As discussed in our spotlight on defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis, the defensive line of the New York Giants has been in a state of decline. This has been most noticeable at defensive end where the Giants have seen the deterioration and departure of Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Mathias Kiwanuka, not to mention the roller coaster productivity of Jason Pierre-Paul.
To help reinforce this unit, the Giants signed unrestricted free agent George Selvie from the Dallas Cowboys on March 20. The contract was reportedly a 1-year, $1.4 million deal that included a $200,000 signing bonus.
The 28-year old Selvie was a collegiate teammate of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul at the University of South Florida. And it is Selvie, and not JPP, who holds school records for career sacks, sacks in a season, and tackles for a loss in a season. In 2007, Selvie was named “Big East Defensive Player of the Year” when he accrued 14.5 sacks. Indeed, at one time, Selvie was considered a better pro prospect than Pierre-Paul. But not by the Giants and the rest of the NFL.
After the Giants drafted Pierre-Paul in 2010, Giants Vice President of Player Evaluation was asked why the Giants like JPP better than Selvie. “(Pierre-Paul) is a great player,” replied Ross. “Selvie – not much. This kid helped Selvie… They are totally different players; totally different skill set; totally different athletic ability. The media was talking about Selvie – the guy had a tremendous sophomore year. He had 15 sacks or so. But his production has gone down and that is where you evaluate their skill set; their athletic ability; the height, weight, speed, the quickness, the strength, those things.”
While Pierre-Paul was drafted in the 1st round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Giants, Selvie fell to the 7th round where he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. The head coach of the Rams at the time was Steve Spagnuolo. Selvie only lasted one season with the Rams. He played in all 16 games as a rookie and finished the year with 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Spagnulo waived Selvie in early September 2011 before the regular season started. Selvie was immediately claimed by the Carolina Panthers but then waived a month later after playing in four games as a backup. A month after that, in November, he was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he played in seven games as backup. In all, Selvie finished the 2011 season with only six tackles and half a sack.
Selvie missed the first five games of the 2012 season with a knee injury. When he returned, Selvie played in nine games as a reserve for the Jaguars, collecting 15 tackles and one sack.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Selvie as a free agent in April 2013 after the Jaguars decided not to tender him. However, Tampa Bay became the fourth NFL team to cut ties with Selvie when they released him a month later.
It was at this point in time where there would occur another connection between Selvie and the Giants. After being cut by Tampa Bay, Selvie was invited to try out at the Giants rookie mini-camp in May 2013. However, Selvie did not do enough to impress the team and he was not offered a contract.
At the time, that looked like the last hurrah for Selvie. But two months later, the Dallas Cowboys signed him after their training camp opened. Defensive end Anthony Spencer was having knee issues and defensive end Tyrone Crawford had just tore his Achilles. Although Selvie was not expected to make the team, the Cowboys were desperate for bodies. However, Selvie did more than that as he quickly earned first-team reps and was named the starter at left (strongside) defensive end in the preseason.
For the Cowboys in 2013, Selvie started all 16 regular-season games and finished the year with 45 tackles, seven sacks (second most on the team), 22 quarterback pressures, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. Selvie’s first sack as a Cowboy was on Eli Manning in the opener. Defensive Line Coach Rod Marinellis affectionately nicknamed him the “Bricklayer.”
“It’s something coach Marinelli came up with,” said Selvie. “You know sometimes you got guys who will just keep going out there and work, just through time lay bricks, lay bricks one at a time to get better. That’s an analogy they try to use with me, so it just kept.”
Selvie’s productivity in Dallas declined in 2014. He played in all 16 regular-season games with 13 starts at left defensive end. He also started both playoff games for the Cowboys. Selvie finished the regular season with 30 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. He added six post-season tackles, including five against Green Bay. Selvie was credited with 20 quarterback pressures in the regular season, down by just two from 2013. And he continued to cause problems for the Giants, sacking Eli again and being credited with eight tackles in two games against Big Blue in 2014.
When Dallas signed one of the better defensive ends in free agency in Greg Hardy in March 2015, Selvie became expendable. The Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – two teams that had already looked at him just two years earlier and had rejected him – were both interested once again. Selvie signed with the Giants, whose new defensive coordinator, Spagnulo, had also previously waived Selvie.
“I’m excited to be here,” Selvie said. “It’s a great opportunity for me. And I’m excited to be playing with JPP again, along with Spags. I’m excited for the opportunity to be here.
“There have been great defensive linemen that have played (with the Giants), and I want to be one of those. I felt like this was a great situation. With Jason being over there (at right defensive end), he gets a lot of attention. I hope I can get free with that. It’s a great opportunity and a great fit.”
Pierre-Paul also appears thrilled to be playing with his old collegiate teammate.
“I think that’s a great pickup,” Pierre-Paul said of the Giants signing Selvie. “He’s a good player. George can play the run and rush the passer. From the film I’ve watched, he’s gotten better as a player…He’s a dedicated worker, and I know he’s going to work to try to get better and better.”
So how does Selvie fit in with the Giants? At 6’4”, 270 pounds, the journeyman Selvie has demonstrated an ability to be a decent run defender at left end, where he has started 31 regular- and post-season NFL games since 2013. He also has 10 sacks and 42 quarterback pressures in the last two regular seasons. That alone gives him a decent shot a starting job at strongside end if the Giants choose to keep JPP at weakside end. Selvie will compete with Damontre Moore, Robert Ayers, and Kerry Wynn – along with any potential 2015 draft pick – for a starting job. No one yet has the inside track.
“George is going to fill in that gap that we have on that other side,” Pierre-Paul said. “He is going to fight for that starting spot. That’s a good thing. That will make everybody work harder.”
The big question is what is Selvie’s upside? Was 2013 his career year for a journeyman now with his sixth team? Is he the kind of guy you look to replace, or can become a valuable starter or reserve in New York? That remains to be seen. Like a bad penny, Selvie keeps turning up. Spagnulo, the Buccaneers, and Giants all wanted him back after cutting ties. At the very least, it will be interesting to see if Selvie’s presence on the team has an impact on JPP’s mental outlook and overall game.