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Darius Slayton will have to earn spot with 2022 Giants

Slayton’s play has regressed since excellent 2019 rookie season

New York Giants v Miami Dolphins
Darius Slayton
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

As we continue our player-by-player profiles of the New York Giants’ 90-man roster, we have arrived at a player we have talked about a great deal this offseason. Wide receiver Darius Slayton teased play-making ability during an excellent rookie season in 2019, but hasn’t backed that up the past two years.

Does Slayton have a place on the 2022 Giants? Let’s discuss.

By the numbers

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 190
Age: 25
Position: Wide receiver
Experience: 3
Base salary: $2.54 million | 2022 cap hit: $2.598 million

Career to date

Slayton looked like a draft steal in 2019. A fifth-round pick, Slayton caught 48 passes for 740 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 15.4 yards per catch. At times, Slayton showed playmaking ability that made many think he might develop into a No. 1 receiver.

That hasn’t happened. His performance has regressed in each of the past two seasons.

  • Receptions per game: 2019 — 3.4; 2020 — 3.1; 2021 — 2.0
  • Yards per reception: 2019 — 15.4; 2020 — 15.0; 2021 — 13.0
  • Touchdowns: 2019 — 8; 2020 — 3; 2021 — 2
  • Yards receiving per game: 2019 — 52.9; 2020 — 46.9; 2021 — 26.1
  • Catch percentage: 2019 — 57.1 percent; 2020 — 52.1 percent; 2021 — 44.8 percent
  • Yards per target: 2019 — 8.8; 2020 — 7.8; 2021 — 5.8
  • Yards after catch per reception: 2019 — 3.9; 2020 — 3.2; 2021 — 2.5
  • Broken tackles: 2019 — 5; 2020 — 1; 2021 — 1
  • Drop percentage: 2019 — 2.4 percent; 2020 — 6.3 percent; 2021 — 10.3 percent
  • Passer rating when targeted: 2019 — 98.3; 2020 — 79.8; 2021 — 53.7

It’s impossible to argue that Slayton’s last two seasons haven’t been disappointing.

2022 outlook

I say it again and again and again — I believe Slayton’s spot on the 53-man roster is in jeopardy. That’s not out of any desire to trash the player, and if you believe that’s what I’m doing then you believe that’s what I’m doing. I say it because I believe the reality is that Slayton is in a competition for his job, and there are reasons to think he is going to have a difficult time winning that competition.

I have gone through the reasons before. Let’s go through them again.

One is financial. Slayton, thanks to earning the Proven Performance Escalator bonus, carries a $2.598 million cap hit in 2022. The Giants have only $6.029 million in cap space, per Over The Cap. That won’t be nearly enough to get through the season, and cutting Slayton would save $2.54 million against the cap.

If the Giants are healthy, Slayton is likely the No. 5 receiver. If he isn’t going to be the kickoff or punt returner, which he almost certainly won’t be, he doesn’t play special teams. Guys like Richie James and C.J. Board can be reserve receivers and valuable special teams players.

Slayton did not work with the first team during spring workouts, despite Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard not practicing. Does that mean anything entering training camp? Hard to tell.

Slayton could certainly make the 2022 roster. His speed will always give him a chance, and injuries could certainly change the calculus. If the 2019 version of Slayton shows up, that is a player any offense could benefit from having. It’s just that we haven’t seen that player in a long time, and as a result he’s going to have to earn his roster spot. Especially with a new regime that has no ties to him.