Having already secured Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, the New York Giants entered the 2023 free agent period needing to add more pass catchers to their offense. They did just that on Tuesday, acquiring veteran tight end Darren Waller from the Las Vegas Raiders, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Media.
Let’s break down every aspect of the trade and how it affects the Giants and Raiders moving forward.
Grading the Darren Waller Trade From Raiders to Giants
The Giants are essentially swapping out Kadarius Toney for Waller. New York will send the No. 100 overall pick — the same selection they acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs at last year’s trade deadline — to Las Vegas in exchange for Waller, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.
New York Giants Add Dynamic — But Oft-Injured — Offensive Threat
Waller is one of the more inspiring stories in the NFL. A former sixth-round pick of the Ravens, Waller battled substance abuse issues and was suspended multiple times before eventually landing on the Raiders’ practice squad in 2018.
After working his way onto the active roster, Waller became one of the most productive tight ends in the league, posting back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns in 2019 and 2020. But a laundry list of injury issues limited him to 20 games over the past two seasons.
The Giants needed pass-catching talent more than any contending team, but this year’s free agent crop of wide receivers was anything but inspiring. With so many wideouts having already agreed to extensions, Jakobi Meyers — who we’ll get to a bit later — profiled as 2023’s most enticing free agent option.
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Instead, New York went after Waller, who showed flashes of his previous production in 2022, even if his season-end receiving totals (28-388-3) weren’t all that impressive. Among tight ends with at least 40 targets last year, Waller ranked first with a 14-yard average depth of target and 10th with 1.58 yards per route run.
Those underlying metrics can help the Giants justify their acquisition, but at a price of only a late third-round pick, Waller doesn’t require much justification. He has four years and $52.5 million remaining on his contract, but only his $11 million base salary for 2023 is guaranteed.
This is a low-risk, high-upside move for New York, which didn’t have a ton of other avenues to add receiving talent this offseason.
Raiders Give Up on Waller
There have been plenty of indications that Waller wasn’t long for the Josh McDaniels regime in Las Vegas.
In November, Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the Raiders were frustrated with Waller’s lengthy absence as he recovered from a hamstring injury. Additionally, Adam Schefter of ESPN indicated that Waller had been the subject of trade talks with the Packers, although no deal ever came to fruition. Waller was also mentioned as a possible inclusion in Vegas’ trade for Davante Adams.
On Tuesday, the Raiders signed Meyers — who overlapped with McDaniels in New England — to a three-year, $33 million deal. The addition of Meyers seemed to indicate that fellow slot option Hunter Renfrow could be on the move, but Las Vegas dealt Waller instead.
By doing so, the Raiders are trading Waller while his value is at an all-time low. Meanwhile, Las Vegas players like Josh Jacobs and Jermaine Eluemunor expressed their frustration at Waller’s departure. Players never like to see their teammates traded, but McDaniels’ history of alienating his rosters has to be concerning.
The Raiders can re-sign Foster Moreau — who served as Waller’s backup for the previous four seasons — and move forward with an offense centered around new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Adams, Meyers, Renfrow, and Jacobs. It’s not a bad group of weapons, but it doesn’t excuse parting with Waller for a fraction of his value.
Waller Gets New Life in New York
By moving to the Giants, Waller will now become the focal point of New York’s passing attack. Big Blue could still add more receivers, but their WR depth chart is currently comprised of Wan’Dale Robinson, Isaiah Hodgins, and Sterling Shepard.
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Waller set a career-high in targets with 145 in 2020, but he could set a new mark in 2023, depending on how the Giants structure their offense around him. Theoretically, a strong inaugural campaign in New York could allow Waller to pursue a fresh contract after the season, but given that he’s already under contract through 2025, the Giants might be reluctant to tear up his existing agreement.
Moving to the NFC — and away from Patrick Mahomes’ division — gives Waller a better chance of competing for playoff appearances after he made the postseason just once during his Raiders tenure.