new york giants free agency
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The New York Giants may part ways with Evan Engram. Who could they potentially acquire via free agency in order to replace him?

Ryan Honey

Can we agree it would likely be in the New York Giants‘ best interest to move on from tight end Evan Engram? His 2020 statistics were actually a tad bit better than people realized upon earning his inaugural Pro Bowl bid, but the mistakes trump all.

The drops (11) were more significant a concern than ever this past season and the fourth-year pro was actually targeted on six of the 12 picks thrown by Big Blue.

The Giants shouldn’t just up and release him and instead try to see if they can receive something in return via the trade market. There’s a chance his Pro Bowl nod increased his potential trade value and it’s evident he possesses respect from coaches and players around the league. He earned the Pro Bowl bid despite finishing fourth among NFC tight ends in the fan vote (one-third of the final results).

So with Engram’s career in East Rutherford possibly having reached its ultimate demise, the Giants could look to the unrestricted free agent market to seek someone to replace him. Luckily, multiple individuals are set to be available barring any sort of franchise tag.

Hunter Henry (LAC)

Hunter Henry has been a solid tight end since entering the league with the then-San Diego Chargers in 2016 and can certainly put up decent numbers (3.6 receptions, 42.2 yards per game for his career with a 69.0% catch rate).

Engram’s career per-game reception and yard totals are more superior, but the mistakes (most notably, the drops) are just not worth it. Henry dropped two balls in 2020 for a drop rate of 2.2%, while Engram’s 11 drops led to a 10.1% drop rate. The Chargers also threw just one pick this past season when targeting their starting tight end.

There may be a few concerns with Henry though. For one, he might prefer to stay in Los Angeles and help build with the Chargers, a team that’s currently on the up-and-up with an emerging young quarterback in Justin Herbert.

And No. 2: the injuries. Henry missed time due to injury in each of his first four years in the NFL and sat out the entire 2018 regular season due to an ACL tear.

He has an issue with remaining healthy, and with that said, the Giants should avoid breaking the bank on him. But given his strengths, he would be a good fit in Jason Garrett‘s offense (if he’s to remain the coordinator), and paying him at least a decent amount might be worth it.

Gerald Everett (LAR)

The young Rams tight end garners decent on-field production and isn’t even Los Angeles’ primary tight end. This past season, Gerald Everett caught 41 passes for a total of 417 yards and one score. His career catch rate (62.3%) is additionally better than Engram’s (60.7%).

A case of the drops has been present, but this issue isn’t as noteworthy with Everett as it is with Engram. Everett totaled six drops (9.7% drop rate) and was targeted on one interception. Sure, six drops don’t look great, but the main statistic to focus on in the aforementioned string of numbers is the one pick. Everett’s blunders weren’t drive-killers nearly as much as they were for the Giants’ current starting tight end.

One glaring positive with Everett in comparison to the guy he could potentially replace is his success in the open field. Everett recorded 5.9 yards after catch per reception this past season while Engram averaged 4.6. Los Angeles’ tight end also notched a 6.8 reception-per-broken-tackle rate. Engram’s mark in that category was 15.8, far worse.

This specific comparison is important in terms of fighting for additional yardage and ultimately keeping drives alive — a crucial aspect especially considering the Giants finished 31st in the league with 297 total first downs in 2020.

Jonnu Smith (TEN)

The important thing to realize with Titans tight end Jonnu Smith is that he carries a true knack for the end zone. The 25-year-old crossed the goal line nine times for Tennessee in 2020 to go along with 41 total receptions and 448 yards.

Smith also dropped just three balls for a 4.6% drop rate and a pair of interceptions were thrown by the Titans when targeting him.

Just like Everett, Smith is statistically better after the catch than Engram (5.8 average yards after the catch in comparison to Engram’s 4.6 mark in that category).

Smith is increasing in value due to his on-field development (his reception and yard totals have increased every year of his career thus far), but his price shouldn’t be absurdly high given his low 2.7 average reception and 29.2 average yard marks this past season.

He should very much be considered by the Giants front office this offseason and could assist in the development of Daniel Jones.

Dan Arnold (ARI)

The tidbit that stands out with Cardinals tight end Dan Arnold is that he was able to rack up 31 catches for 438 yards and four touchdowns in 2020 while being on the field for fewer than half of Arizona’s total offensive snaps. His 68.9% catch rate and 2.2% drop rate (one drop) this past year additionally proves he’s more reliable than Engram. For what it’s worth, Arnold has dropped just two passes in his 31-game career.

Arnold won’t be expensive, and taking his on-field strengths into consideration, would be a nice fit in Garrett’s tight end-heavy offense.

Like a few of the aforementioned soon-to-be free agents, Arnold was better after the catch than Engram, racking up 5.4 average yards in those regards in 2020.

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