The Giants resorted to starting reschedules signed from the Street at inside linebacker in their two playoff games last season. It was painfully obvious that the situation needed an overhaul after they allowed 268 rushing yards in a 38-7 loss to the Eagles in the Divisional Round.
So on Day 1 of free agency, Giants general manager Joe Schoen landed one of the best linebackers on the market. Bobby Okerek has agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a $22 million guarantee, a league official familiar with the deal confirmed.
Okereke, who was ranked 38th the athleteList of the top 150 free agents who have spent the past four seasons with the Colts. The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder made an impression in the Giants’ 38-10 win over the Colts in Week 17 with 17 tackles and an unnecessary rough hit for a late hit on quarterback Daniel Jones. Obviously, there were no hard feelings, as Okereke now joins Jones as one of the Giants’ best-paid players.
Giants Free Agency Predictions: Odell Beckham, Mike Gesicki, Marcus Peters.
How it fits: Okereke immediately steps in as the best quarterback within the Giants. He played 85 percent of defensive snaps last season in Indianapolis and 98.4 percent of snaps in 2021. Clearly a triple linebacker, he’s expected to fill that role in New York.
Okereke’s strength is in the run defense, which should help the unit that allowed the most sixth yards last season. Okereke is not a liability in coverage, and he has the physical attributes to improve on the field. He has three interceptions and two sacks in four seasons.
Impact 2023: Okereke gives the Giants a proven NFL player who was missing from the roster before he was signed. His presence in 2022 would allow Darian Beavers to be selected in the sixth round or this year’s draft pick at the other inside linebacker spot. The Giants also re-signed Jarrad Davis, who joined the lineup after signing late last season, as a veteran option.
Okereke was forced to play a bigger role last season with Colts All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard who was limited to three games due to injury. Okereke proved to be up to the task, recording career highs in tackles (151) and tackles for loss (6).
date: Okereke is a first-generation American who is the son of Nigerian parents. An Eagle scout, Okereke attended Stanford University, where he succeeded former Giants Blake Martinez at inside linebacker. Okereke ran the 4.58-second 40-yard dash at the 2019 Scouts group, and had strong results in his 10-yard split, long jump and three-cone pass. A Colts third round draft pick in 2019, Okereke has only missed two games in four seasons. The 26-year-old made his 49 career start.
cover update: The Giants entered free agency with about $20 million in salary cap space. The structure of Okereke’s contract is not yet known, but it’s safe to assume that the 2023 cap will be below the $10 million average annual value.
The inside linebacker market was lively on the first day of free agency, as Tremaine Edmonds signed a four-year, $72 million contract extension with the Bears. Okereke has the second largest contract for an inside linebacker. More economical contracts were with Germaine Pratt with the Bengals (three years, $20.3 million), TJ Edwards with the Bears (three years, $19.5 million) and David Long with the Dolphins (two years, $11 million).
prospects: This is the Schwinn forecast movement type. The Okereke is a much-needed major upgrade, but it’s not a bargain from the best on the market. The Giants have too many holes to spend in one position, so they need to continue distributing money to correct their weaknesses. More reinforcements are needed on defense, and Schoen should also add weapons in the passing game.
(Photo: Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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