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Giants' acquisition of Darren Waller receives wide-ranging grades

By Dan Benton,

2023-03-15
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The New York Giants made headlines on Tuesday as they finalized a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders for tight end Darren Waller. In exchange, they sent a third-round pick, which was previously acquired for wide receiver Kadarius Toney, back to the Raiders.

For most within the Giants community, the trade was viewed as a home run. But some others on the national stage didn’t necessarily see it that way and their grades reflected that.

Here’s a quick look at how several outlets broke down the Waller addition:

ESPN: B-

ESPN acknowledges that Waller has superstar upside but they can’t stop themselves from thinking he’s on the decline and carries major risk.

In general, I like the idea of going after a tight end right now. Wide receivers are expensive, and the Giants need someone to catch the ball, so receiving tight ends have value. The issue I take with the move is there was a better option out there for the Giants — for less. In fact, the Raiders took it. Jakobi Meyers was a better receiver than Waller, and he’s younger. He cost the Raiders $11 million per year, and they didn’t have to give up a third-round pick.

The Sporting News: C

Like ESPN, The Sporting News believes Waller is fading and the Giants made a bad deal.

The Giants are getting a fading, aging tight end who will be 31 soon coming off a major hamstrung season while the Raiders get $11 million-plus in salary cap relief. New York will hope flashes of the 2020 Pro Bowl Waller will give it some good returns for Daniel Jones.

Pro Football Focus: A-

Pro Football Focus is far more optimistic about what Waller can do with the Giants provided he remains healthy.

Injuries have limited Waller over the past two seasons, but when at his best he is one of the top tight ends in football. Between 2019 and 2020, only the San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce bested his 91.2 PFF receiving grade among tight ends. His 2.42 yards per route run in 2019 and 2.28 in 2020 ranked fourth and second, respectively, at the position. If the Giants can get a healthy version of Waller who resembles that player again, this is a huge addition.

CBS Sports: B+

CBS Sports believes the addition of Waller can do for Daniel Jones what top targets have done for Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts and others.

Daniel Jones needed a true go-to guy to evolve as a passer. Just look at what happened when Brian Daboll’s former pupil Josh Allen, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts all were given their own Pro Bowl-level top targets. Lots more success occurred across the board to be brief. This isn’t to say Jones is magically going to become an NFL MVP finalist following this move, but the growth he exhibited in Year 1 working with Daboll was an astronomical improvement to what he had put on tape across his first three seasons from 2019-2021.

Pro Football Network: B+

Unlike many other analysts, those at Pro Football Network believe the Giants made a low-risk, high-reward trade for Waller.

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.

For The Win: B

USA TODAY’s For The Win believes the Giants should have just kept the third-round pick instead of acquiring Waller. They think the Raiders got a much better deal.

I might have just kept the draft pick myself, but it’s clear the Giants have designs on trying to take the next step in 2023. So, I don’t love acquiring Waller, but it won’t hurt them in the long run.

The 33rd Team: B

The 33rd Team sees a high upside with Waller but like many others, worry about his age and inability to stay healthy.

If Waller is healthy and productive, he is a steal for a late third-round pick and the Giants will pay him a total of $40 million if he stays for the next three seasons—a bargain if he plays at his Pro Bowl level. He’ll provide another top quality receiving target for QB Daniel Jones who just signed a $40 million per year deal. Again the big if—if Waller stays healthy.

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