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Cover 3: Most intriguing free agent signing


With free agency calming down and attention turning back to the draft, we asked the crew who is the most intriguing addition so far.

John Schmeelk: There's that word "intriguing" again. Dan, whoever comes up with these questions sure loves the word because there are different ways you can interpret its meaning and connect it to Giants moves in free agency. James Bradberry and Blake Martinez are too obvious for me to count as intriguing, so it comes down to Kyler Fackrell and Cameron Fleming.

Both could be thrust into starting roles for the team. I'm going to argue for Cameron Fleming because what the team thinks of him could have a big impact on what the Giants do in the draft at the end of April.

When Michael Eisen and I spoke to him on the Giants Huddle Podcast, Fleming said one of the reasons he came to the Giants was to compete for a chance to be a starting tackle. With Mike Remmers, last year's starter at right tackle, leaving in free agency, there will be an opportunity to earn that starting job.

Third-year player Nick Gates played significant snaps at right tackle in three games last year, and it's possible that the new coaching staff thinks he can be a long term answer at the position. The competition between Gates and Fleming will be something to watch whenever the players report for the 2020 season.

The reason I find this so intriguing is that the Giants will have an opportunity to draft a day one starter at right tackle with the fourth overall pick in the draft. There might also be an opportunity to select an offensive tackle in the second round. The need to select one of those players becomes less pressing if the belief in the organization is they have a high enough level starter at right tackle already on the roster.

If Fleming, who has spent the first six years of his career as a back-up swing tackle, can fill that role, the Giants can use their draft capital to improve the team elsewhere. That's what I call intriguing.

Dan Salomone: When you lead the NFL in tackles since 2017 (second since 2016 behind only five-time All-Pro selection Bobby Wagner) and you still want to prove you can make more impact plays, color me intrigued. That player is new middle linebacker Blake Martinez, who described himself as the "clean-up crew guy" in the Packers defense. Martinez was often the only true linebacker on the field in Green Bay, where he had no gap responsibilities because it was never asked of him.

"It was just kind of, 'Hey, play off Kenny (Clark), play off Za'Darius (Smith), play off Preston (Smith), play off Dean (Lowry),'" Martinez said last week on his introductory conference call with the media. "Play off these guys and basically make them right. They were able to do whatever they wanted to do and then I would go make the plays depending on that. I know there's been things like you make tackles down the field, you make tackles here, you make tackles there. For the majority of the time there, that's what I was told to do. It's just me, I guess, doing my job in that sense."

The great mystery now is what defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Patrick Graham has in mind for him and the scheme in general. Graham overlapped for a year with Martinez in Green Bay as the Packers' inside linebackers coach and defensive run game coordinator. They became "super close" in that brief time together, and Martinez called Graham, who played at Yale, probably the smartest coach he has ever been around. Martinez, who majored in management science and engineering at Stanford, will now be Graham's eyes and ears on the field.

"Overall, there is going to be a lot of freedom for me to make checks, make calls and adjustments on a given play pre-snap to give guys chances to make plays," Martinez said. "There is going to be a lot of communication across the board. I think it is going to be an awesome defense, and I'm just waiting to finally be able to get to learn and see what he has for us."

Lance Medow: I hinted at this during one of my responses in the latest edition of Fact/Fiction, so there's no reason to head in a different direction. To me, outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell is the most intriguing because of his previous flashes with the Packers and connection to Patrick Graham. In 2018, the Utah State product collected a career-high 10.5 sacks with Green Bay with Graham serving serving on the defensive staff. That was the season before the Packers made a big splash in free agency and signed pass rushers Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith. With those two in the mix in 2019, Fackrell's sack total fell to just one, but he recorded more pressures in 2019 with less snaps than he did in 2018 when he had nine and a half more sacks. That tells us there's potential there to consistently disrupt the quarterback despite not finishing every time.

It goes without saying, the Giants need playmakers in the pass rush. Markus Golden led the team in sacks (10) and quarterback hits (27) in 2019 but he's currently a free agent. If he doesn't return, someone will have to fill that void and Fackrell has a great opportunity to do some of the heavy lifting. There are some interesting parallels between the two players. Golden had a career-year in 2016 when he recorded 12.5 sacks as a member of the Cardinals playing for James Bettcher, whom he followed to the Giants after overcoming a torn ACL. He returned to form with double-digit sacks (10). While Fackrell hasn't had to deal with the injury bug, he's also now reuniting with his former coach and motivated to post similar numbers. That alone is intriguing.


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