Last offseason, the New York Giants wide receiver position went through a metamorphosis, shipping away Odell Beckham to the Browns and signing Golden Tate to a four-year, $37.5 million deal, along with $23 million fully guaranteed. This left the Giants receiving corps with Tate, who had to serve a four-game suspension, Sterling Shepard, Corey Coleman (who missed the season with a knee injury and will be a free agent), Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard and an unproven rookie fifth-round pick out of Auburn in Darius Slayton.
I feel it would be in the 2020 Giants’ best interest to resign Cody Core for his special teams’ prowess, and also bring back Coleman for his upside. Now it’s 2020, and the Giants receiving corps is solid, but there’s still question marks. The upcoming draft is the deepest wide receiver class I have ever studied, even deeper than the historic 2014 class that gave the NFL Beckham, Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, Allen Robinson, Brandin Cooks, and Davante Adams.
Due, however, to a questionable trade in the middle of the season, and many holes on the Giants roster, allocating draft resources to the wide receiver position may not be in the cards. I also don’t see the team being big spenders in free agency at wide receiver on players like Amari Cooper or even Breshad Perriman and Robby Anderson. So, here are five players that the Giants may be interested in bringing into training camp with the hopes they can fill a role and provide value behind a receiving corps that has proven to have struggled with injuries. These will be smaller deals and easily discarded, with little or no penalties if the players fail to earn a spot on the 53 man roster.
Devin Funchess, Colts
This name will not move any Giants’ fans needles, nor will it jump out as overly sexy, but that shouldn’t make it an irrelevant match. Funchess signed a one-year, $10 million prove-it deal with the Colts in 2019. A broken collarbone suffered in week one of the season lead to an Injured Reserve spot for the former Carolina Panther. The Giants have three talented wide receivers - none over 6-foot-1, 205 pounds. Slayton is the tallest, but also the lightest of the group. Tight end Evan Engram is a big body, that operates the middle of the field, and I expect he will have a featured role in Garrett’s offense, but that same offense typically features a big-bodied wide receiver playing the “X” role. The Cowboys had Terrell Owens, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Amari Cooper all play this role in a coached Garrett offense. Funchess is not the caliber of these players, but the Giants more than likely can’t invest heavily in the wide receiver position in the draft despite the talent because there are so many holes on the Giants’ roster. Insert Funchess as an inexpensive, big-bodied, wide receiver who will be playing on a prove-it deal once again. His best year was 2017 when he caught 63 balls on 109 targets for 840 yards and 8 touchdowns. Do I feel Funchess is the end all be all for the Giants offense in 2020 - no. But I do feel his body type, cheap contract, age (25), schematic fit, and incentive for motivation are all rational arrows that are aimed at potential interest between the two camps.
Marcus Johnson, Colts
Hey, another Colts’ receiver, but this one has a bit more excitement to him if you ask me. Johnson is a 6-1, 204-pound speedster that plays boundary receiver. The Colts have not placed the franchise or transition tag on him, rendering the athletic young former Longhorn a free agent. Here are some athletic testing numbers from Texas’ Pro Day in 2016:
- 10 Yard Split: 1.53 — 68th percentile
- 20 Yard Split: 2.48 — 96th percentile
- 40 Yard Dash: 4.39 — 87th percentile
- Vertical Jump: 37 inches — 71st percentile
- Broad Jump: 135” — 98th percentile
- 3-Cone Drill: 7.26s — 8th percentile
- Bench Press: 22 reps — 94th percentile
Impressive numbers, minus his 3-Cone and agility drills. Still, he went undrafted and fought his way up to significant playing time in 2019 for the Colts. Had 17 catches on 32 targets for 277 yards and 2 touchdowns, from Week 10 till the end of the season. He struggled with some drops, with four. Played valiantly, while stepping into an injury rattled group that included Devin Funchess, Parris Campbell, and Chester Rodgers. Ironically, Johnson missed the first nine games of the season due to a concussion, but it was the Colts’ latter season wounds that led to his opportunity. Johnson’s limited production and inconsequential draft pedigree will lead to a small prove it deal. The Giants could bring him into training camp and see what the 25-year-old has to offer.
Matthew Slater, Patriots
My reasoning for this is very apparent; Joe Judge was his coach for many years in Foxborough, and Judge excelled as a special teams coordinator under Belichick, in part because of Slater’s excellent ability on special teams. Slater, an eight6-time Pro-Bowler and five-time First-Team All-Pro (received both honors in 2019) is a pillar of New England’s success. There’s a lot of vacillation that has left the Patriots future in a quandary, so what’s to say Slater may bid farewell to the team that drafted him back in 2008. By all accounts, the former UCLA Bruin has an affinity for Judge, and they seem to have a ton of mutual respect, leading me to believe that they would both love to work together again. The addition of Slater may not help the receiving corps, per se, but it would significantly assist the overall landscape of the team, due to special teams contributions.
Tavon Austin (Cowboys and Tajae Sharpe (Titans)
I wrote an article about a month ago about five cheap free agents that the Giants should target; Wide receivers Tavon Austin and Tennessee’s Tajae Sharpe were among those players.
I feel both players would be excellent for the Giants. Austin provides an ability to create trick plays while adding special teams value. Reuniting with Garrett would benefit the former first-round selection and the contract would be reasonable and easily discarded if he fails to earn a role. Sharpe, on the other hand, is interesting; a solid blocker, used in 11 personnel with two highly-drafted players ahead of him, on a team that was run first. Only seeing 35 targets in 2019, Sharpe was able to convert 25 of them to receptions, with 4 of them being touchdowns. He could compete to be a solid veteran possession type of receiver, who could be had on the cheap. I expect his contract to be slightly more than Chris Conley’s two-year, $4.6 million deal with the Jaguars. Affordable and still young at 25, Sharpe could also be a player to bring in for competition, with the upside of playing a significant role on offense, if an injury were to befall the Giants in the early spring.