Thus far in free agency, the New York Giants have focused a lot of their resources on the defensive backfield and offensive line. Recently they have finally begun addressing the defensive line, which has been the focal point of all their strongest teams.
With the losses of Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph, the Giants are down two key contributors on the defensive line. They didn’t address those defections early on in free agency but have made additions in the last couple of days to fill those holes. First, Mike Patterson was re-signed after having a solid year as a rotational defensive tackle for the Giants in 2013. He will help fill the void left by Joseph’s signing with the Minnesota Vikings.
Most recently they added Robert Ayers to replace Tuck. Ayers, 28 years old, spent the first five years of his NFL career with the Denver Broncos. He is the third Bronco player to join the Giants this offseason.
Ayers does not have the track record that Tuck has, registering only 12 sacks in his career while Tuck had 11 last season alone. The 11 sacks were kind of fluky, but that kind of production would be unfair to expect from Ayers. Where Ayers will help the Giants will be in run defense.
Being an edge rusher who plays the run is what will get Ayers onto the field for the Giants. Tuck excelled at playing the run, and Ayers will have a chance to do that in the Giants’ defensive line rotation as well. He has a chance to overcome the incumbent Mathias Kiwanuka and last season’s third-round pick Damontre Moore not only for playing time, but the starting spot if he flashes enough during OTAs and training camp opposite of Jason Pierre-Paul.
Ayers was a smart addition by the Giants. He falls into the same mold of all the free agents the Giants have been targeting. He is still young and is a potential bargain for the Giants at the price they got him for; he is cheaper and younger than Tuck. There had to be something that endeared him to his old team, the Broncos, which made him a first-round pick.
Much like the Charles Brown signing earlier in the week and the signings such as J.D. Walton and John Jerry, the Giants are hoping that one team’s trash is another team’s treasure. All of those players, including Ayers, were drafted in the third round or earlier, and the Giants are hoping they finally realize that potential in Giants blue.
Ayers is a solid start to replacing Tuck, but he is not the end all to the Giants’ questions. They still need to add some talent along the defensive line, most likely through the draft. Things will look different up front on the defense this season without mainstay Tuck, but they will have to make the most of it for now with the rotational players they have at their disposal. Like the other players signed, there are no guarantees that Ayers will realize his potential, making this a risky strategy that the Giants are deploying.