If Dave Gettleman is right, Jadeveon Clowney might be the only elite pass rusher available on the free agent market. And Clowney is interested in playing for the Giants.
But how much do the Giants want him?
That will be the question Gettleman has to answer when the free-agent market opens on March 18, because Clowney's price could be extraordinarily high. According to an NFL source, the Giants are one of the teams on the 27-year-old edge rusher's wish list as he heads to free agency. But according to another source, he could be looking at a contract worth $22-23 million per year, which will likely be out of the Giants' range.
The Giants need and want a dominant pass rusher, it's unclear if they'd spend that much on any player - and if that player would be Clowney. In recent weeks, Dave Gettleman, Joe Judge and John Mara have all signaled a somewhat cautious approach to free agency this year, even though they are expected to have about $75 million to spend and many NFL sources expect them to spend it.
Getting that one dominant defender that Gettleman craves certainly could change their thinking, though, since a player like Clowney could transform a young defense that they believe is loaded with promise. And new coach Joe Judge echoed that desire, too.
"Everybody wants an elite guy," Judge said at the combine last week. "But you have to find ways, if you don't have necessarily that one elite guy, of getting production out of maybe two to three other players that complement each other."
That's a theme the Giants harped on last week and it could be a sign they won't go after the top pass rushers - especially since outside of Clowney, there are few other elite options. They are unlikely to be in position to get Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young in the draft, and they will have to make their big free agent decisions long before then anyway. And as Gettleman said at the combine, most of the top would-be free agent pass rushers are likely to get the franchise tag. Already the Jaguars have informed Yannick Ngakoue he'll be tagged, and according to various reports, Pittsburgh's Bud Dupree and Baltimore's Matthew Judon are on their way to getting tagged, too.
That leaves Clowney likely sitting atop a small heap. And it could be much more cost-effective for the Giants to try to re-sign Markus Golden, who had 10 sacks for them last year, and maybe even add New England's Kyle Van Noy (6 ½). Both could land in the $12 million per year range, meaning the Giants could get both of them for about what it would cost to land Clowney.
The Giants do have an interest in re-signing Golden, a source said, though it will depend on what his price is. They also have an interest in Van Noy, according to another source, and the feeling is believed to be mutual since they were together four years in New England.
Another reason the Giants might not be all-in on Clowney is that he does have issues to consider. He had only three sacks last season after he was traded from the Houston Texans to the Seattle Seahawks in September, though those that watched him closely have said those numbers aren't indicative of how disruptive he's been on the field. He's never had double-digit sacks in his six NFL seasons. He's also had injury issues, as Gettleman noted at the combine last week, which alone might be enough to scare the Giants off.
Remember, they were burned once recently by overpaying for a pass rusher. They gave Olivier Vernon a five-year, $85 million contract back in 2016 deal back in 2016 and they got 22 sacks in just 39 games from him over three seasons - a good, but not great return on a huge investment. His contract quickly became an albatross, though they were able to ship him to Cleveland in 2019 as part of the Odell Beckham trade.
The Giants also have other needs that might be less costly. They are looking at signing a free-agent cornerback like Carolina's James Bradberry, though his price is likely to reach $15 million per season. They need a middle linebacker too, to replace Alec Ogletree, and are expected to be in the Rams' Cory Littleton and Cleveland's Joe Schobert. Don't rule out a pursuit of a center either, especially if they decide to address tackle in the draft.