The purge has begun.
To the surprise of no one, the Giants on Wednesday began what figures to be a hefty roster cleanup, releasing linebackers Alec Ogletree and Kareem Martin. The moves saves the Giants $13 million on the 2020 salary cap, providing valuable financial resources with NFL free agency arriving March 18.
These are not equal salary dumps of 28-year-old players who came to the Giants in 2018.
Ogletree was the first significant addition by general manager Dave Gettleman, who traded with the Rams (in exchange for a fourth and sixth-round pick) for the inside linebacker to be a leader and run-stopper in the middle of the defense. It never worked out that way. In two seasons, Ogletree started 26 games, had a team-high 173 tackles and was a team captain both years. But he was far from a dominant player and his issues dropping on coverage – despite a career-high five interceptions in 2018 – were glaring. Still, Ogletree was the first Giants linebacker with two interception returns for touchdowns in the same season.
Ogletree was scheduled to make $10 million in base salary and count $11.75 million on the salary cap. The Giants save $8.25 million on this year’s cap by parting ways with him.
One day after obtaining Ogletree, Gettleman signed Martin to a three-year deal worth $15 million, believing his experience with defensive coordinator James Bettcher from their time together with the Cardinals would be beneficial. For that investment, the Giants got 16 games in 2018 and only five in 2019 and not much production. Martin was to cost the Giants $4.2 million in base salary and cutting him saves $4.8 million on the cap.
Clearly, the Giants need to replace these players on the roster at a position that has been lacking for more than a decade. Outside linebacker Markus Golden, who led the team last season with 10 sacks, is set to be an unrestricted free agent and his comeback year might entice a team to outbid the Giants for his services. The most promising inside linebacker on the roster, Ryan Connelly, was having a fine rookie year before he tore his ACL; he is expected back sometime in training camp this summer.
Two young pass rushers, Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines, represent the best hopes for development from within.
Does this mean the Giants have their sights on taking Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons with the No. 4 pick in the NFL Draft? Well, no, but the most versatile defender in this class is certainly a consideration and there is no doubt the Giants will add to the position in free agency and also somewhere in the draft.