The Giants didn't find the big-time pass rusher they crave in free agency, and they're not likely to be in position to grab one in the draft. So it remains the most glaring hole on their roster.
And it's not going to be filled by Jadeveon Clowney, Yannick Ngakoue or even Markus Golden any time soon.
Giants GM Dave Gettleman seemed to quash the idea of a big-money or even medium-money addition to his pass rush in a conference call with reporters on Monday afternoon. As much as a player like that would help, given how bad the Giants' pass rush was last season, adding one is clearly not in Gettleman's current plans.
"A lot of people were raised with the '07 and '11 Super Bowl teams where we could consistently apply pressure with four," Gettleman said. "And that is the goal. That's what you want.
"But you can't manufacture it. And again, you can't overpay for it."
That certainly would seem to eliminate the idea of the Giants spending $17-18 million -- or possibly even more -- on the 27-year-old Clowney, who is by far the best remaining free agent available at any position. He has reportedly dropped his asking price from more than $20 million, but that's still seemingly way out of the Giants' range. The Giants don't even seem to have any interest in bringing back Golden, who at this point will likely cost less than $10 million for one year.
And if the Giants won't make a one-year investment in either of them, there seems to be no way they'd bid on the 25-year-old Ngakoue, who has made it clear he wants the Jacksonville Jaguars to trade him because he's unhappy with the franchise tag. Not only would the Giants have to sign Ngakoue to a new contract that would likely be worth $100 million over five seasons with more than $60 million guaranteed, they'd probably have to give up their first-round draft pick (fourth overall) and more to get him.
Some would argue the price of a player like that is worth it, especially if Clowney or Ngakoue could do for the Giants' defense what players like Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora did more than a decade ago. But the Giants don't have a ton of salary cap space -- about $15 million currently. And even if they could clear it (say, by rescinding the $16.1 million franchise tag on Leonard Williams) Gettleman indicated he wants to maintain some financial flexibility because the Giants have a lot of talented young players who will soon be seeking new deals.
"Part of the tightrope that I walk on is short-term and long-term," Gettleman said. "And part of the long-term is we've got some good young players right now. We've got Dalvin Tomlinson (who is entering the final year of his contract). (Tight end Evan) Engram and (safety Jabrill) Peppers, we have to make decisions on them (their fifth-year options must be picked up by May 4). And after another year you guys are going to be banging on me on Saquon (Barkley)."
So if the Giants aren't going to spend on a big-time pass rusher and Ohio State's Chase Young isn't going to fall to them in the draft at No. 4, what are they planning to do? It sounds like they're going to go with what they have and place their faith in the schemes and coaching of new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Gettleman said he's studied the defenses Graham helped coach in New England and Miami and he seems convinced he can make it all work.
"What it really comes down to is: It's not about who gets the sacks. It's about how many sacks you actually get -- and really how much pressure you apply," Gettleman said. "That's what it's about. Some of this is going to have to come through scheme."
That does explain why the only pass rusher the Giants added was linebacker Kyler Fackrell, who had 10 ½ sacks two years ago playing for Graham, who was then the linebackers coach with the Green Bay Packers. Of course, building a scheme is much easier when a team has the players -- like the '07 team did with Strahan, Tuck and Umenyiora, who were all homegrown players, drafted either in the second or third rounds.
The only effective pass rusher the Giants have drafted since then was Jason Pierre-Paul -- and that was way back in 2010.
Clearly the Giants are putting a lot of faith in Fackrell and hoping he can recapture his 2018 form, after slipping to only one sack last season. That decline, Gettleman said, was because "Green Bay went out and bought two high-sack guys (Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith) and he became a rotational part-time player."
That's true, and it's why they're comfortable with Fackrell on a one-year, $4.6 million contract that gives him a chance to prove his worth, much the way Golden did for the Giants last season when he had 10 sacks. Maybe they'll add another bargain player in free agency, or pick up a pass rusher with potential later in the draft, too.
But that's it. The Giants do "feel good" about their defense as it stands right now, Gettleman said.
"With where we're at, would I not want two defensive ends that are 25-sack-a-year guys? Who doesn't?" Gettleman said. "But we're not in that position right now. So we'll just keep building it."