Staring at a pass-catching group of wide receivers Isaiah Hodgins, Sterling Shepard and Wan'Dale Robinson, plus tight end Daniel Bellinger, New York Giants general manger Joe Schoen realized he needed to do something to give his new $160 million quarterback Daniel Jones a Pro Bowl-caliber playmaker. So, he followed the blueprints laid out by the Buffalo Bills (acquired Stefon Diggs via trade), the Miami Dolphins (acquired Tyreek Hill via trade) and the Philadelphia Eagles (acquired A.J. Brown via trade) and made a trade to land a Pro Bowl pass-catcher for Jones in former Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller.
The pick going back to Las Vegas is a third-rounder -- No. 100 overall -- in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs' compensatory pick for the Chicago Bears hiring Ryan Poles to be their general manager. The Giants acquired the selection by sending their former first-round pick, wide receiver Kadarius Toney, to the Chiefs during the 2022 season, so in short the G-Men traded Toney for Waller.
Here's how we grade the deal for both sides.
Daniel Jones needed a true go-to guy to evolve as a passer. Just look at what happened when Brian Daboll's former pupil Josh Allen, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts all were given their own Pro Bowl-level top targets. Lots more success occurred across the board to be brief. This isn't to say Jones is magically going to become an NFL MVP finalist following this move, but the growth he exhibited in Year 1 working with Daboll was an astronomical improvement to what he had put on tape across his first three seasons from 2019-2021.
The Jones-Waller pairing could pay huge dividends since the soon-to-be 26-year-old quarterback had the eighth-highest passer rating in the entire NFL when throwing to tight ends, but he targeted them at the 31st-highest rate in the league last season. Having Waller to be a dependable option over the middle could work miracles for him. The 6-6, 255-pound pass-catcher could also help unlock Jones' deep passing game since he had seven catches of 20 or more yards downfield, the most among all tight ends last season despite missing eight games with injuries.
On the flip side, Jones ran a conservative offense that looked to limit mistakes as he had the second shortest pass length in the entire league in 2022, 6.4 yards downfield. The Giants were also one of the top 10 red zone offenses in the NFL a year ago, converting 63.3% of their red zone drives into touchdowns -- the seventh-highest rate in the NFL -- despite not having a go-to, big body like Waller's to throw it up to. Safe to say 2022 NFL Coach of the Year Brian Daboll should have fun opening up the offense with Waller's route concepts in Year 2 with Big Blue. While he is going to be 31 years old at the start of the upcoming season, Waller could be fresher than most players his age across the NFL because he only played in 22 games from 2015-2018 with the Baltimore Ravens and the Raiders while dealing what he has publicly detailed as his battle with drugs and alcohol.
Below is a look at how Daniel Jones targeted his tight ends in 2022:
Pct of Pass Attempts
The Raiders essentially swapped Waller for former New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, whom Las Vegas agreed to a deal with on Tuesday. Meyers, 26, is a cheaper contract at three years, $33 million versus the three-year, $51 million extension the team gave Waller prior to Week 1 of the 2022 season. There are likely two set factors that led to Las Vegas making this deal. One, the on-field reasons: Waller is turning 31 in September and has missed a combined 14 games across the last two seasons with a few different injuries.
Two, the off-field reasons. According to The Athletic, Waller was upset with head coach Josh McDaniels for accidentally giving out the news that the tight end was marrying WNBA All-Star and Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum when speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine. The couple had not made their marriage plans public yet. Seeing a story about their nuptials in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the city's top newspaper, that week reportedly did not go over well with Waller.
This isn't the first report where a disagreement with McDaniels led to a long-time Pro Bowl star for the Raiders leaving town. He and now-New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr had philosophical differences they couldn't reconcile in terms of how to run an offense and who had ultimate control of play-calling and audibles, according to Derek's older brother, David -- a former QB who was the first overall pick of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. Just like McDaniels and the Raiders replaced Carr with Jimmy Garoppolo, they have replaced Waller with Meyers. In both cases, it's unclear whether or not either of those swaps will be an upgrade. Last year's NFL rushing champion and Raiders running back Josh Jacobs also has his doubts.