Dalvin Tomlinson finally began to get his roses this past season. With that said, the former second-round pick had been a dominant interior force for the New York Giants well before the 2020 season. Tomlinson’s 2017 Pro Football Focus grade of 81.0 is the third-highest grade a rookie defensive tackle has received since 2006. From there, he’s continued to establish himself as one of the best the league has to offer at his position, ranking in the 82nd percentile in PFF run-defense grade.
Unfortunately, Tomlinson’s dominant play priced him out of Big Blue’s market this offseason. With fellow defensive lineman Leonard Williams serving as the team’s top priority, Tomlinson departed for Minnesota, inking a two-year, $21 million deal with the Vikings.
A consummate pro on and off the field, the inability to retain Tomlinson in free agency still strikes a chord with some in the Giants organization.
“Dalvin is a wonderful young man and he was a captain, so obviously there’s regret,” general manager Dave Gettleman admitted to reporters on Monday. “But at the end of the day, you only have so much money and you’ve got to make decisions, that’s just the way it is. “We’ll miss Dalvin and I’m thrilled that he got what he wanted and Minnesota is a fine organization, so for what it’s worth, sure it’s hard, but unfortunately because of what happened you have to make decisions.”
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John Mara: ‘It Broke My Heart’
The Giants splurged during free agency this spring, handing out north of $99 million in guaranteed cash (third-most in the NFL, per Over the Cap) — the second time the franchise has swung for the fences over the past half-decade. In 2016, the Giants spent 42% higher than the “next-spendiest team,” splurging on big names such as Janoris Jenkins, Snacks Harrison and Olivier Vernon. However, as always, large financial commitments eventually lead to difficult roster fallout. Former standout safety Landon Collins is a prime example of this.
Owners of the fourth-fewest cap space in the league at the time of Collins’ impending free agency in 2019, the team opted to let the former All-Pro walk in free agency — a decision that still leaves a sour taste in co-owner John Mara’s mouth.
“I loved Landon Collins and Dalvin Tomlinson, those were two great players and they were great people in the building,” Mara said via Zoom late last month. “It broke my heart to see them go, but at the end of the day you have to make a cold hard business decision: Can you afford to devote that much cap space to this particular player? I am very cognizant of the message that it sends out, but you can’t pay everybody.”
Tomlinson’s New Teammates Eager to Learn From Him
With the addition of Tomlinson and the return of opt-out Michael Pierce, the Vikings have a chance to bolster one of the league’s better interior defensive fronts in football this season. Once a dominant force with the Baltimore Ravens, Pierce is excited to get back to work alongside his new running mate.
“Obviously Dalvin was a top priority for us,” Pierce said, per Courtney Cronin of ESPN. “I played next to Brandon Williams, another nose guard, so as far as that goes, I think it’ll be great. We had one of the top run defenses in Baltimore. I’ve always kind of known what we had going on, what we were looking forward to doing in free agency. They’ve done a great job keeping me a part of the loop, but it’ll be a great time to compete against him and actually learn from him.”
“Until you’re done and retired, I don’t think you can quit learning, and [Tomlinson has] done a great job being a nose guard and getting sacks, something I haven’t been the best at,” he added. “I’m going to learn from him, and I’m sure he can take some things from me, so it’ll be a beneficial relationship for both of us.”