Alright, fine, I'll admit it. I'm a Mathias Kiwanuka fan. I have been since his dominant senior season at Boston College. After hearing this morning that San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Dwight Freeney could miss the rest of the season with a torn quad, and knowing the Melvin Ingram isn't coming back for a few months (at the earliest), I started thinking about how Kiwanuka could end up in blue and gold.
After being selected in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, "Kiwi" has been the most versatile player on the New York Giants. A starter for almost his entire career, here are the positions Mathias has played.
2006: Defensive End
2008: Defensive End
2009: Defensive End
2010: Defensive End
2013: Defensive End
In the Giants' 4-3 defense, there is a huge difference between those two positions. However, Kiwanuka is as good at rushing the passer as he is at man or zone coverage against tight ends and running backs (which pretty much makes him perfect for the role of 3-4 outside linebacker), so he switched back and forth depending on where the Giants needed him. I believe he even switched mid-season a few times when an injury left the Giants short-handed at LB.
In this video of Kiwanuka's "Top 5 Plays of 2011", he played DE on four of them and LB on one of them.
Similar to Adalius Thomas (there's a name you haven't heard in a while), Kiwanuka's best trait is in his versatility. Good Defensive Coordinators can find ways to disguise what they're doing through it, which makes him a lot like Melvin Ingram.
Why the Giants might trade him
He's a starter and, although the Giants are 0-4, it's a long season. There's no way New York would want to get rid of Kiwanuka, right?
As you can see, my initial offer was
a little way too high. We'll get to what the real value is in a minute, but know that the Giants are not tied to Mathias.
One reason is his contract. He's in the middle of Year 2 of the four-year contract that wraps up when he's 32 years old. In these first two years, he's accounted for $4.125 million against the cap each year. For the next two years, he'll account for $7 million and $7.45 million against the cap (respectively). The Giants don't want to pay that. They can cut him next year, and save about $2 million in cap space and get nothing back, or they can trade him (taking the same cap hit in 2014) and get back a pick.
Another reason is his performance. Along with the rest of the team, Kiwanuka has been terrible so far this year (4 QB hurries in 112 pass rushing chances). You can blame the team/talent around him, or perhaps everyone has simply toned Coach Coughlin out (which happens every few years), or maybe...just maybe...Kiwanuka is finished. For a guy that relies so much on speed, maybe he lost that half-step and can't be effective anymore. If that's the case, it's certainly time for Jerry Reese to get what he can for him. Even if it's not the case, the Giants need to do something to shake up the team and locker room.
Why the Chargers might want him
Well, for one, they don't have any other options. Even if Mike McCoy and Tom Telesco wanted to fire John Pagano after this season, it'd be pretty hard to justify doing so if his best pass rusher for most of the season turns out to be Larry English. Also, now that we've seen what this offense is capable of, it'd be a shame if 2013 ended up being a losing season for the Chargers simply because the defense couldn't stop anybody.
There's plenty of reason to believe that Kiwanuka, who is three years younger than Dwight Freeney, is still a solid pass rusher and good in coverage. There's even more reason to believe that, like the speedy Freeney, Kiwanuka would benefit from a switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense. In addition, there's a lot that Pagano could do to disguise his defense (including letting Kiwi play some ILB) with a versatile playing like Kiwinuka being added to his defense, which can only work to help the rest of the defense.
How the Chargers might pay for him
Well, first, what would they give up:
There you go. A 3rd rounder would guarantee the team Kiwanuka, a 4th would probably get it done, and a 5th is a wonderful starting point for negotiations. A fifth-round pick to help the team compete for this season, and to help replace Larry English in 2014? Seems like a good move to me.
Now, as far as his money goes...I'm not sure how it works. If Freeney goes on IR, does his money still count against the cap? If not, it's almost an even swap. As for next year, the team would probably have to cut somebody (Clary?) to fit Kiwanuka's big contract, but my guess is that they'd aim more for a restructure, and he'd sign it to avoid getting released.
So, what do you think? Should the Chargers go after Mathias Kiwanuka in a trade? Is there another pass rusher out there that you'd rather them go for, that would be a fit for this defense and their team would be willing to make available? I want to hear all of the options that are out there!