The Giants have made their big splash of the offseason by trading for star Raiders tight end Darren Waller. And they didn’t need to give up much for it all — a third-round pick.
General manager Joe Schoen is shipping out the No. 100 pick in the 2023 draft — the compensatory pick the Giants got from the Chiefs in the Kadarius Toney deal. And in return he is getting Waller, a playmaking target for Daniel Jones who has a favorable contract.
What Waller brings to the table. Waller has dealt with various injuries the last two seasons and only played in 20 of the Radiers’ 34 total regular-season games during that span. But when he’s healthy, he has the ability to be one of the more productive tight ends in the NFL.
He and the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce were at the top of the tight end world during the 2020 season. Waller was second among tight ends (and 10th in the NFL) with 1,196 receiving yards. He was also first among tight ends and fourth in the league in receptions with 107, an absurd mark for a tight end.
The athleticism, vision, and size are there for Waller to be a force for a team that was desperate for consistent production at this position a year ago. While tight ends aren’t usually heavily featured in head coach Brian Daboll’s offense, the lack of talent at that spot really held the Giants back.
Daniel Bellinger is promising but had an up-and-down rookie season due to an eye-injury and lack of true consistency. A healthy Waller will be a major upgrade.
The contract. Per Over the Cap, Waller has cap hits of $12.04 million, $11.89 million, $13.17 million, and $15.17 million from 2023-26. His average value is $17 million, the highest for a tight end currently in the NFL.
Yes, it’s an expensive contract. But nothing the Giants can’t handle. But there are certainly ways to lower the per-year cap hits which Schoen will exercise, plus additional cost-cutting moves to come — the official release of wide receiver Kenny Golladay on Wednesday, the possible extensions of cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and defensive lineman Leonard Williams, et cetera. Plus, it’s important to note the contract has a potential out after next season, with zero dead cap charges from 2024-26.
What this means for Jones. The Giants committed to Jones by giving him a four-year, $160 million contract with $82 million guaranteed. They could get out of the contract after two seasons, but Jones is still their guy at least through the 2024 season.
That means the Giants needed to get him playmakers, hence this big move.
They weren’t expected to make any major free agency splashes due to their cap situation, but the trade market was still an option for Schoen. Now Jones has a potential elite-level tight end that’s a major upgrade from the 2022 revolving door at the position.
Don’t expect the front office to be done improving Jones’ supporting cast, however. Free-agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. could be an option, and the Giants still own the No. 25 overall draft pick to use on a star college wideout.