Nate Ebner becomes Joe Judge’s first Patriots transplant with Giants

The wait is over for the first player to follow Joe Judge from the New England Patriots to the New York Giants in free agency.

Linebackers Kyle Van Noy (Miami Dolphins) and Jamie Collins (Detroit Lions) reunited with other ex-Patriots coaches and safety Devin McCourty opted to stay put, so the answer is Nate Ebner, who agreed to terms with the Giants on Thursday.

Ebner, 31, is a backup safety and special teams standout who was Second-Team All-Pro in 2016 and likely would get more recognition if not for sharing the field with the best special teams player in the NFL while on the Patriots (Matthew Slater).

The three-time Super Bowl champion joined the Patriots in 2012, the same year Judge joined the coaching staff. They were together for eight seasons, including since Judge climbed to special teams coordinator in 2015.

Ebner was an elite rugby player with a spot on United States junior national team as a teenager and returned to the sport while in the NFL. He was part of the national team during the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Despite not playing football in high school or during his first two seasons at Ohio State, he walked on as a junior and later earned a scholarship for his special teams tone-setting. The Urban Meyer-Bill Belichick relationship helped Ebner become a surprise sixth-round draft pick.

Nate EbnerIcon Sportswire via Getty Images

While making sweeping changes to the rest of the coaching staff, Judge kept intact the Giants’ special teams unit – headed by Thomas McGaughey, with assistants Tom Quinn and Anthony Blevins. The Giants ranked No. 15 and No. 7, in 2018 and 2019, respectively in the composite special teams rankings compiled by analyst Rick Gosselin.

Both Giants special teams captains – long snapper Zak DeOssie and Pro Bowler Michael Thomas – are free agents, as is gunner Antonio Hamilton. Cody Core and David Mayo re-signed.

Newly added offensive tackle Cam Fleming is an ex-Patriot, but he comes to the Giants after two seasons with the rival Cowboys.