“This is where I wanted to be,” Brinkley said of returning to New York, per Eisen. “I had a good season last year. Just given the opportunities I had, and given the guys that are here and the mentality the coaches have, there’s definitely a winning mentality here, and I want to be a part of that.”
Contract details were not immediately disclosed.
Brinkley had a breakout year in 2015, finishing third on the team with 67 tackles while also forcing four fumbles.
The Giants signed the former fifth-round pick to the practice squad four days before the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys—the team that released him.
His future seemed to be in question before the Giants took a chance.
“I was tested last year, and being patient paid off for me in the end,” Brinkley said, per Eisen. “When you’re number’s called, you have to be able to go out there and perform, and I feel I did that.”
The Giants have been aggressive this offseason in bolstering their defense and for good reason. They ranked dead last in yards allowed (420.3 per game) and were third-worst in scoring defense (27.6 points per game) last season.
In addition to bringing back Brinkley, they’ve also signed linebacker Keenan Robinson, defensive end Olivier Vernon, nose tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The latter three all cashed in with deals that make them among the team’s highest-paid players, per Spotrac.
Brinkley is the incumbent starter at middle linebacker, but Dan Graziano of ESPN.com speculated he’ll have competition to retain his role:
I think their preference is for Keenan Robinson to win the MLB job, but they know Brinkley can play it. https://t.co/FW0H6lNBRJ— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) March 29, 2016
The Giants are in the midst of the first offseason under new head coach Ben McAdoo, who was promoted from offensive coordinator to replace two-time Super Bowl champion Tom Coughlin in January.
Much of the staff from last year’s 6-10 campaign remains intact, including defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Expectations will be high in 2016 for the team to turn things around and contend for an NFC East division title that took only nine wins to claim last year.
Keeping a role player and a key contributor like Brinkley in the fold will only add to healthy competition among a defense that needs improvement.