Giants could grab cap-friendly veteran tight end if Darren Waller retires

Dec 31, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Robert Tonyan (New York Giants FA target) (18) makes a catch against Atlanta Falcons safety Jessie Bates III (3) during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are in a slightly precarious situation at tight end as the 2024 NFL offseason rounds out. Giants starting tight end Darren Waller is still mulling retirement. His decision, and when it comes, will have major bearings on New York’s salary cap.

Giants: Darren Waller’s retirement could save the Giants big dollars

New York Giants tight end Darren Waller (12) runs with the ball against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half at MetLife Stadium

The Athletic’s Dan Duggan detailed how the Giants’ $6 million in cap space will essentially be negated by the $6 million the Giants inked their 2024 NFL Draft picks too. If Waller retires, he will save the team $6.7 million if it comes before June 1 and $11.6 million if announced after June 1 (h/t Heavy Sports’ Michael Obermuller).

Giants could look at cost-effective TE Robert Tonyan Jr. as a replacement for Waller

Dec 17, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Robert Tonyan (18) catches the ball during warm ups before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Obermuller also relayed Kris Knox of Bleacher Report’s identification of former Chicago Bears TE Robert Tonyan Jr. as a potential replacement for Waller:

“The Giants could also use insurance at tight end, as 2023 addition Darren Waller continues to mull retirement,” Knox wrote within the article. “An experienced pass-catcher like Robert Tonyan Jr. would provide solid depth alongside Daniel Bellinger and rookie fourth-round pick Theo Johnson.”

Tonyan Jr. is coming off of a 2023 campaign where he brought in 11 receptions for 112 yards along with a 64.7 percent catch percentage. He did not catch a touchdown pass on the year but proved he can still be a big target for first-down looks.

The 6-5 TE does not have the same offensive potency as Waller but could be a solid short-term option for the Giants on a potential one-year deal while New York’s fourth-round pick Johnson proves himself at the position. Tonyan Jr. and Bellinger, who both have catch percentages north of 75 percent over the last two years, would ensure that the position has no void for next season ahead of the Giants’ other TE Chris Manhertz and Jack Stoll on the depth chart.

Tonyan Jr. earned $2.65 million on his one-year deal with the Bears in 2023 and could be had for considerably less after his down season. At a discount, he’s a player for the Giants to watch if Waller decides to call it a career.

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