Remember back in the 2016 NFL Draft, when the Giants owned the No. 10 overall pick and it seemed as if everything went terribly, horribly wrong for them and they ended up settling for a player, cornerback Eli Apple, no one was especially excited about?
Well, maybe the Giants can get something of a do-over and land Leonard Floyd, an object of their desires five years ago.
Floyd, a long and lean outside linebacker, will not be returning to the Bears, who released him in order to save the $13.2 million that was guaranteed had Floyd been on the roster Wednesday for the start of the NFL year. If the Giants want to pursue him, they are free to do so. When word got out Floyd was done in Chicago, the Giants expressed initial interest in him but his price tag might rise too high for their liking.
The Giants not long ago were all-in on Floyd. Entering that 2016 draft, they coveted Jack Conklin, a right tackle from Michigan State, and Floyd, a sleek linebacker from Georgia. Slow to react, the Giants watched as the Titans traded up to No. 8 to get Conklin and the Bears traded up to No. 9 to get Floyd. Twice beaten to their guy, the Giants selected Apple out of Ohio State and he did not make it through three seasons before getting shipped to the Saints.
Floyd, 27, never really established himself in Chicago. He had seven sacks as a rookie but only seven more the past two years, starting all 32 regular-season games. The Bears liked his work against the run and dropping back in coverage but Floyd never blossomed as a pass rusher. This is alarming, considering he spent the past two seasons rushing from the opposite side as Khalil Mack, who regularly attracted extra attention. Floyd’s 2020 option was picked up but the Bears signed Robert Quinn on Tuesday and that pushed Floyd out the door.
Last month at the NFL scouting combine, Bears general manager Ryan Pace summed up Floyd’s performance thusly: “He’s close in a lot of areas, when you look at the pressures and those things. He just needs to finish a little better on the quarterback.”
The Giants regime that wanted Floyd – Jerry Reese and Marc Ross – is gone and that could mean the interest is gone as well. Kevin Sherrer, the new Giants inside linebackers coach, was the linebackers coach at Georgia when Floyd was there. Sherrer also worked with Lorenzo Carter, the Giants’ third-round pick in 2018, who enters his third NFL season needing to pick up his game in every area.
Floyd and Carter could be seen as redundant players. Or, Carter and Floyd could be bookend outside linebackers, two lanky and agile defenders hoping to find their niche as edge rushers, with Oshane Ximines in year No. 2 and former Packers pass-rush linebacker Kyler Fackrell providing strength in numbers. Or maybe the Giants re-sign Markus Golden, who had a team-high 10 sacks for them in 2019.
The Giants, by the way, certainly could have used Conklin, the other player they wanted five years ago, but were not going to bid to get him to play right tackle the way the Browns did with a three-year deal worth $42 million. So, no do-over with Conklin, but still possible with Leonard Floyd.