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Giants release linebackers Alec Ogletree and Kareem Martin

Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree speaks to the media

Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree speaks to the media during mini camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on June 5, 2019. Credit: Brad Penner

INDIANAPOLIS – Alec Ogletree and Kareem Martin were two of the very first players Dave Gettleman brought in to buttress the Giants’ roster and help install a new culture in the locker room during his first offseason as general manager.

Now they are two of the first casualties as the team tries to overhaul its dreadful defense in time for the 2020 campaign.

The Giants released the two veterans on Wednesday, clearing around $13 million of salary cap space with free agency arriving in the middle of next month. The moves also clear positions and leadership roles for younger players on the roster to fill. Ogletree, a two-time defensive captain and signal-caller on the defense, will possibly be replaced by second-year linebacker Ryan Connolly who is recovering from a torn ACL. Martin, who played in just five games in 2019, will have his limited snaps replaced by Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines.

The Giants may very well sign or draft replacements for the two as well, including versatile Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, who is a possibility for the Giants with the fourth overall selection.

Fixing the defense is a priority for the front office and coaching staff.

“If you can’t play defense, you can’t be successful in this league,” Joe Judge said on Tuesday. “You look at the teams every year whose seasons extend longer than other teams. They do certain things in common. That always kind of goes back to the same traits.”

Ogletree was acquired in a trade with the Rams for fourth and sixth-round draft choices on March 14, 2018. In his two years with the Giants, he started all 26 games in which he played – missing three each year – and had a team-high 173 tackles. Not bad production, but at roughly $10 million per season he was among the highest-paid players at his position and due to be so again in 2020. The Giants will save $8.5 million against the cap by releasing him while taking a $3.5 million cap hit.

Martin, who signed a three-year deal as a free agent one day after the Ogletree trade, was less of a factor on the field. He had just 1.5 sacks in his two seasons with the Giants. He was due to earn $5.96 million in 2020 and due a roster bonus of $500,000 next month.

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