Delanie Walker and Xavier Rhodes, both of whom were recently released, could significantly help the New York Giants in 2020.
We are living in some unique and scary times as the coronavirus is rapidly affecting our world. Various schools and offices are closing. With the exception of the UFC, all major sporting events have either been canceled or postponed.
Regardless, there were some transactions in the NFL over the last few days. Some players are receiving franchise tags while others are being released. Two of the more notable names in the latter category are Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker and Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
Both Walker and Rhodes may not be as dominant as they once were. Nonetheless, each could still be productive and sign to team-friendly one-year deals with the New York Giants in 2020.
Here are the reasons why Walker and Rhodes should be on Big Blue’s free-agent radar.
The case for Delanie Walker
The Giants have several questions regarding the tight end position, and this was the case even before Rhett Ellison’s retirement last week. The No. 1 guy on the depth chart, Evan Engram, has shown that he’s one of the most athletic tight ends in the league. He’s also proven to be injury-prone though. Throughout his three-year career, he’s missed 14 games, including the final seven matchups of last season.
Engram is currently rehabbing from foot surgery and the Giants must decide by May 30 whether they’re going to exercise his fifth-year option.
Backup tight end Kaden Smith filled in nicely in Engram’s absence. The 2019 rookie appeared in nine games, catching 31 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. He seemed to develop a nice rapport with Daniel Jones, but it’s unknown how productive he could be in a 16-game campaign now that opponents possess more film on him.
This is why it would make sense for the Giants to offer Walker a one-year deal. Despite the fact that he’s turning 36 in August, he’s not that far removed from being one of the best tight ends in the league. Walker made the Pro Bowl in three consecutive seasons from 2015-17, catching 233 passes with 16 touchdowns during that span.
Titans release tight end Delanie Walker https://t.co/x7zfJENGQT
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 13, 2020
Unfortunately, Walker would be bitten by the injury bug soon thereafter. He dislocated and fractured his ankle in the 2018 season-opener against the Miami Dolphins. The setback would sideline him for the remainder of the year. Then in 2019, he only played in seven games before hitting injured reserve with another ankle injury in November.
Due to his age and recent injury history, Walker should be open to a one-year deal in order to prolong his career. In turn, the Giants could employ a talented backup in Walker in case Engram goes down again and Smith is unable to be a productive option.
The case for Xavier Rhodes
The youngest and most inexperienced group on the Giants roster is at cornerback. Deandre Baker, Corey Ballentine, Sam Beal, Julian Love, and Grant Haley all have less than three years of playing experience.
That being said, it was essentially a given that Big Blue would look to add a veteran corner. They must, especially when you consider the fact that they’ll be facing three of the top five passing offenses from a season ago in 2020.
Rumors suggest that the Giants may show interest in free-agent cornerback Byron Jones. The 27-year-old spent his first five seasons in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and will definitely be seeking a significant payday this offseason.
But breaking the bank and paying anywhere from $15-19 million annually for Jones may not be the right move. Instead, it might serve the Giants best to offer Rhodes a short-term incentive-based contract. At this point in their respective careers, Jones is arguably more talented than Rhodes. The Giants need as much cap space as possible to address other needs though, like at the pass rusher and offensive line positions.
Like Walker, Rhodes isn’t that far removed from being one of the best at his position. He made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2017, recording seven combined interceptions across the pair of seasons. He additionally held Odell Beckham Jr. to just three receptions and 23 yards in a 24-10 Vikings victory over New York in 2016.
Xavier Rhodes’ drop-off has been steep.
PFF graded him as the second worst outside corner since 2018, and he was 125th overall last season.
And by the way, yes, he made the Pro Bowl last year.
— Mike Kennedy (@mbken84) March 13, 2020
But his play would plummet the following two seasons. Pro Football Focus gave him grades of 58.2 and 46.4 in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Somehow, he was miraculously voted to the Pro Bowl last year.
Rhodes will turn 30 in June and perhaps a change of scenery could help revise his career.
Walker and Rhodes shouldn’t be at the top of Dave Gettleman’s free agent wish list. But if each is willing to take a one or two-year prove-it deal, they should definitely be options.