In need of a few pass catchers, the Giants have struck a deal to land a former Pro Bowler. The Raiders are sending Waller to New York, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter).
The Giants are sending the No. 100 overall pick to the Raiders for the veteran tight end, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. This is the third-round compensatory pick the Giants obtained in the Kadarius Toney trade with the Chiefs. The Giants had been eyeing tight ends, per the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy, and they will make their move via trade.
This comes less than a year after Waller agreed to an extension with the Raiders. That $17MM-per-year contract will now be the Giants’ responsibility. Hours after their Jakobi Meyers acquisition, the AFC West team is shipping out one of its veteran playmakers. For a bit, the Raiders had five skill-position players tied to eight-figure-per-year contracts or a franchise tag (Waller, Meyers, Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, Josh Jacobs). That number will drop back to four.
The Packers made an offer for Waller at last year’s deadline, but the Raiders stood pat. And, as of two weeks ago, they were not viewed as eager to move on from Waller. That said, a report last season indicated some in the organization were frustrated with his slow-progressing return from a hamstring injury.
Although the Giants effectively opted not to replace Evan Engram last season, they are acting on that front now. Fewer than 10 tight ends in NFL history have strung together back-to-back 1,100-yard receiving seasons; Waller is among them. Even with Jeremy Shockey excelling in the 2000s, no Giants tight end has ever reached the 1,100-yard plateau in a season. That achievement occurred from 2019-20; Waller has battled some injuries in the seasons since.
The Raiders had given Waller three contracts, including two extensions, as he became their No. 1 option in the wake of the Antonio Brown deal combusting before he played a game in Oakland. A former Ravens wide receiver who nearly flamed out of the league due to substance-abuse issues, Waller launched a comeback with the Raiders. The Jon Gruden-era pickup led the team in receiving in 2019 and ’20, earning Pro Bowl acclaim for his work in the latter slate.
Engram also earned Pro Bowl honors during 2020, when the game not being played led to no alternates distorting the accomplishment, but Waller’s numbers dwarfed the ex-Giants first-rounder’s production. The Giants let Engram walk in free agency last year, tiring of the receiving tight end’s inconsistency. They will now make Waller a centerpiece player in their passing attack, one that still needs more pieces despite Sterling Shepard agreeing to come back. Waller and Saquon Barkley will represent the initial cornerstones of Daniel Jones‘ fifth Giants attack.
This year’s wide receiver market does not house many impact players, and while the Giants have been connected to receiver pursuits, they will take on Waller’s $11MM 2023 base salary. He is signed through 2026 at a reasonable rate — salaries of $10.5MM, $11.5MM and $13.5MM are also on the deal — despite the $17MM AAV breaking George Kittle‘s tight end record last year. The Giants will determine Waller’s fit in Brian Daboll’s offense; the $8.25MM guaranteed this year represent the last of Waller’s locked-in money.
Josh McDaniels has now shipped out the Raiders’ passing-game pillars from the Gruden period, cutting Derek Carr and now unloading Waller’s deal. The Raiders now have a need at tight end, with Foster Moreau also a free agent. The 2023 draft class is believed to be deep at the position, so the Raiders should be considered candidates to nab one of the top prospects. This trade also will not tag Las Vegas for dead money much. They will save $11.38MM as a result of the move.