For years, the staple of every great New York Giants defense was a great linebacker. Names like Sam Huff from the early days; in the 70’s Brian Kelley, Brad Van Pelt and Hall of Famer Harry Carson came along, then they were joined by the greatest of all time, Lawrence Taylor in 1981 and became known as “The Crunch Bunch.” After Kelley and Van Pelt were gone, along came the athletic Carl Banks and scrappy Gary Reasons in 1984, becoming one of the best linebacking corps in NFL History, winning two Super Bowls (1986, 1990). (No Carson in ’90).
After that, you don’t really have anything to sexy, other than Jessie Armstead who is deservedly in the Giants Ring of Honor. Yes, Antonio Pierce was here for a Super Bowl but five seasons and one Pro Bowl do not put you on Armstead’s level.
While these two recent Super Bowl victories under Tom Coughlin showed great defensive performances, the unit hasn’t been consistent. While they have the great pass rush and talented defensive backs, the linebackers have been dull to say the least.
In this year’s free agency, the Giants signed linebacker Dan Connor who only had more than 50 tackles in a season once in his five-year career. He is the favorite to start middle linebacker.
Last week they signed 2009 NFL Draft bust Aaron Curry. Obviously the move shouldn’t be criticized because it’s costing them nothing and the guy was once talented.
Connor and Curry aren’t your solutions. Average linebacker play is what’s holding this defense back. Even more important is the middle linebacker, who is the quarterback of the defense.
Free agent Brian Urlacher is the answer to the problem. He is the classic middle linebacker the Giants need. The G-Men last season were 25th in rush defense and 19th the year before. The Bears with Urlacher ranked 5th in both those seasons.
It’s hard to believe that the 34-year-old and 5-time All Pro is still a free agent. Only the Vikings have been rumored to show interest but that seems to be going nowhere. At this point, I think he’ll sign for $2 million. Chicago gave him a take it or leave it offer of $1 million (and he left), but Urlacher must be desperate.
The Giants have $3.6 million in cap space and an unhappy Victor Cruz, so this is a dream; but the Giants keep drafting these late round linebackers and signing young average ones in free agency with no elderly statesman to teach them.
If you have to sign Urlacher to a two or three-year deal, do it because it will pay off. His impact will alone make the Giants a tough defense to play against. Not only does he have the physical ability, but also he’s a smart player that can run your defense. He was a great leader in Chicago and the key to those top tier defenses in the Lovie Smith era.
If you sign him and get a Pro Bowl year out of him, you will win the Division and make a run in the playoffs.