General manager Joe Schoen’s decision to take Wan’Dale Robinson in the second round has ramifications that go beyond whether the Giants reached for the Kentucky wideout a round too early. They are also adding another early-round player (and guaranteed roster spot) to a crowded position room loaded with questions.
Here’s a wild stat: The Giants already had more salary cap dollars allocated to receivers than any team in the NFL before the Robinson pick. The group’s combined cap hit is over $40 million, according to Over The Cap, which is nearly 20% of the Giants’ overall cap.
All for a free agent bust with a bad contract (Kenny Golladay), a veteran coming off a serious injury and steep pay cut (Sterling Shepard) and two guys reportedly on the trade block (Kadarius Toney and Darius Slayton).
Something will have to give before Week 1. Here is a closer look at where things stand, and how they will likely shake out:
Dave Gettleman’s parting gift. The Golladay deal — four years, $72 million, $40 million guaranteed — was a disaster. He’s not a true No. 1 receiver, he isn’t terribly durable and he is still looking for his first touchdown as a Giant. And the contract has a clear trickle-down effect.
The Giants can’t trade Golladay. They don’t want to restructure the deal and kick the can down the road. And they had their hands tied in free agency (in part) because of the deal, and it will indirectly lead them to cut cornerback James Bradberry given the cap hell they are currently in. What a disaster. All the Giants can do now is hope Golladay stays on the field and produces, because they’re likely stuck with him for at least two more seasons.
How many slot receivers can you have? Robinson, Shepard and Toney are all similar players. Put the financial concerns aside for a second. How does this work from a football standpoint? It likely does not. Robinson and Toney figure to be more effective (if healthy) in coach Brian Daboll’s system. And Toney likely has the ability to make things happen on the outside if he reaches his potential. Which means …
Shepard could be on the way out. He’s scheduled to be a free agent after this season and his 2023 dead cap hit is already baked in with the void year after the restructure. If Shepard is 100% during training camp — he is working his way back from a torn Achilles — it would make sense for the Giants to cut him. They’d save a little over $2 million in cap space.
What about Slayton? He has been mentioned frequently as a potential cut or trade target. The Giants would save $2.6 million in cap space by parting ways with a guy who did not have a concrete role last season and tends to disappear at times. It seems like a no-brainer to dump him given his inconsistencies. But Schoen has not yet, and it’s hard to believe he thinks there is a serious trade market for Slayton. If Shepard goes, maybe Slayton stays for one final season?
The Toney situation. As of now, it looks like reports of a potential Toney trade accomplished what the Giants wanted. The mercurial pass catcher has shown up to the voluntary offseason program as Daboll and Schoen say all the right things publicly. While the Giants won’t admit the Robinson pick could factor into Toney’s future, it’s clear that could be the case. They are similar players, and Toney is the only incumbent receiver whose trade value has a realistic chance to grow.
The Giants would be selling low on Toney right now. They’d be lucky to get a third-round pick, and that likely isn’t enough to give up on a 2021 first-rounder who showed flashes of brilliance last season. But if Toney stays healthy and produces this fall while failing to shake the off-field nonsense, he becomes a player Schoen can move at the trade deadline or next offseason for a decent return.
Final thoughts. The Giants can’t trade Golladay. They could send Toney elsewhere, but banking on a strong second season and continued maturation is a better bet due to his talent and potential system fit. But moving on from Shepard and Slayton may be inevitable. The opportunity to save around $4.6 million in cap space by giving up a fourth-string receiver (at best) and an injury waiting to happen should be a no-brainer, especially with Robinson now in the fold.