I feel he can fill in well as a half the field safety or a deep half player. The athletic limitations will limit his ceiling, but there’s still a lot of positive things for the 26-year-old to build on. With this new coaching staff, and their initiative to teach players, the Giants could help transcend his career and turn him into a salvageable, yet cheap and effective, piece to an NFL franchise.
More of a strong safety type, than a middle of the field deep player, Burris was effective for the Cleveland Browns in 2019. At 6-foot and 212 pounds, Burris is a more physical safety that is better near the box. Due to injuries, he played on 409 defensive snaps and was one of the core special teams players for the Browns. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranks 54th in overall defense at the safety position and he was able to earn 2 interceptions with 2 passes defensed in 2019. I feel Burris’ contributions would be more for special teams, due to the presence of Julian Love on the roster, who was a very solid fill in for Jabrill Peppers, once the injury forced Peppers to miss time. At only 26 years old, he would come cheap, with a long history of performing well on special teams and playing admirably in spot start duty.