The New York Giants have so many needs on defense that it's impossible to break them all down in a single blog post. So we looked at safety last week, and today we'll look at the pass rush. Jason Pierre-Paul is a free agent with a unique set of questions swirling around him. Robert Ayers is a free agent who was hot in the second half of the season. Either or both of those defensive ends could be re-signed, but at this point neither should be viewed as an elite, long-term solution as an anchor for the defensive line.
Kerry Wynn is a nice, young rotational piece, but Owa Odighizuwa lost a year to injuries, George Selvie didn't show anything and the Damontre Moore experiment is obviously over. With Pierre-Paul and Ayers unsigned, the Giants' pass-rush cupboard is basically bare. And even if those guys do come back, they need to beef up. Once the defining strength of the franchise, the Giants' pass rush is in disrepair. So here's a look at some options for help:
The top target: Olivier Vernon.
Forget Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. Put him out of your mind. He's not getting out of Denver. The Broncos will franchise him if they have to, and they'll sign him eventually. You can't have him, and neither can anyone else. The next guy down the list is Vernon, the 25-year-old Dolphins defensive end who's averaged 8.5 sacks for the past three years. At 6-foot-2, 275 pounds, he fits the Giants' size profile for a 4-3 defensive end. He's not likely to fit under the Dolphins' cap, especially given how committed they are to defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. The Giants will have competition, but if their aim is to sign the best pass-rusher available, this is the guy to target.
Outside-the-box option: Bruce Irvin
He's a strongside linebacker in Seattle's 4-3, but at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, he wouldn't be totally out of place on the end of a 4-3 defensive line. What's interesting about Irvin is that he's shown some pass-rush ability in spite of not really being asked to do that in Seattle's scheme. He had eight sacks as a rookie in 2012 and had a total of 12 sacks the past two seasons. The Giants already have a young strongside linebacker with some pass-rush skills in Devon Kennard, but it's possible he could move to the middle, or that Irvin could fit as a pass-rush specialist who plays some linebacker and some defensive end. He's 28 and he's going to be a popular guy, especially since he's going to market himself as a better pass-rusher than Seattle asked him to be.
The incumbents: Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers
Pierre-Paul's chances to return depend on his contract demands. No one knows whether the surgery he had on his middle finger immediately after the season will allow him to play without the heavy club wrap on his damaged right hand, though that is Pierre-Paul's hope. He believes he still has elite ability and should command that kind of deal, and if he convinces some team to pay him $9 million or $10 million a year, he's almost certainly gone. But if he'll come back for something in the $6 million a year range, I imagine the Giants would welcome him back as part of their rotation -- just not the every-down anchor they once believed he could be. Ayers turns 31 in September, and if he wants a raise, he's likely got to find it elsewhere.
Other possibilities: Vernon's Dolphins teammate, Derrick Shelby, played well when Wake went down with an injury this season. The Giants had some preliminary interest in Adrian Clayborn last year, and he's free again this year. Tamba Hali is a name you know, but at 32 he's not likely on the Giants' target list unless the price gets really low.
The dream: Joey Bosa.
But the cost to trade up will be too high, even from No. 10. This is a player with a legitimate chance to go No. 1 overall, and even if he doesn't, I can't see him sliding past the Chargers at No. 3 or the Cowboys at 4.
The more likely target: Shaq Lawson
The Clemson defensive end is 270 pounds, knows how to play the run and has the tools to develop into an impact pass-rusher at the next level.