The New York Giants went into free agency preaching a desire to bring back their own guys. Then they backed it up by re-signing Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley.
However, it appears as though one of their own might be slipping through their fingers as safety Julian Love is set to visit the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday with reports that he and the Giants are growing closer to a separation.
Giants’ free-agent safety Julian Love and Steelers’ free-agent LB Devin Bush are visiting the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2023
When the season ended, Giants general manager Joe Schoen was clear about the team’s intentions to bring Love back into the fold, even mentioning that the team had talked to the safety during the bye week but weren’t able to get anything done at that point.
“Julian knows how we feel about him,” Schoen said in his postseason presser after the loss to the Eagles. “We had a good exit interview with him yesterday…We’ll see where he fits in. And if we can get something done, that’ll be good.”
While nobody is privy to the private discussions between team and player, it would make sense, given Schoen’s statement, that the two sides have been talking throughout the early stages of the offseason. That a deal hasn’t been reached and Love is exploring other options is not a great sign for the two sides to eventually come to an agreement.
So in the event that Love does sign with Seattle or another team, where can the Giants look to replace him? Below are the three free-agent options we think would be the best fits.
If the Giants were not able to match the asking price for Julian Love, they’re likely not going to be able to bring in other top-tier free-agent safeties like C.J. Gardner Johnson; although, taking him from the Eagles would be marvelous. As a result, somebody like Rapp seems more likely.
Part of the value of Love was that he could play in the slot, as a box safety, or as a deep safety. Taylor Rapp can do the exact same, with the Rams lining him up all over the secondary during his four years after being drafted in the second round of the 2019 draft.
Rapp is a player who is pretty good at everything but not great at any one thing. That’s fine for the Giants with the way that Wink Martindale is likely to use him, and a feather in the cap for Rapp is that he’s one of the best tacklers at the position. His 148 tackles over the past two seasons rank 9th-most among safeties.
It might not be a sexy addition, but it would be one that fits the team well.
If the Giants can’t take C.J. Gardner-Johnson from the Eagles then maybe they can at least take Marcus Epps. The 27-year-old is another safety who can play against the run and also has shined in coverage in the past. While 2022 wasn’t the best coverage season for him, Epps has shown an ability to match up against tight ends and play in the flat.
However, he really shines in run support where he earned his second-consecutive 80-grade season from Pro Football Focus and has a run defense grade of 90.2 combined over those two seasons, which ranks 3rd at the safety position.
The poor coverage season could give the Giants a bit of a financial discount, but Epps has the raw skills to be a steady, versatile piece in Martindale’s defense.
John Johnson III
Johnson is another potential bounceback candidate after struggling in his final season in Cleveland being openly critical of the organization at times. Sometimes players just need a fresh start, and we think Johnson is in exactly that situation.
He’s played 15 or more games and 900+ snaps in each of the last three seasons and just registered his third 100 tackle season in his seven-year career. With a proven track record as a sure tackler and solid coverage safety, Johnson could bring a solid veteran presence to the back of the Giants’ defense while likely only needing to be signed to a two or three-year deal, which wouldn’t necessitate a long-term financial commitment.