New York Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph has to be very happy these days after the Cincinnati Bengals inked defensive tackle Geno Atkins to a five-year, $55 million contract. Atkins is, right now, a better overall player than Joseph but Joseph isn’t far behind and he is entering the final year of his four-year, $4.16 million rookie contract. Joseph is set to earn $630,000 this season and he should be due for a sizable increase.
Joseph, 24, was drafted by the Giants in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft and appeared in six games his rookie season. By 2011, he appeared in all 16 games which included 15 starts. He emerged as a pivotal member of the defensive line rotation that helped lead the Giants to their second Super Bowl victory since 2007.
Last season, Joseph had a breakthrough season and was one of the few bright spots on a defense that finished 31st in the NFL. He recorded 59 combined tackles and added four sacks while forcing two fumbles and recovering one. This season, Joseph is expected to be a leader on the interior of the line where he is the only defensive tackle that played a down in the regular season last year.
The Giants need Joseph to continue to improve with newcomers Jonathan Hankins, Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson joining Joseph and Shaun Rogers who missed last season due to injury. After allowing opponents to gain an average of 129.1 yards on the ground the Giants’ front office needed to overhaul the defensive front. Joseph will figure to get a lot of playing time in the middle and should have a much better season than last year as there will be plenty of help this season.
Even if Joseph has a year similar to last season he will be in prime position to bring in a very nice payday. However, he might actually price himself out of the reach of the Giants who will also have to deal with wide receiver Hakeem Nicks’ free agency among others. Of course, if Joseph continues to improve and becomes a cornerstone of the interior line this season the Giants might make re-signing Joseph a priority. The question is, what will it take to keep him in a Giants uniform?