The New York Giants had a clear plan when they obtained tight end Darren Waller from the Las Vegas Raiders: they aimed to yield WR1 numbers at a modest cost.
While in the midst of a rebuild and actively shaping a sturdy foundation through the NFL Draft, the Giants were cautious about trading for a top receiver without a well-devised strategy.
After two successful years of drafting, the team is coming together and appears capable of both winning games and continuing to enhance their roster.
The trade for 30-year-old Waller, in exchange for a third-round pick originally acquired from Kadarius Toney, may be remembered as one of their finest recent acquisitions.
Waller will count only $4 million against the salary cap in 2023 before a three-year, $51 million deal takes effect in his 32-year-old season. His salary will be $14 million in 2024, $15 million in 2025, and $17 million in 2026.
Following the upcoming season, the Giants have the option to release Waller. While this would generate $7.86 million in dead money, it would also free up a significant amount of cash for future use.
However, if Waller delivers impressive performance figures in 2023, the Giants may choose to retain him as a primary pass catcher.
Waller is already garnering high praise from notable figures in football, including one of the best tight ends in history, Greg Olsen, who currently works as an analyst.
“That guy is an absolute specimen,” Olsen said of Waller, via the PMS. “So, two years ago, our first year doing it was my first time ever seeing Darren in person. And watching him on a field with other 6-foot-4-plus guys who are all 240-plus, he just stood out. Just the way his legs (looked), the way he ran, his body type. The dude is unbelievable. On a field of elite athletes, he stands out amongst them which is not easy to do.”
The Giants are getting a legit talent in Darren Waller:
Known as a phenomenal talent in his position, Waller has achieved over 1,100 receiving yards in two seasons. His best season was in 2020 at age 28 when he recorded 1,196 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns.
Although Waller has suffered various injuries throughout his career, he is currently in excellent health and prepared to make a significant contribution to a Giants team that urgently needs a top player in the passing game.
Quarterback Daniel Jones has heavily relied on his tight ends in the past, so Waller is likely to receive a considerable share of targets from the Giants’ newly extended passer.
In recent seasons, Waller’s snap counts have shown diversity. In 2022 with the Raiders, Waller played 61.9% of his reps out of the slot and 20% out wide, with only 17.4% of his snaps as an in-line TE, effectively shifting him out of the position.
The Giants may primarily use him as a jumbo slot option, but his versatility will pose substantial challenges for opposing defenses in the secondary.
Paired with second-year TE Daniel Bellinger, Waller could form one of the most dynamic duos in football. With his underrated athleticism and proven effectiveness as a blocker in the run game, Bellinger will open up the offense for Daniel Jones when combined with Waller’s size, speed, and power.