It’s looking like the New York Giants will get their top pass rusher back.
On April 27, the Giants placed the unrestricted free agent tender on outside linebacker Markus Golden. If Golden doesn’t sign with another team before the start of training camp, he will return to the Giants on a one-year, $4.125 million contract. On June 30, SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano reported there is “no indication” other teams are interested in signing Golden to a richer deal.
Everything right now suggests Big Blue’s 2019 sack leader will stay on for 2020. This is good news for a team whose biggest defensive weakness is a lack of pass rush. The question is, how much of an impact can Golden really make?
Golden had 10 sacks in 2019, playing on a one-year prove-it deal after tearing his ACL with the Arizona Cardinals in 2017. The Missouri product showing he still had the ability to get after the quarterback and revitalized his career in New York. It was the first double-digit sack season for a Giant since Jason Pierre-Paul in 2014.
Anyone who watched Golden all season, however, knows he wasn’t exactly dominant. He rarely commanded double-teams or forced the offense to adjust to his side. Golden was the only thing close to a proven EDGE player for the G-Men last year. As a result, he played 83% of the Giants defensive snaps. That’s a higher percentage than the likes of Von Miller, Shaq Barrett, and Matthew Judon. By comparison, the Giants’ rookie third-rounder Oshane Ximines had 4.5 sacks on 45% of the defensive snaps. Ximines had nearly half as many sacks on just over half the playing time. With more opportunity, he could match or exceed Golden’s production if he improves in his second year.
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Another player thought to step up in Golden’s potential absence is Kyler Fackrell. The Giants signed the former Green Bay Packer this offseason to a one-year, $4.6 million deal. The Giants brought in Fackrell due to his relationship with new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and the upside he showed in 2018. That year, the Utah State product racked up 10.5 sacks on just 59% of the Packers’ defensive snaps. Fackrell’s numbers dropped off a cliff last year when Graham left the Packers for the Miami Dolphins. He managed just one sack after Green Bay splurged on pass rushers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith. The Giants hope Fackrell rediscovers his 2018 form with an increased role and the reunion with Graham.
Then there’s Lorenzo Carter. He disappointed his first two seasons, but still has the athleticism to be an effective pass rusher.
Should the Giants welcome Golden back? Absolutely. The man can still play, as evidenced by his 10 sacks and 44 quarterback pressures (ninth in the NFL) last year. He will immediately be their most proven EDGE player, and provide veteran leadership on a young Giants defense.
But they should not give him the lion’s share of playing time at the expense of Fackrell, Carter, and especially Ximines. Golden should strictly be used in a rotation at outside linebacker, and on obvious passing downs. Ximines has the potential to be a top-tier pass rusher, and should be given every chance to develop.
Golden is a useful player, but if you’re thinking the Giants are getting their version of Von Miller on the cheap, think again.