Following a 2019 season where things did not work out as the New York Giants had planned at tight end, GM Dave Gettleman and new head coach Joe Judge have some decisions to make heading into the 2020 season.
Let’s examine the position as we continue our position-by-position look at the Giants, including how players at those positions fared in 2019 and decisions the Giants have to make heading into the 2020 season.
Starters: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison
Reserves: Kaden Smith, Scott Simonson, Garrett Dickerson
Futures contract: C.J. Conrad
Evan Engram is a terrific talent. He’s a matchup nightmare for defenses with rare speed for a tight end and an incredibly productive player — when he can get on the field.
Engram averaged career highs in catches per game (5.5) and yards receiving per game (58.4) in 2019. The problem was that Engram played a career-low in games (8) and snaps (444). After playing 15 games and 777 snaps as a rookie in 2017, Engram played 11 and 477 in 2018, followed by 8 and 444 in 2019
That’s a bad trend. It’s also one that leaves the Giants with a difficult decision regarding Engram’s future. The Giants have until May 3, long before training camp, to decide whether or not to pick up Engram’s fifth-year option.
What do they do with Engram and how much do they build their offense around his skillset when he hasn’t been able to stay on the field?
The Giants also face a decision regarding veteran tight end Rhett Ellison. A concussion limited Ellison to 10 games and 18 receptions in 2019. He’s a nice player, but the emergence of Kaden Smith could easily make Ellison, 32 in October, expendable. The Giants can save $5 million vs. the salary cap while taking on just a little more than $2.1 million in dead money by releasing Ellison. In all honesty, I would expect them to do that.
Smith, a sixth-round pick of the san Francisco 49ers acquired by the Giants via waivers, was a revelation. Smith had 31 receptions in nine games, six starts. He played 433 snaps, just 11 fewer than Engram. He proved to be a reliable receiver, though not a game-breaking one, and a capable blocker. Smith should be part of the team’s 2020 plans.
Simonson is a journeyman who doesn’t figure to have a place. Dickerson and C.J. Conrad, signed to a futures contract, could fight for an extra tight end role or practice squad spot.
Is this a position of need for 2020?
Well, not really. Unless the Giants decide to package Engram for draft picks, which I don’t see as likely because his value probably isn’t great coming off the foot injury. Smith’s emergence gives them some cover.
I don’t doubt that the Giants might look to upgrade the back end of this group, the guys like Dickerson, Simonson and Conrad. I don’t, however, see tight end as a position where the Giants utilize major resources this offseason.