When the New York Giants traded for Darren Waller last offseason, the move was lauded by fans and media members alike. However, it went sideways in 2023, and now the future is murky for the star tight end.
Questions have arisen of whether or not the franchise should bring Waller back for a second go-round in New York. He dealt with the same injuries that marred the end of his time with the Las Vegas Raiders, and even if the Giants didn’t deal a premium pick to acquire him, the team isn’t in a spot where they can afford to use valuable capital on a player who’s been underwhelming.
Waller’s numbers were nothing spectacular in 2023, as he amassed 52 receptions for 552 yards and one touchdown. He had his moments, like his touchdown grab against the Washington Commanders, but he was invisible far too often for a team in dire need of offensive weapons.
Joe Schoen cutting Darren Waller this offseason for cap space would be a mistake
Still, the Giants can’t give up on Waller. He needs to be brought back in 2024 and have a chance to change the narrative surrounding his time in New York. First off, it wasn’t as if the Giants flashed a ton of potential on offense this past season. While Waller underwhelmed, so did the entirety of the unit. From quarterback Daniel Jones, to the offensive line and almost every player in-between, the woes of the team’s struggles bled into Waller's season, and hampered his time in New York from the get-go.
The connection we heard so much about throughout training camp never received the proper time to build. Waller and Jones showed flashes together, like a six-catch, 76-yard performance in Arizona against the Cardinals, and an eight-catch, 86-yard stat-line in Miami versus the Dolphins, but the big play was missed one too many times.
Still, that doesn’t mean it can’t be corrected. Waller had some chemistry with backup Tyrod Taylor, as the two helped the Giants defeat the aforementioned Commanders inside MetLife Stadium when they connected for a beautiful touchdown grab. Just when it looked like Waller was hitting his stride with Taylor, they’d both suffer injuries against the New York Jets in the rain, Waller’s keeping him out until Dec. 17 against the New Orleans Saints.
When Waller returned to the lineup, the Giants were in a totally different spot. Gone was the hope of a playoff run, as the team simply tried to finish the season strong for their coaches, and their pride. Waller was brought to New York to help them make a leap in the standings, not to the front of the 2024 NFL Draft.
Nevertheless, the team doesn’t possess a game-changing wide receiver, and their depth chart behind Waller leaves a ton to be desired. Daniel Bellinger hasn’t been the same since his eye injury against the Jaguars his rookie season, and speaking of Jacksonville, the new and improved Evan Engram isn’t walking back to East Rutherford in 2024.
Additionally, questions remain regarding who the Giants quarterback will be in 2024. A tight end can be a quarterback’s best friend, and Waller would have his fair-share of suitors if he hits the open market. The Giants could save $7 million if they cut him, according to Spotrac, but they would be better served to try to salvage Waller’s ability and make good on his potential in New York.
Was Waller the bonafide No. 1 target Giants fans thought we were getting last season? No, but not even prime Odell Beckham Jr. could’ve saved the offense. Still, the franchise shouldn’t give up on the star tight end. The 31-year-old pass-catcher can still get it done in the NFL, and a revamped offense with him playing a role is just what Big Blue needs in 2024.