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Five Free Agents The New York Giants Should Consider

ATLANTA, GA – OCTOBER 22: A New York Giants football helmet on the sideline during the game between the New York Giants and the Atlanta Falcons on October 22, 2018, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. The Atlanta Falcons defeated the New York Giants 23-20.(Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)Getty

The NFL calendar is about to move away from its dead period into the annual scouting combine and soon after that, into free agency.

With the Giants having several needs on both sides of the ball, the management brass of general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur will need to decide how to fill some of the team’s most glaring needs, starting with identifying potential free agents who could step in and help the team right away.

Here is a look at five names who could find their way into the same sentence with the Giants once free agency begins.

Chicago Bears strong safety Adrian Amos (38) is seen during an NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Thursday, November 22, 2018. (Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)Getty

S Adrian Amos (Chicago)

The Giants will almost certainly be looking to upgrade their free safety position, last year held by Curtis Riley. While names like Earl Thomas and Tyrann Mathieu are likely to be at the top of Giants fans’ wish list, Adrian Amos of the Bears might be an attractive option given his age (25) and his production.

Amos, a 2015 fifth-round pick out of Penn State, can actually play both safety spots equally well.  He started in 56 out of 60 games played, and has 273 career tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3 interceptions and  19 passes defensed, recording career highs in tackles (73), passes defensed (9), and interceptions (2) last season.

Ranked the top free safety by Bleacher Report in 2017, Amos not only takes smart angles, but he has  sufficient speed to close in on the ball. He’s also a fundamentally sound tackler—per Pro Football Focus, Amos, who recorded 10 missed tackles in his first two seasons, has seen those totals drop to the single digits, with six in 2017 and nine last year.

The big question is whether the Giants will want to invest major capital in both Amos and Landon Collins. Given the importance of the safeties in James Bettcher’s defense, it would be hard to imagine them skimping on quality if they aspire to be a top defense.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – JANUARY 06: Za’Darius Smith #90 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts after blocking a field goal against Mike Badgley #4 of the Los Angeles Chargers during the third quarter in the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 06, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)Getty

Edge Za’Darius Smith (Baltimore)

The Giants will probably use some of their draft resources to add to their pass rush, but if they should want a veteran to come in and potentially team up with Olivier Vernon (if he’s retained) and Lorenzo Carter, Za’Darius Smith of the Ravens might just be the perfect fit.

Smith, a fourth-round pick in 215 out of Kentucky, is coming off a career-best 8.5 sacks for the Ravens, for whom he lined up as both a defensive end and outside linebacker. In fact, Smith led the Ravens’ edge defenders with 59 pressures on 428 pass rushing opportunities.

Smith, 6-foot-4, 272 pounds, is probably closer to the prototypical size for 3-4 DE/OLB. Smith’s strengths include his hand usage—he is constantly sparring with offense linemen and does a fairly decent job of stopping them from clamping down on him—and his ability to penetrate gaps.

Smith probably won’t be as expensive as some of the other premium pass rushers set to hit the market, e.g. Tank Lawrence of Dallas, but he’s almost certain to command somewhere in the $10-$12 million per year range, which might put him out of reach for the Giants unless they swap him for Vernon.

This is a 2018 photo of Markus Golden of the Arizona Cardinals NFL football team. This image reflects the Arizona Cardinals active roster as of Monday, April 16, 2018 when this image was taken. (AP Photo)

LB Markus Golden (Arizona)

Smith is just one potential edge rusher the Giants could turn to if they decide to move on from Vernon. Another who happens to have ties to Bettcher’s system is Golden, a second-round pick by Arizona.

Golden, 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, seemed destined for greatness in that Cardinals defense. In 2016, his second season, he recorded 12.5 sacks, 51 total tackles and four forced fumbles—all career highs. However, he was unable to build on that production in 2017 as after four games, he suffered a torn ACL.

Last year, Golden played in just 11 games, recording 25 tackles and 2.5 sacks with 2 passes defensed, numbers that were nowhere near his breakout 2016 season, but numbers for which one might argue that his surgically repaired knee might not have been at 100%.

Assuming Golden can get back to his pre-injury self, he can bring a fierce competitiveness to a team that includes holding the edge well enough against the run and who can dig in at the point of attack.

He also had better than average mobility in pursuit prior to his injury, showing himself able to chase down ball carriers. While not particularly explosive prior to his injury, Golden always played with a sense of urgency and with a high motor that helped propel him to make plays.

Carolina Panthers’ Daryl Williams (60) arrives before the NFL football team’s practice in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, June 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

RT Daryl Williams (Carolina)

The Giants began revamping their offensive line last offseason, but thanks to the colossal flop of Ereck Flowers, who was no better on the right side than he was on the left, the Giants were sent scrambling, forced to rely on second year man Chad Wheeler.

To his credit, Wheeler battled hard, but the undrafted free agent out of USC  often found himself overmatched. Meanwhile Gettleman, who has already turned to several of his former players from his time with the Panthers, could do so again to finally fix the offensive line’s right side should he end up reaching out to Williams.

The 6-foot-6, 335-pound Williams, who played his college ball at Oklahoma, is coming off an injury-shortened season after trying to play through a dislocated right kneecap and torn MCL suffered in training camp that, after one regular season game, saw him require season-ending surgery.

The previous season, he started all 16 games at right tackle, allowing 35 total pressures (and just four sacks) per PFF while committing just two penalties. A former fourth-round pick who’s only 26, Williams is a physical player with strong hands who can drive his man around the field at will—precisely what the Giants need to give their running game some added firepower.

As a pass protector, Williams is also able to spot and react well to twists, that being a problem for the right side of the Giants offensive line last year. Williams, who was part of the Panthers Super Bowl team in 2015, is also said to have an impeccable character and strong work ethic, both elements that would seemingly be a perfect fit into the new culture that Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur put in place last year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Chris Conte warms up before an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

 FS Chris Conte (Tampa Bay)

If Amos isn’t an option at free safety due to cost, Conte, 30, might be worth investigating. A third-round pick of the Bears in 2011 out of California, Conte spent the last four seasons with the Bucs, for whom he played in 47 games with 41 starts, recording 19 passes defensed and 5 interceptions.

Conte’s 2018 season was cut short by a knee injury suffered in Week 3. Career-wise, he has appeared in 104 games with 93 starts and has 14 interceptions and 40 career passes defensed.

At 6-foot-2, 203 pounds, Conte showed before his injury that he had good speed for his size, and who could play the slot cornerback spot. In coverage, Conte has allowed 63% of the pass targets thrown at him to be complete, but of the 1,963 yards he’s allowed, only 33.4% of those yards have come after the catch.

Conte also showed good instincts in diagnosing the run—Pro Football Focus has him down for 70 career stops for zero or negative yardage—and could often get himself into position to limit gains.

If his medicals check out and the Giants are looking for maybe a more reasonably priced option at free safety, Conte could be worth a look.

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