Giants general manager Joe Schoen has been keeping busy the first few days of free agency, and on Tuesday he made another sizable addition. This time via a trade.
The Giants picked up tight end Darren Waller from the Las Vegas Raiders in exchange for a third-round pick, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It was the second move in a row that Schoen bolstered a position of need for the Giants, who are looking to build off their surprise success last season that saw them make their first playoff appearance since 2016.
New York also picks up a tight end that is under contract for four more seasons with his contract for next year at an $11 million salary with a $200K workout bonus and $1.25 million in per-game bonuses.
While Waller’s cap hit is currently set to be $11.9 million next year, it’s a near certainty that the Giants will look to restructure the deal, turning some of Waller’s base salary into a bonus in order to spread the cap hit out over the next few seasons. This will ensure the financial flexibility that Schoen has preached for much of the offseason.
Waller battled injuries in 2021 and 2022, starting just 17 games combined across the two seasons, but the 6-foot-6, 255-pound tight end remains a matchup nightmare and a premiere red zone target. Paired with Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones next season, Waller could create real headaches for opponents going forward.
The Giants relied primarily on rookie Daniel Bellinger at tight end last season before he suffered an eye injury during Week 7 that cost him several games. Beyond that, the Giants went through a number of stopgap options at tight end, which similar to the receiver group, dealt with a number of injuries.
Now with Waller in the fold, the Giants have a solid group at the position going forward.
A former 6th-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens, Waller has taken a long road to NFL success.
After spending two seasons as a reserve in Baltimore, Waller was suspended for four games in 2016 and for the entire 2017 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Waller, who has been open about his struggle with drug addiction that dates back before his college days at Georgia Tech, used the year away from football to finally enter himself into a rehab facility and work to “become a different person.”
He got a job stocking shelves at a grocery store and worked to be reinstated by the NFL. When the NFL finally decided to return his eligibility, Waller was signed onto the then-Oakland Raiders’ practice squad and appeared in a few games at the end of 2018 before bursting onto the scene in 2019 at 27 years old.
As the Raiders’ starting tight end that season, he caught 90 passes on 117 targets for 1,145 yards and three touchdowns and became a star on HBO’s Hard Knocks inside the Raiders’ training camp.
The season earned Waller recognition as the third finisher for Comeback Player of the Year, but he followed that up in 2020 with a Pro Bowl season where he caught 107 passes on 145 targets for 1,1986 yards and nine touchdowns.