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Film breakdown: The immense upside of Darren Waller

Let’s take a look at what Waller can do for the Giants

Arizona Cardinals v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

The New York Giants traded the 100th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft for the Las Vegas Raiders’ explosive tight end Darren Waller. After extending Daniel Jones earlier in the offseason, it behooved Joe Schoen to surround the 25-year-old signal callers with talented pass catchers.

Many assumed the Giants would either be contenders in the fairly insufficient wide receiver free agent class or they would trade for a veteran wide receiver like Jerry Jeudy or DeAndre Hopkins. I, for one, didn’t envision the Giants trading for Darren Waller. However, I am pleased with the move.

Waller only appeared in nine games last season. He suffered a Grade 2 hamstring strain in July and re-aggravated the injury in Week 5 against Kansas City. He was placed on injured reserve and did not return to he field until Week 15 against New England.

The injuries held Waller to a 28-catch, 388-yard season with three touchdowns. 2021 was a down statistical year as well, relative to his impressive 2019 and 2020 campaigns, where he had over 1,100 yards in each season. In 2021, he recorded 62 catches for 741 yards and two touchdowns.

Waller suffered minor injuries in 2021 that nagged him throughout the season. He played in 11 regular season games that year. Now, at 31 years old, guaranteeing health, despite the lack of long-term wear and tear on the body, is a stretch.

This is a calculated bet. A low-risk, immense ceiling type of move to acquire a player who can fundamentally change the Giants’ offense. Few tight ends create explosive plays like Waller has over the last few seasons, and the Giants created the least amount of explosive plays in 2022.

The addition of Waller makes this Giants’ tight end room formidable. Daniel Bellinger will still see his snaps for this team, and the explosive nature of the Giants’ 12 personnel package just escalated. If he can remain healthy for the Giants, this is a home run; if not, the Giants can cut bait with Waller after one year with no dead cap.

It’s a win-now move, but it doesn’t have to be just win now. If Waller plays well in 2023, he’s at a value with his current contract:

Per OverTheCap, Waller will count $11.87 million against the Giants’ 2022 cap, but his guaranteed salary is done after this season. Is he getting older? Yes; has he suffered injuries in the last two seasons? He has, but surrounding Daniel Jones with cost-effective play-makers who can improve the explosive nature of the offense while acting as a crucial red zone threat had to be at the forefront of the Giants' minds.

Waller can do all of that for the Giants. He just needs to stay healthy, which, to be fair, is a big if. Here’s a video about Darren Waller: