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Giants place rare UFA tender on OLB Markus Golden, source says

The New York Giants elected to place a rare unrestricted free agent tender on outside linebacker Markus Golden, a source told ESPN’s Field Yates.

The “May 5” tender still allows for Golden to negotiate a deal with other teams. The Giants would not receive any compensation if he signed elsewhere, but Golden would count toward the 2021 compensatory pick formula if he signed with another team.

If Golden remains unsigned past July 22 (or the start of training camp), he could only play for the Giants this upcoming season. They would maintain the pass rusher’s exclusive rights at 110% of his previous compensation package, which is $5.225 million.

This at least sets the market for Golden to find a more lucrative offer after finishing with 10 sacks last season.

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The most notable recent case of the “May 5” tender was used by the New England Patriots on running back LeGarrette Blount in 2017. Blount eventually signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Golden, 29, was perhaps the Giants’ best defensive player last season. He led the team in sacks, tackles for loss (13) and quarterback hits (27), while making $4.75 million on a one-year “prove-it” deal. The Giants don’t currently have a player on their roster who had more than 4.5 sacks last season.

Golden was listed as the fourth-best player remaining in free agency as recently as last month.

Giants general manager Dave Gettleman was asked after the draft if there was an intention to circle back to Golden after not addressing the pass rush until the final two rounds. It did not seem likely.

“It’s one of those deals where, as I’ve said before, sometimes people think that all of the sacks have got to come from one to two guys,” Gettleman said. “It’s a group effort. As [coach] Joe [Judge] said, we’re going to constantly evaluate. Roster building is a 12-month season. It’s 365 and it’s 24/7. At the end of the day, we feel good about where we’re at, but we’ll continue to try to improve it.

“We’re going to take a look at what we’ve got, and you know part of it’s going to be scheme. I’ve got a lot of confidence in (assistant head coach/defensive coordinator] Pat Graham and Joe and the defensive guys. We’re going to be fine. It’ll get better.

“No, we didn’t draft what you guys would call a blue-goose pass rusher, but a lot of the time it’s a group effort. It’s not about who gets the sacks, it’s about the number of sacks and the number of pressures.”

Golden had a bounce-back season with the Giants in 2019. It was the second time in his career he reached double-digit sacks. He also did it in 2016, when he had 12.5 sacks in Arizona.

Golden spent the first four years of his career with the Cardinals, but his time there was derailed by a knee injury that cost him the 2017 season. He returned in 2018 and finished with 2.5 sacks in 11 games, but admitted he wasn’t himself as he recovered from the injury.

The Missouri product thrived on the one-year prove-it deal with the Giants after being reunited with defensive coordinator James Bettcher, who also coached him in Arizona. Bettcher was fired by the Giants earlier this year and Golden was hoping to cash in off the productive season. But his market has moved slowly this offseason and he remains unsigned.

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