This pretty much sums up Markus Golden:
“I’m feeling healthy and I don’t worry about everybody else,’’ he said Monday. “I don’t worry about ‘Oh, I got to go prove this to this guy.’ If you don’t know what I can do by now, then you’re not even worth proving nothing to. I focus on proving to myself. I got a lot of people back home in St. Louis believing in me. I focus on making them proud.’’
Sure, Golden is not thrilled about the way his most recent foray into free agency went down. Sure, he expected more — much more — in the way of interest around the NFL. Yes, he felt he did enough in 2019 — showing he was healthy and again a productive pass rusher — to extract a multiyear deal to return to the Giants.
None of this transpired the way Golden envisioned and he is back on the rarely used unrestricted free-agent tender that will pay him $4.1 million — plus another $1 million if he reaches incentives built into the deal. Listening to the 29-year-old outside linebacker, it is easy to detect some hurt in his voice, but there is more a sense of the determination he displayed in his first year with the Giants that pushes him to show he is worth more than he is receiving.
“I feel good about being back,’’ Golden said. “It’s a good place, to be able to come back and be able to compete and be able to play ball. I love playing ball, I love competing and this is the situation I’m in right now, so I can’t sit back and complain and fuss about it. I got to go out and get it, no matter what. That’s what I am, that’s what my parents raised me to be.’’
Knee surgery following his 12.5-sack breakout 2016 season with the Cardinals cost him two years of effectiveness and in 2019 he signed a one-year, $3.75 million deal with the Giants. What Golden needed to do on this prove-it contract was show he was healthy and capable of getting to the quarterback.
Golden played in all 16 games and led the Giants with 10 sacks and 15 quarterback hits. The metrics and analytics attached to those 10 sacks, though, were not kind to him. One NFL talent evaluator said Golden was last in the NFL among players with 10 or more sacks when timed for how long it took him to get the sacks. So, he was not cleanly beating the blocker for instant pressure. Golden’s sacks were more about persistence and hard work and eventually finding the quarterback. This was accomplished playing for a losing team (4-12) on a bad defense.
“You got to give him credit, he keeps coming, he finally got there,’’ the talent evaluator said.
A market never materialized for Golden. The Giants wanted him back, but only at their price. No other takers surfaced and assistant general manager Kevin Abrams came up with the idea to use the unrestricted free-agent tender. When there were no other offers by the July 22 deadline, Golden’s return — after he reported, got his COVID-19 testing and his physical — was complete.
Golden thought he proved what he needed to prove, to the Giants or any other team interested in pass-rush help. But he apparently did not.
“Of course it was, man,’’ Golden said, when asked if the process was frustrating. “You put in a lot of work during the season and this is a game they say if you put the work in, the hard work pays off, the game’s gonna pay you back in different ways.
“You just never know. You got to take it and go with it. Of course you just go with the flow. This is how it ended up so this is what I got to roll with.’’
The seldom-used UFA tender, Golden admitted, is something he had never heard of.
“The reaction was surprise, of course,’’ he said.
“Nah, because business is business,’’ he said. “I know how this stuff goes.’’
Golden’s return should increase the pass-rush depth, with Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines back again and Kyler Fackrell (10.5 sacks for the Packers in 2018) signed in free agency. It is going to have to be a pressure-by-committee approach.
“I’m back now,’’ Golden said. “I’m back under different circumstances, but I’m back.’’
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