Evan Engram is an incredibly talented player. He just doesn’t play often enough, having missed an increasing number of games in each of his three seasons with the New York Giants.
Engram, after playing in only eight games a season ago, is reportedly still in a walking boot and unlikely to participate in any football activities with the Giants until training camp.
Rhett Ellison has been a reliable player for a number of years. The eight-year veteran is almost certainly not going to be a Giant in 2020. though. There have been reports that Ellison, who missed six games with a concussion last season, may retire. If he doesn’t retire, it seems a fait accompli that the Giants will cut him to save salary cap space.
Journeyman Scott Simonson has already been shown the door.
All of that makes tight end a much bigger need for the Giants entering 2020 than many might realize.
Look honestly at the situation. The Giants have Kaden Smith, who caught 31 passes in nine games after being acquired on waivers from the San Francisco 49ers as a rookie. They have Engram. If he can get, then stay, on the field.
So, they have potential and possibilities. They might have a dynamic duo — if Smith can follow up on his impressive half-season, and Engram can actually remain healthy. They might have, well, a problem.
What do they do about it?
Well, they probably start by picking up Engram’s fifth-year option. The Giants have won nine games in two years and can’t really afford to hemorrhage talent. Engram has that. Besides, the fifth-year option might make him more valuable to teams inquiring about trading for him.
Could the Giants really trade Engram? There has been speculation that they might try, that they think he will never be able to stay healthy. Problem is, other teams have seen the decreasing number of games (15-11-8) he has played each season, as well. Anyone asking about Engram is going to try to lowball the Giants and get him on the cheap.
It’s probably better to pick up the option and let it ride for a season.
Even if you do that, though, you have to supplement the position somehow.
But, how? Let’s take a look.
Want a free agent shocker? How about the Giants signing Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper, who caught more than 70 passes each of the last two seasons, to a mega-deal worth more than $10 million per season?
Probably not happening. The Giants have more urgent places to spend their money.
Tyler Eifert is out there, but 2019 was the first time in a seven-year career he played 16 games. In the three previous years he played in 14 games combined. He would be an Engram-esque gamble.
The answer is probably the free agent bargain bin, where the Giants would hope to at least find an upgrade from Simonson. A year of Jason Witten, anyone?
The Giants probably aren’t in position to use a Round 2 pick on someone like Cole Kmet of Notre Dame, or whoever they consider the top tight end in the class.
That leaves later options. Chris has profiled Stephen Sullivan of LSU [here], Brycen Hopkins of Purdue [here], Albert Okwuegbunam of Missouri [here] and Jared Pinkney of Vanderbilt [here].
There are other mid- to late-round options like Harrison Bryant of Florida Atlantic, Charlie Taumoepeau of Portland State and Adam Trautman of Dayton.
Still, are you really sure you can get rookie season production from a mid- to late-round draft pick?
Like I said, the tight end situation is a question without an easy answer. Other than to pray for Engram’s good health.