The Giants are back in the pass-rushing business, after they agreed to terms Thursday with Markus Golden, an outside linebacker with the ability to get to the quarterback.
Golden, 28, will get a one-year contract. He spent his first four NFL seasons with the Cardinals, the first three playing for James Bettcher, his defensive coordinator in Arizona. Bettcher now runs the Giants defense and reunites with a player who thrived under him.
In 2016, Golden had 12.5 sacks, 51 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles, playing on the opposite side of the line from Chandler Jones. It was unquestionably the high-point of Golden’s time in Arizona and stamped him as a rising star in only his second season.
Why only a one-year commitment? Golden tore his ACL after four games in 2017 and needs to re-establish himself as a premier player and pass-rusher. In 11 games last season, coming off surgery and operating in a new defense after Bettcher left for the Giants, Golden had 2.5 sacks in 11 games.
The Giants will give Golden the opportunity to prove he is healthy and can be productive. They were desperate to add to a defense that lost its best pass rusher, Olivier Vernon, in a trade with the Browns. The player with the most career sacks on the team, before adding Golden, was linebacker Alec Ogletree, with 6.5.
Bettcher is bringing his types of players to the Giants. The Giants signed another one of Bettcher’s former defenders, Antoine Bethea, a 34-year old former Cardinals safety, earlier this week.
“That’s my guy, that’s my guy,’’ Bethea said of Golden before Golden’s agreement with the Giants. “I would love to have ‘MG’ here. He’s a hardworking guy. A good guy. Most importantly, a good family guy. Maybe I can make a few calls and get him out here.”
As it turned out, the Giants made the call before Bethea got the chance to do so.