The Giants’ hesitations about a Markus Golden free-agent reunion

The Giants’ hesitations about a Markus Golden free-agent reunion

Markus Golden tallied more sacks last season than free agent Jadeveon Clowney has in any year of his career.

Golden’s career high in sacks puts him in the same breath as free agent Everson Griffen, a four-time Pro Bowler.

Golden needs a team and the Giants need a pass-rusher, so why haven’t the two sides reunited yet?

There was mutual interest before free agency started this week, according to sources, so to understand the holdup let’s travel back one year.

The Giants were reluctant last offseason when Golden’s name first came up, even at a low-risk price and with other teams competing for a bargain. Coming off a season-ending torn ACL in 2017 and unproductive 2018 season in Arizona, he ultimately settled for a one-year, $3.75 million contract with added incentives.

Golden’s 10-sack season — the first by a Giant in five years — made him the unquestioned gem of general manager Dave Gettleman’s first two free-agent classes. He earned a $1 million performance bonus.

But, with the stakes much higher when talking multiple years and more guaranteed money, those same hesitations can resurface. And fired defensive coordinator James Bettcher — who coached Golden with the Cardinals — isn’t around to strongly go to bat for Golden, as he did last year, per a team source.

Markus Golden
Markus GoldenGetty Images

From the 29-year-old Golden’s perspective, he was in line for a massive second contract after his breakout 12.5-sack season in 2016. The top three free-agent pass-rushers the following offseason signed deals worth more than $200 million combined — and none reached the same numbers as Golden.

But the payday never came because of injury, so this is his first — and possibly final — chance to strike gold. Golden changed agencies in the last year, hiring powerbrokers Jimmy Sexton and Tory Dandy, according to the NFL Players Association.

Yet, similar to the Jets and receiver Robby Anderson, there mostly is quiet in Golden’s market. Same goes for Griffen. It is a surprise because the early rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft are not deep with edge-rushers.

When many of the top pass-rushers were franchise tagged over the weekend, the thought around the NFL was the best available would be quickly scooped up and overpaid. The opposite has happened, as only Robert Quinn, Dante Fowler and Mario Addison signed for more than $10 million per year.

The familiar problem is the market is waiting on Clowney’s decision. He entered free agency looking for $20 million per year (off of a three-sack season) — pricing out the Giants — but reportedly is disappointed in his offers and considering a one-year deal to reenter free agency next year when the salary cap is projected to skyrocket.

The Giants are estimated to have about $10 million in cap space remaining after front-loading contracts for new starters at cornerback and linebacker and franchise tagging Leonard Williams.

There are ways to create additional space, unless the team plans to bank on Kyler Fackrell — who had 10.5 sacks with the Packers in 2018 playing under new Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham — recreating Golden’s magic formula.

Golden added 27 quarterback hits and 13 tackles for loss. The next-best Giant in each category had 4.5 sacks, 13 quarterback hits and seven tackles for loss.

It is indicative of the dearth of talent on last year’s team that none of the 15 Giants’ unrestricted free agents at week’s end signed with another team through four days of free agency.

Golden soon will break the trend.

Unless the Giants conclude — as some impatient fans have — the best way to fill a major need is to look in their own backyard.

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