How Far Financially Should the Giants Go to Keep OLB Markus Golden?

Patricia Traina

Of all the former Cardinals players imported to the Giants defense under now-former defensive coordinator James Bettcher, outside linebacker Markus Golden was hands down the most consistent and most productive.

Golden, who last year signed a one-year prove-it deal with the Giants, became the first Giants defender to produce double-digit sacks (10.0) since defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul recorded 12.5 sacks in 2014. He was also the first Giants linebacker to accomplish the feat since Lawrence Taylor last did it in 1990 when he recorded 10.5 sacks.

In addition to his team-leading sacks, Golden, per Pro Football Focus, led the team with 39 stops for zero or negative yardage, showing himself to be a productive two-way player as both a pass rusher and run defender.

All of this production has earned Golden a significant payday, which he's going to get from someone. But is the 28-year-old Golden worth an estimated $13.5 million per year, as estimated by Spotrac based on a four-year, $54.198 million deal?

Although Golden played a physical game all season long, the Giants need a bit more explosiveness around the edge by a player who can regularly challenge the corner on the pass rush, a reason why Golden probably wasn't often double-teamed coming off the edge. 

Where Golden had his best success as a pass rusher was on stunts, where he looped around and attacked the inside with that non-stop motor of his and used that sheer determination to get home every single time. 

That relentlessness resulted in him finishing as the team leader among the defensive front seven not only in sacks but in tackles (72).  

Some believe the Giants might apply the franchise tag to retain Golden if a new deal isn't struck by the time free agency begins. Still, at an estimated $16.266 million rate for a linebacker, that kind of money is what one might pay a No. 1 pass rusher, which Golden, despite his production, isn't.

Golden has expressed a desire to return to the Giants, and if that could happen without choking the team's cap, it wouldn't be such a bad thing given all he brings to the table. 

While Golden has earned himself more than just another prove-it deal, to consider paying him like a No. 1 pass rusher, the Giants might want to go in a different direction regarding the allocation of premium cap space at that spot.