The second-highest-paid receiving corps in the NFL needs a lot of help.
If Giants owner John Mara spoke candidly to the media today, he would likely say the same thing that he said on Jan. 6, 2021: “There’s no question that we need to help our offense going forward and add some more pieces.” Put even more specifically at that time by then-general manager Dave Gettleman while riding the relative “high” of a 6-10 finish, “We need to find playmakers. That’s all there is to it. I’m not sugarcoating it.”
Fast forward 629 days from the accurate self-scout and the Giants’ two most-trusted receivers through three games are a former seventh-round draft pick signed off the scrap heap (Richie James) and an undrafted three-year practice-squad survivor ( David Sills) who was overlooked within the organization back then. The only receiver in the same ballpark as James (126) and Sills (139) in snaps played was Sterling Shepard (165), who was also in-house when upgrades were promised and now is out for the season with a devastating knee injury.
The receiver depth chart reads like an inverted pyramid with the least resources invested in the heavy lifters. James is earning $1.065 million and Sills just $825,000 for a team spending more than $200 million of cap space. It could actually be said that those two are overproducing based on their career resumes.
So, why do the Giants have the seventh-fewest completions and fourth-fewest passing yards entering Week 4?
The movement to add playmakers resulted in signing Kenny Golladay to a four-year, $72 million contract and using a first-round draft pick on Kadarius Toney. They have combined for four catches for 22 yards this season. Neither has found the end zone in the 20 games since they arrived, with 11 combined games missed.
Pick which of those stats is more unfathomable. You can’t be wrong.
Rookie second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson hasn’t played since injuring his knee in the first quarter of the season opener. Darius Slayton, a two-time team leader in receiving yards, emerged from the bottom of the depth chart Monday and Daniel Jones’ former favorite target showed all chemistry with the quarterback is gone. After playing six combined snaps in Week 2, Slayton and Golladay combined for 38 in the 23-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The results were the same both weeks: Zero catches.
“A good secondary Dallas has,” the relentlessly optimistic Jones said after running for his life from a career-high 22 pressures. “[The receivers] played well and we’ll look at how we can do things a little differently. It’s my job to find them and give them the ball.”
The Giants are allocating $34.9 million in cap space (only the Chargers at $36.4 million spend more) to receivers – and that total is smaller than it would’ve been because Shepard and Slayton both accepted substantial pay cuts in the last six months. And yet they are with the Packers, Lions and Bears as the only NFC teams not starting either an eight-figure contract or a homegrown first- or second-round draft pick among their top receivers.
No surprise then that the Giants were “the most persistent” team in trying to sign free agent Cole Beasley but with offers that were at or near the league minimum salary for his experience level, according to Pro Football Talk, before he landed with the Buccaneers . And that coach Brian Daboll has been Facetiming with free-agent receivers, according to Pro Football Network.
The Giants might even be willing to pay a large chunk of Golladay’s $13 million salary this season just to trade him for a late-round draft pick and get out of next year’s $4.5 million guaranteed, according to an NFL Network report. But that sounds more like wishful thinking to drum up a trade market than reality given Golladay’s lack of production and injury risk.
“I’m not worried about that right now,” Golladay said when asked about a trade possibility. “I just got done with the game.”
Need more wishful thinking? Finding any affordable free agents with a higher ceiling than Toney and Robinson. The improvement of that position is directly tied to those two draft picks avoiding the injury bug that has been a five-year challenge for every Giants receiver including Odell Beckham Jr., Dwayne Harris, Shepard, Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, Golden Tate, Slayton , Golladay and more.
The one solution popular among fans that makes zero sense for player nor team is re-signing Beckham, who will command a much higher salary and possibly a multi-year deal than the minimum and incentive-laden one-year prove-it deals favored by the Giants once he is fully recovered from a torn ACL.
Beckham functions better in a winning environment and the Giants are at the ground level of a rebuild. He comes with a long injury history of his own. And he butts heads with quarterbacks at a time when Jones’ job is on the line and a rookie could be on the way in who might be affected by catering to Beckham’s ego.
For now, the Giants are reliant on a group whose notable contributions to the loss included an offensive pass interference penalty to negate a big gain and falling on a route that led to an interception. The hunt for “more pieces” and explosive “playmakers” will have to wait another couple hundred days.