Blake Martinez gobbled up 140-plus tackles in each of the past three seasons in Green Bay, but the Packers didn’t make a big push to re-sign the inside linebacker.
After inking a three-year, $30 million contract with the New York Giants, the 26-year-old said during a Monday conference call he’s happy to land with a club that values inside linebackers.
"It was 50/50 of a surprise and not a surprise," Martinez said when asked if he was startled the Pack didn’t want him back, via the Giants’ official team website. "I think the way they value the inside linebacker position especially in that defense, it wasn’t as valued as other places I guess in my opinion. Overall, it was one of the things where they offered me, and we were just in different wavelengths on where I valued myself and where they valued it. At the end of the day, it was one of the decisions that had to be made on both sides. It’s a business and right now I am extremely happy where I am and can’t wait to start playing for the Giants and finally get into the facility."
The Packers aren’t the only team who values inside linebacker at a lower rate. Despite gobbling up tackles, Martinez struggles to cover in space at times, a trait teams value more than a run-thumper.
Martinez also rebutted the critique that he didn’t have enough impact plays in Green Bay, with many of his tackles coming downfield. He also missed 15 tackles last season, per Pro Football Focus, tied for 13th most among linebackers.
"I think that’s the one misconception of me, I guess the public view," Martinez said. "The way we ran the defense, at least the last two years, is I’m kind of put into the cleanup crew guy. There’s a lot of situations where you see numerous other defenses where it’s like, OK, you have A-B gap responsibility as an inside linebacker, you have one gap responsibility — not to get too much into football stuff, but there’s two high, you have two-gap responsibility on certain plays, as other people split safety. In our defense no matter what it was, since I was the only linebacker on the field, I was taught and told once again, to be the cleanup crew guy. There wasn’t any gap responsibilities for me. It was just kind of ‘hey play off Kenny (Clark), play off Za’Darius (Smith), play off Preston (Smith), play off Dean (Lowry),’ play off these guys and basically make them right. They were able to do whatever they wanted to do and then I would go make the plays depending on that. I know there’s been things like you make tackles down the field, you make tackles here, you make tackles there. For the majority of the time there, that’s what I was told to do. It’s just me, I guess doing my job in that sense."
As with most things in life, the truth with Martinez’s situation likely lies somewhere in the gray. The Packers don’t value linebackers heavily. Much of his duties were to clean up for other players. Martinez struggles in coverage. And Green Bay wasn’t going to pay him the $10 million per season the Giants offered.
Reuniting with new Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham in New York, Martinez believes he’s in a better situation to flash his playmaking ability.
"Going into this defense, once I learn, being whatever it ends up being how we play. I hope I am able to trigger it, solo gaps, do those type of things and make those type of impact plays," he said.
Big Blue made a big bet Martinez, not Green Bay, is correct.
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