Giants Rumors

Latest On Giants’ Brian Burns Acquisition

Reports of serious trade talks between the Panthers and Giants regarding Brian Burns emerged one day before the teams worked out an agreement for the Pro Bowl edge rusher. Initial conversations on that front began much earlier, however.

Panthers general manager Dan Morgan first discussed the possibility of a Burns trade with Giants counterpart Joe Schoen in February, as chronicled in the debut episode of the 2024 Hard Knocks: Offseason series (video link). Morgan’s comments to Schoen – along with Bills general manager Brandon Beane, who shares a longstanding relationship with the pair – made it clear Burns was available.

Carolina rejected a Rams trade offer of two first-round selections when Scott Fitterer was at the helm. His dismissal allowed Morgan to take over, but in the absence of an extension agreement a move seeing the 26-year-old join a new team became increasingly feasible. Morgan’s conversation with Schoen began with an asking price of two Day 1 picks before quickly being lowered to “a one and something.”

The latter price was a more logical one considering the fact Burns was set to play on the franchise tag in 2024. Needing to be extended upon arrival, his trade value for an acquiring team was far lower than it was at the time the Rams proposal was rejected. Giants director of pro scouting Chris Rossetti also pegged Burns’ acquisition cost as a first-rounder and more, although Schoen remained optimistic the lack of progress on extension talks could lower it (h/t Dan Duggan of The Athletic).

In the end, the parties worked out a trade agreement in March. The Panthers sent Burns and No. 166 in the 2024 draft to the Giants for picks No. 39 and 141 in addition to a fifth-round selection next year. New York moved quickly in hammering out a five-year, $141MM extension which will make the Florida State product the focal point of the team’s edge rush. Expectations will be high as a result, with Burns representing a new big-ticket contract on the Giants’ books.

For the Panthers, meanwhile, the return was greater in value than the compensatory selection the team would have received following a Burns free agent departure after the 2024 campaign. Carolina can move forward with considerable cap flexibility, although the sack artist’s absence will no doubt be felt amongst the team’s remaining edge contingent. Considering their ties stemming from their Panthers days, Morgan and Schoen could use the Burns deal as a blueprint for future trade negotiations.

Latest On Isaiah Simmons, Giants’ Safety Competition

The Giants took a flier on Isaiah Simmons last year, trading a seventh-round pick to the Cardinals to acquire him in August. The former first-rounder has struggled to find a permanent role in the NFL, but his debut season in New York was sufficient to land him a new deal.

Simmons re-signed on a one-year deal featuring $1.4MM guaranteed in April after logging a part-time defensive role with the Giants. Seeing a 33% snap share under Don Martindale, the 25-year-old recorded 50 tackles, three pass deflections and one each in the sack, interception and forced fumble departments. The Giants have since moved on from Martindale, though, bringing in Shane Bowen as his replacement.

When speaking about how Simmons will be used in 2024, Bowen indicated he will be used as a nickel back on first and second downs. On third downs, by contrast, the Clemson alum will shift to what Bowen termed a ‘money’ position (h/t ESPN’s Jordan Raanan). Simmons began his career as a linebacker before Arizona shifted him to safety. If Bowen’s plan unfolds as currently set up, he will continue to be used in a fluid manner while trying to find a long-term home in the NFL.

Elsewhere on the Giants’ defense, the safety position is one to watch. Xavier McKinney‘s free agent departure created a vacancy in the starting lineup, one which Dane Belton could fill in 2024. The latter has made 32 appearances and seven starts to date, posting two interceptions in each of his first two years in the league. New York selected Tyler Nubin in the second round of the draft, however, providing the team with another option for first-team responsibilities.

Nubin was considered by many to be the top safety in this year’s class, but Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post writes Belton was ahead of him on the depth chart during spring practices. Plenty of clarity will emerge for many position battles during padded practices in training camp, of course. For the time being, though, Belton has a leg up in the competition. Maintaining that advantage would be key for the 23-year-old considering he will be eligible for an extension after the 2024 season.

New York struggled in a number of defensive categories last season, although the team’s pass defense (19th in yards allowed through the air) fared better. Still, Bowen and Co. will aim for improvement in 2024, and Simmons along with the winner of the Belton-Nubin competition will have notable roles in that effort. They will be among the players to watch closely as training camp unfolds.

Brian Daboll Expected To Take Over Giants’ Play-Calling Duties

Two summers ago, rumors pointing to Brian Daboll — the Bills’ play-caller for four years — considering a CEO role in his first year as Giants HC. That came to fruition, and Daboll kept OC Mike Kafka holding the play sheet for most of the past two seasons.

Rumors of a change have persisted this offseason, however. As we move closer to training camp, it looks all but confirmed the Giants will feature a new play-caller this season. After calling plays at OTAs — for what that’s worth — Daboll continued to do so at minicamp. A Kafka shift to a non-play-calling OC is expected to continue into the regular season, Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com notes.

Considering how last season went, Daboll preferring to have full control makes sense. It certainly would not be out of the question for the Giants to consider moving on; they have not employed a coach into a fourth season since Tom Coughlin. Daboll also came under fire for his temper last season, with a highly publicized feud with DC Don Martindale — one producing an explosive final act in the HC’s office — ending his New York stay after two seasons.

Daboll also has a proven track record calling plays, having been at the controls in Buffalo when Josh Allen morphed from raw prospect to superstar. That role landed him the Giants’ HC job in 2022. With last year’s 6-11 showing throwing the Giants off course after Daboll’s Coach of the Year campaign, the third-year leader mentioned he would consider making this change. Daboll also called plays for the Chiefs, Browns and Dolphins during three prior OC stints, though his Bills work stands out.

Daboll’s dustups with Martindale included rumors of the DC and assistant Drew Wilkins going rogue. Additionally, Raanan indicates Daboll confronted Martindale during the Giants’ Week 13 bye. Daboll allegedly yelled, “So, you think I’m a clown?” at Martindale from a doorway while the latter was running a defensive meeting. Daboll’s tirades grew tiresome for the staff, per Raanan, who notes some staffers viewed the fiery HC as having stopped listening to his assistants. Martindale did not contact Daboll or Schoen after cursing out Daboll in his office. Martindale is now the Michigan DC.

Kafka certainly deserved praise for coaxing a quality season from Daniel Jones in 2022, doing so when the Giants featured Saquon Barkley and little else in terms of weaponry. That season ending in the divisional round launched Kafka onto the HC radar. Kafka received more HC interest this year, interviewing with the Seahawks and Titans. After the Seahawks hired Mike Macdonald, the Giants blocked Kafka from interviewing for their OC position. Big Blue then gave Kafka a snazzier title, moving him to assistant head coach.

Daboll’s feud with Martindale aside, an early-offseason report noted most of the HC’s anger was directed at Kafka last season. That set the table for this change, and it is also safe to say Kafka is on shaky ground in New York. With Martindale gone, the Daboll-Kafka relationship will surely be monitored closely as the year progresses.

Offseason In Review: New York Giants

The 2023 Giants offseason brought significant investments from the Joe Schoen regime in Dave Gettleman-era acquisitions. One of those moves has come to define Schoen’s regime. The team’s decision to give Daniel Jones a four-year, $160MM deal with two fully guaranteed seasons, while franchise-tagging Saquon Barkley, ended one long-running partnership and has another on shaky ground. Months after Jones’ ACL tear wrapped a woeful season from the now-well-paid quarterback, Barkley signed with the Eagles.

Following a surprise playoff showing in the Schoen-Brian Daboll partnership’s first season, the Giants tumbled off that tier in 2023. Jones is back in “prove it” territory, while Daboll — his 2022 Coach of the Year accolade notwithstanding — may join his QB in a make-or-break year. This Giants offseason involved key decisions, though it largely boiled down to one call in late April.

Trades:

The Giants look to have benefited from both the Panthers’ regime change and the fallout from the now-infamous rejected Rams trade proposal at the 2022 deadline. It took only a package headlined by a second-round pick for the Giants to pry Burns from the Panthers, who had franchise-tagged the disgruntled edge rusher. Burns, 26, will now team with Kayvon Thibodeaux to give the Giants their best-looking OLB duo since at least Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon.

A complex route formed to deliver Burns to New York; a fork in that road emerged in October 2022. As the Panthers regrouped following Matt Rhule‘s firing, they dealt Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers for four picks. None of those was a first-rounder. Other Carolina cogs drew extensive interest, with Burns at the front of that pack. Shortly after the Rams missed out on McCaffrey, the team — at the end of its “eff them picks” period — attempted to add a reinforcement to a sinking Super Bowl title defense by offering two first-rounders and a third for Burns.

Still owing the Lions their 2023 first-rounder from the Matthew Stafford trade, the Rams could not offer their 2023 first. That turned out to matter, as then-GM Scott Fitterer — whose job security was unstable after David Tepper axed Rhule — viewed the opportunity to discuss an extension with Burns as more valuable than 2024 and ’25 firsts. Denying Burns a chance to land in Los Angeles with a likely extension awaiting reframed the Panthers’ re-up talks with their top pass rusher.

Irked at Carolina turning down a big trade offer that doubled as a path for an L.A. extension, Burns did not come to terms with the team that drafted him. As Burns’ asking price soared, Fitterer balked at extending him in 2023. After Fitterer’s firing, the Panthers took what they could get — after pausing extension talks in early March — and finally cut bait.

Burns and the Panthers were not believed to be close on terms, as the five-year veteran pushed for a deal in the $30MM-per-year range before Nick Bosa became the NFL’s first $30MM-AAV edge rusher. Burns asking for terms bettering T.J. Watt‘s Steelers extension understandably spooked the Panthers, who did receive trade offers for the Ron Rivera-era draftee at last year’s deadline. Of course, those proposals are not believed to have come in near where the Rams went.

The Giants gave Burns a five-year, $141MM extension upon completing the trade. Not seeing Azeez Ojulari deliver consistency alongside Thibodeaux, the Giants greenlit a big-ticket deal that should pair well — for the time being, at least — with their top-10 pick’s rookie contract. Although the Jaguars’ Josh Allen passed Burns this spring, the new Giants OLB still ranks third among edges in AAV ($28.2MM) and fourth in total guarantees ($87.5MM) and fully guaranteed money ($76MM). Much will be expected from a player who has proven reliable while settling in outside the top tier, production-wise, at his position.

While Jones’ AAV checks in beyond Burns’, the latter received the most guaranteed money in Giants history. Burns is 1-for-5 in 10-plus-sack seasons, totaling 12.5 in 2022, and he ranks just 12th in sacks since 2019 (46). In terms of QB hits since Burns entered the league, he ranks 14th (95). The Florida State alum has certainly done well for himself despite solid but unspectacular work in Charlotte, though he was asked to deliver high-end production despite his team playing from behind more often than not.

Thibodeaux registered 11.5 sacks on a bad team last season. He certainly stands to benefit from Burns’ presence, and it will be interesting to see how the Giants proceed when their younger OLB becomes extension-eligible. That point comes in January, though with a fifth-year option in place to extend Thibodeaux’s rookie deal through 2025, the Giants have some time with their current arrangement. Burns’ 2024 and ’25 salaries are guaranteed at signing. If he is on the Giants’ roster on Day 5 of the 2025 league year, his full 2026 salary is guaranteed.

This is a big commitment for the Giants, who also looked into Bryce Huff. The team presumably inquired about Huff before Burns talks accelerated, though the trade negotiations with Carolina — which featured extensive familiarity considering Schoen worked with the Panthers for nearly 20 years and worked with Morgan in Buffalo — began well before the trade came to pass.

 Free agency additions:

Daboll brought in multiple former Bills pieces this offseason, the Singletary move being the most notable. After producing on a near-veteran-minimum contract with the Texans, the sixth-year RB will be tasked with replacing Saquon Barkley in New York. Barkley and Singletary are on different talent planes, as their respective contracts illustrated in March; the Giants believe they will be able to get by with the latter, who still quadrupled his guarantee figure from 2023.

Singletary, 26, operated in Daboll’s offense over his first three seasons. During that span, the Bills used the 5-foot-7 back as their primary option behind Josh Allen. Despite drafting Zack Moss in the 2020 second round, Buffalo kept Singletary in the lead role. The ex-Florida Atlantic standout — a 2019 third-round pick — missed just one game over his final three Bills seasons and has offered reliable production. From 2021-23, Singletary totaled between 1,091 and 1,099 scrimmage yards. He has not offered too much as a receiver, never eclipsing 280 yards in a season. Receiving production from backs — a Barkley strong suit at points — will be an area to monitor within the Giants’ offense this season.

Next Gen Stats gave Singletary a mid-pack ranking in rush yards over expected, but he outplayed the one-year, $1.77MM Houston contract. The Texans turned to Singletary over Dameon Pierce to help their C.J. Stroud-piloted operation to the playoffs. Singletary also ran behind a makeshift offensive line for much of the season, as the Texans dealt with injuries basically everywhere Shaq Mason was not playing up front. Singletary notched a career-high 898 rushing yards, though the Texans did not offer him as much as they ended up paying Joe Mixon (three years, $19.75MM; $13MM guaranteed at signing).

Big Blue did not offer Barkley much blocking aid, and last year involved a spate of injuries. The team tried a low-cost approach at guard last season; the effort failing prompted more spending in 2024. Enter Runyan and Eluemunor, who are in place at left and right guard.

Having given Elgton Jenkins a top-market contract, the Packers predictably let Runyan walk. The latter will play his home games in the stadium where his father, a longtime Eagles right tackle, frequently tussled with Michael Strahan. One of five UFA guards to draw an eight-figure-per-year contract this offseason, Runyan brings three years of starter experience to New York. PFR’s No. 32 overall free agent, Runyan should be a big upgrade from recent Giants guard offerings.

The $10MM-per-year blocker logged full seasons at both guard positions, shifting to RG to accommodate Jenkins’ move back inside during the 2022 season. A 50-game starter, the former sixth-round pick ranked 17th among interior O-linemen in pass block win rate last season. Pro Football Focus slotted Runyan 47th among guards.

This year marks a new position and foreign contractual territory for Eluemunor, who had played on three straight one-year deals (none eclipsing $3MM) with the Raiders. The low-cost starter parlayed his work at right tackle and right guard into a midlevel contract. Eluemunor, 29, started 31 games — mostly at RT — for the Raiders over the past two seasons. PFF rated the former Ravens fifth-rounder 36th among tackles in 2023.

The Giants’ decision to give Evan Neal another shot at right tackle will kick Eluemunor inside, where has not played regularly since 2021. Even in his 2021 Raiders debut, Eluemunor only logged 266 snaps at guard. He did not see any time there last season. PFF has rated Neal as a bottom-two tackle regular in each of the past two seasons, and he is coming off a midseason foot fracture — an injury initially misdiagnosed as a sprained ankle — that sidelined him throughout the Giants’ offseason program.

Eluemunor looms as an emergency fix for the Giants, who have some interior insurance in Stinnie — who started in Super Bowl LV and made 11 starts last season — and Schlottmann (14 career starts in Denver and Minnesota). The Giants have converted guard Joshua Ezeudu tentatively in place as their swing tackle, but the 2022 third-rounder allowed five sacks despite playing just 266 snaps in place of Andrew Thomas last season.

The offseason additions aside, Neal’s development remains paramount in New York, as the Schoen regime drafted him seventh overall. Neal continuing down this road would remind of Ereck Flowers‘ underwhelming (in New York, that is) career path.

Before the Giants came to terms with Lock, they were on the Jameis Winston radar. The latter ended up in Cleveland, helping lead Lock to the Big Apple. A run of rumors has emerged regarding Lock’s role, and while the ex-Broncos and Seahawks QB has not been a team’s preferred starter since Teddy Bridgewater‘s second 2021 concussion forced Vic Fangio to move Lock back into his lineup, the former second-round pick has been mentioned as a possible Jones competitor at multiple points this offseason.

Seahawks GM John Schneider said the prospect of a competition with Jones helped lure Lock away from Seattle, and NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah noted shortly after the draft the Missouri alum carries a legitimate shot at wresting the job from Jones. Lock has said he expects his role to be a Jones backup, and Daboll pushed back on the notion this will be a competition. Lock seeing starts may not remind of the ignominious Mike Glennon stretch, but if the Giants are starting the inconsistent ex-Broncos option without Jones having suffered an injury, the team’s big-picture plan will have veered well off course.

Lock’s only full season as a starter (2020) featured him leading the NFL in INTs (15) despite only finishing 12 games. The Broncos traded for Bridgewater to demote the John Elway-era draftee and then included him in 2022’s blockbuster Russell Wilson trade. Despite Lock initially being viewed as more likely to succeed Wilson in Seattle, he lost a battle with Geno Smith and never threatened the eventual Comeback Player of the Year’s job security again.

Lock, 27, is a career 59.7% passer who holds a 6.7 yards-per-attempt figure. The Giants could look to park Jones late in the season — similar to the Raiders and Broncos’ actions with their starters over the past two years — in a bubble-wrap scenario that prevents $12MM in injury guarantees from entering the equation, but that would seemingly only come up if the team is well out of the playoff mix. Still, Lock represents an interesting wild card whose usage could be telling about the franchise’s immediate future.

Wilson’s short free agency tour stopped through New York, though this “what if” involving a Giants QB investment did not rival the one that came in April. Wilson, who ended up with the Steelers on a vet-minimum deal, would have likely held the upper hand on Jones in a competition. As of now, Lock is intriguing insurance.

Re-signings:

Notable losses:

In terms of accomplishments, Frank Gifford is the best running back in Giants history. Production-wise, it is Tiki Barber, who still sits in the top 30 on the NFL’s rushing yardage list. For sheer talent, it is difficult to beat Barkley, whom the Giants hoped would make a Canton case someday. If Barkley is to launch a Hall of Fame case, he will need to make significant contributions in Philadelphia.

The Giants closed a six-year Barkley partnership by determining they did not want to pay what it required — or even close to it — to employ the two-time Pro Bowler in 2024. That will mean, barring injury, two games against Barkley this season.

The team made it clear in 2023 Jones would be its priority and Barkley the secondary concern. Positional value supported this stance, despite Barkley being a far superior player. Barkley played the season on a $10.1MM franchise tag. Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain early in the season, but he exited 2023 a safer bet following Jones’ ACL tear. As the Giants launched a serious research effort to consider adding a Jones replacement, Barkley said they were not among the four teams to make an offer (though, Barkley and Schoen’s accounts may differ here, as a recent Hard Knocks trailer dangled). This led to a three-year, $37.75MM Eagles agreement.

Read more

Lawrence Cager, Theo Johnson Vying For Giants’ Pass-Catching TE Role?

In between the Evan Engram and Darren Waller New York stays, Daniel Bellinger worked as the Giants’ primary tight end. During Waller’s latest time off the field due to a hamstring injury last season, the 2022 fourth-rounder returned to a role as the team’s top TE. It would, then, stand to reason the Giants would turn back to Bellinger following Waller’s retirement.

If that is to happen, the team is taking a roundabout route to that depth chart arrangement. The Giants’ offseason program featured Lawrence Cager and fourth-round rookie Theo Johnson splitting first-team reps, per the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz. Bellinger missed time due to an unspecified injury, Brian Daboll said (via The Athletic’s Dan Duggan), adding the injury occurred weeks ago.

[RELATED: Darren Waller Details Retirement Decision]

Teams do not have to disclose players’ offseason injuries, and Daboll noted the Giants are proceeding cautiously with the third-year tight end. The third-year HC expects Bellinger to “be fine,” though Schwartz adds the parties do not appear on the same page regarding the injury. Considering Bellinger’s extensive playing time over the past two seasons, his role during training camp and the preseason will be a topic to monitor as the Giants transition from Waller.

Despite the Giants trading a third-round pick for Waller in March 2023, they used Bellinger on a career-high 688 offensive snaps. The San Diego State product moved back into the top TE slot during Waller’s five-game absence midway through last season, though the Giants have not involved him heavily in the passing game. Bellinger, who started 11 of the 12 games he played as a rookie, has not eclipsed 275 receiving yards in a season. While Bellinger missed five games due to injury in 2022 and was behind Waller for much of 2023, he did not exceed 375 yards in a season with the Aztecs.

A converted wide receiver, Cager earned praise from Daboll at the conclusion of the offseason program. It should be expected Bellinger will remain a regular for the Giants, but ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan notes it appears Cager and Johnson are being groomed to take over receiving responsibilities at the position. Daboll referred to Cager as one of the team’s most improved players this offseason. Considering Cager’s past as a frequent practice squad stash, his move to regular duty would be a notable development for a Giants team again grappling with the loss of a productive tight end. In 17 Giants games since his 2022 arrival, Cager has just 17 receptions for 154 yards.

Although Waller continued to battle health issues in New York, he totaled 552 receiving yards in his 12-game Giants stint. Only Engram has topped that among Giants TEs since 2013. Waller’s summer exit leaves a gaping hole in the Giants’ skill-position corps.

The Giants did not add a receiving tight end in free agency but did use their first Day 3 pick on Johnson, who caught seven touchdown passes at Penn State last season. Johnson topped out at 341 yards in a Nittany Lions campaign, but he averaged 16.4 yards per catch as a junior in 2022. Johnson measured 6-foot-6 and ran a 4.57-second 40-yard dash at the Combine.

Additionally, Duggan notes Chris Manhertz exited the offseason program ahead of the other UFA tight end the team added (Jack Stoll). The Broncos released Manhertz, a blocking tight end, this offseason. Manhertz making the roster would cut into the above-referenced trio’s work, as he would be of use to the Giants’ post-Saquon Barkley rushing attack, one still expected to feature the struggling Evan Neal at right tackle.

Darren Waller Discusses Decision To Retire

Former Ravens, Raiders, and Giants wide receiver/tight end Darren Waller — who was just acquired by New York via trade last March — retired earlier this month. When detailing that story, we at PFR cited a report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, who noted that Waller had informed the Giants of his retirement.

Around the same time, Waller also posted a nearly 18-minute video on YouTube in which he explained the reasoning behind his decision. The entire video is worth a watch, though one of the most notable segments is Waller’s revelation that he was hospitalized in November. He started to feel feverish while driving home and thought he may have contracted COVID-19 for a third time, and when he arrived at his apartment, he said be began to shake and lose consciousness.

“I kept nodding [off] and couldn’t breathe, so I ended up calling 911,” he said (h/t Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post). “I think I’m talking clearly on the phone, but they can’t make out much of what I’m saying.” 

While waiting for paramedics to arrive, he said, “I’m there breathing deeply and in between each breath, I’m yelling out, ‘Help!’ So maybe I could wake the neighbors up. I don’t know how long the time was — it felt like forever — and I’m like, ‘Damn, I’m dying on this couch and nobody knows.’ It was kind of similar to my overdose — like the power plug being pulled out and I couldn’t breathe anymore.”

Ultimately, Waller said he spent over three days in the hospital, and during that time, he was unable to stand up, use the bathroom, or feed himself. His struggle with substance abuse early in his professional career is well-documented and is one of the reasons why his becoming one of the league’s best receiving tight ends was so remarkable, and he indicated that he has maintained his sobriety. Of his November health scare, he said, “it was an experience that would sober somebody up and make them think, at least.”

When speaking about his football career, Waller said that, “the passion has slowly been fading,” which echoes the sentiments he voiced when addressing a potential retirement decision in March. At that time, he said, “if you’re not fully bought into every single thing of the process, it’s going to be tough. I feel like at the end of the day, you’re doing guys a disservice if you’re not all the way in.”

Likewise, during an interview with TMZ Sports shortly after he announced his retirement, he said, “I reached a point where I don’t have that 100 percent to give to the process, I don’t think that’s fair to teammates, or fans, or organizations that are expecting me to give that. That’s why I came to the decision I made.”

Waller, who will turn 32 in September, also revealed plans for a music career, and he and WNBA star Kelsey Plum filed a joint petition for divorce in April after just one year of marriage, per Jenna Lemoncelli of the New York Post. His waning passion for football, his desire to explore other pursuits, and the upheaval in his personal life may all have been contributing factors in his decision to leave the game, with the frightening medical episode sealing the deal.

“I don’t know if I really feel like I would’ve felt great about how my life was going if I died at the time,” he said.

As such, Waller was better able to walk away from the nearly $12MM he could have earned in the 2024 season, which we referenced in our original story on his retirement and which Dan Duggan of The Athletic discussed in more detail.

As Duggan notes, if Waller had been on the Giants’ roster on Week 1 — and he surely would have been, considering his abilities and the shape of the club’s TE depth chart behind him — his $10.5MM base salary for 2024 would have become guaranteed. He could have earned an additional $200K for participating in New York’s offseason program and $75K for each game that he was active.

On top of that, Waller said in his retirement video that he believes he owes the Giants $750K in bonus money stemming from his 2023 restructure. According to Duggan, $8.8MM of Waller’s $9.8MM base salary for 2023 was converted into a bonus for cap purposes, and the remaining $1MM was paid to Waller in the form of a signing bonus. However, Duggan says the Giants are unlikely to pursue the $750K proration from that $1MM payout.

Waller, who indicated he will continue serving as a mental health and addiction advocate, said, “thank you to the Giants. Welcomed me in, making me feel like family and giving me an opportunity to reflect in this time and make a decision.”

Giants, Titans In Contact With UFL’s Juwan Manigo

A number of players who took part in the 2024 UFL season have already landed NFL deals. Return specialist Juwan Manigo could be the next to do so.

Manigo has received interest from the Giants, Mauricio Rodriguez and Mike Payton of A to Z Sports report. The 26-year-old exceled in Mexico’s LFA league for two seasons, winning MVP honors in both campaigns for his play as a receiver and returner. That was followed by a spell with the UFL’s Arlington Renegades in which his special teams skills were on full display. Manigo ranked third in the league in all-purpose yards, racking up 1,116 in 10 games.

The Giants have not shied away from spring league additions this offseason, inking Jacob Saylors last week. He will compete for a position in the backfield, whereas Manigo would be added as a contender to win the primary return role. The latter was not a factor on offense with the Renegades, so third phase contributions will no doubt be his path to an NFL roster. New York used Parris Campbell on kick returns in 2023, but he departed in free agency. Gunner Olszewski – the Giants’ primary punt returner from last year – re-signed in March.

Manigo has also been in contact with the Titans, Payton and colleague Sam Phalen add. Tennessee remains in search of a primary returner, and a number of options have received a look so far this offseason. That group includes former first-rounder Treylon Burks, whose special teams performances during the summer will play a role in his ability to hold onto a roster spot in Nashville.

At five-foot-seven, Manigo will certainly face size concerns if he manages to land an NFL deal ahead of training camp. Still, the league’s new kickoff rules are expected to add to the number of returns, and increased emphasis will be placed on the play in 2024. Cowboys returner KaVontae Turpin is a recent example of an undersized player finding success after spending time in a spring league, and Manigo will look to join him in that regard. Both the Titans ($24.3MM) and Giants ($11.5MM) have the cap space to afford signing him in the near future.

NFL Contract Details: Slayton, Fornadel, Bates, Hand

Here are some details on recent contracts reached around the NFL:

  • Darius Slayton, WR (Giants): Two years, $12MM. We already covered the Giants’ new contract with Slayton containing added incentives and its impact on the team’s salary cap. Thanks to Dan Duggan of The Athletic, we finally have details on what those incentives will be. Like his incentives from the 2023 season, Slayton’s incentives will fall under the three main receiving categories: receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Each category is broken into three non-cumulative tiers; if Slayton reaches the second or third tier, he will only receive the money for those tiers, not adding them to the lower tiers. Slayton will receive $100K for reaching 51 receptions, $300K for 60 receptions, and $600K for 70; he will get $100K for reaching 771 receiving yards, $300K for 875 yards, and $600K for 1,000; finally, he can get $100K for reaching six touchdowns, $300K for eight scores, and $600K for 10. While these incentives were in place last year, the update increased each second tier by $50K and each third tier by $100K. The team also added a $350K incentive based on whether or not Slayton makes the Pro Bowl. Should Slayton hit every top incentive, he has the opportunity to earn an additional $2.15MM.
  • Liam Fornadel, G (Patriots): Three years, $2.83MM. Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2 reports the above details for Fornadel’s contract. One of the XFL’s recent additions to the NFL, Fornadel’s deal is worth quite a bit more than some of his former XFL peers’.
  • Jake Bates, K (Lions): Two years, $1.98MM. According to Wilson, Bates NFL deal includes a total guaranteed amount of $150K with $100K of that amount consisting of his signing bonus and the other $50K being guaranteed in his first-year base salary of $795K. His second-year base salary will be worth $960K.
  • Harrison Hand, CB (Falcons): One year, $1.06MM. Hand will get the minimum, per Wilson, with no guarantees, bonuses, or incentives reported as of right now.

Rejected Rams Proposal Affected Panthers’ Extension Talks With Brian Burns

One of the bigger trade what-ifs during this NFL period occurred before the 2022 deadline, when the Panthers turned down a monster Rams offer for Brian Burns. While the Rams shifted into a retooling mode — with a greater interest on rookie contracts — as their Super Bowl LVI title defense skidded off track, the fallout from the failed pursuit affected the Panthers.

Serious Carolina-Burns extension talks did not commence until 2023, but the Pro Bowl edge rusher effectively held the failed trade against the Panthers, who turned down an offer that turned out to be much better than the one they ended up accepting from the Giants. Los Angeles offered two first-round picks and a third for Burns; Carolina ultimately accepted a second-rounder and a swap of fifths from New York.

[RELATED: Giants Impacted Panthers’ Trade-Up For RB Jonathon Brooks]

Once the Panthers rejected the Rams’ proposal in October 2022, SI.com’s Albert Breer notes the tone of his talks with Carolina did not improve. While Burns would have followed Von Miller and Dante Fowler as edge pieces sent to L.A. at a trade deadline, the Carolina edge stood in a position to be extended. It is unclear if the Rams had a deal ready to go, however, and Burns’ asking price ended up too high for the Panthers. Miller was in his age-32 season when the Rams acquired him, and Fowler had not performed on Burns’ level; the Rams acquiring a 25-year-old Pro Bowler would have separated that prospective trade from the Miller and Fowler swaps.

Although the Panthers were believed to be preparing for a Burns extension during the 2022 offseason, talks did not pick up until June 2023. By the time discussions did move into high gear, then-GM Scott Fitterer — empowered after the October 2022 Matt Rhule firing — had both rejected the Rams’ offer and kept their top sack artist out of the March 2023 trade with the Bears that sent the No. 1 overall pick to Carolina.

Before pivoting to D.J. Moore, the Bears asked about Burns and Derrick Brown. The Bears’ immediate extension for Montez Sweat upon acquiring the Commanders defensive end at the 2023 deadline created another what-if for Burns, though his involvement in those trade talks ultimately proved beneficial.

Burns had sought a deal in the $30MM-per-year ballpark, with that number coming up before the 49ers’ $34MM-AAV Nick Bosa agreement. Considering the accomplishment gap between Bosa and Burns, it was understandable the Panthers balked at giving the Ron Rivera-era draftee a deal that would have topped T.J. Watt‘s then-OLB-record number. Teams asked about Burns at the 2023 trade deadline as well, but the offers were not viewed as especially close to where the Rams went.

The snag coming out of the failed Rams trade talks became the Giants’ gain, with new GM Dan Morgan and former coworker Joe Schoen linking up on a March trade. They acquired Burns for a package similar to the one they received for Leonard Williams and gave the franchise-tagged edge rusher a five-year, $141MM deal that came with $76MM guaranteed at signing. Burns, 26, ranks in the top four in AAV, total guarantees and full guarantees among edge defenders. His contract, for the time being, overlaps with Kayvon Thibodeaux‘s rookie deal.

Carolina has since extended Brown, but cornerstones Moore and Burns are now elsewhere. The team’s receiving corps underwhelmed in 2023, contributing to Bryce Young‘s poor rookie season, and the team patched its OLB corps together with free agency additions in Morgan’s first offseason as GM. Jadeveon Clowney, D.J. Wonnum and K’Lavon Chaisson are now in place in Charlotte. The team does not appear to have an OLB pillar presently, and Morgan will be tasked with finding one to replace Burns in the long term.

Giants Factored Into Panthers’ Trade-Up Move For RB Jonathon Brooks

Three years ago, Giants connections to DeVonta Smith prompted the Eagles to trade up (via the Cowboys) to outflank their rivals for the Heisman-winning wide receiver. A middle-class version of that situation looks to have played out during this year’s draft.

Not making a strong effort to retain Saquon Barkley in free agency, the Giants pivoted to ex-Brian Daboll Bills charge Devin Singletary at a lower rate. They did add another running back in the draft, addressing the position (Tyrone Tracy Jr.) in the fifth round for the second straight year. The Panthers made a move to ensure the Giants’ investment at the position did not come sooner.

Citing the Giants bringing in Jonathon Brooks for a “30” visit, Panthers GM Dan Morgan advocated to David Tepper the team should trade up to move ahead of the NFC East club for the Texas RB at No. 46. Morgan said he knew of other teams viewing Brooks as this draft’s top running back. Considering Brooks was chosen 20 picks before the second RB went off the board, it seems like a safe assumption other clubs shared Carolina’s view of the ex-Longhorns ball-carrier.

The Panthers traded down from No. 39, allowing the Rams to move up for Florida State defensive lineman Braden Fiske — a deal that gave Carolina a 2025 second-rounder. They sent the Colts two fifths to climb from 52 to 46, with the Giants sitting at 47. New York eventually took Minnesota safety Tyler Nubin, marking the second straight year the Giants went with a Golden Gophers prospect (following center John Michael Schmitz) in Round 2.

We knew that if we traded [No. 39] there would be a player that we would miss out on. We were comfortable with that because we really wanted Brooks, and to be able to get the two next year, we said, OK, once our guys start going, then we’re going have to move back up,” Morgan said, via Panthers.com’s Darin Gantt. “It’s not like we did anything that was so smart or great or whatever; we were just willing to take a larger risk to get that outcome of the trade. It’s like, let’s not get cute here. Let’s just get our guy.”

Morgan and Giants GM Joe Schoen worked together for a stretch in Buffalo, helping give the new Panthers front office boss some insight on how his former coworker could be handling Round 2 in this year’s draft. Morgan also called Schoen about moving up, Gantt adds, while new Panthers exec Brandt Tilis contacted ex-Chiefs coworker Chris Ballard — a conversation that led to the Day 2 swap with the Colts.

Brooks fell to No. 46 in part because of a November ACL tear. He had still amassed 1,139 rushing yards (6.1 per tote) and 10 touchdowns in 11 games last year. With Chuba Hubbard going into a contract year, the Panthers made the move to add a successor early. While Brooks is not yet cleared for full work, he is expected to be back for training camp. He looks set to be eased into action, however, with The Athletic’s Joe Person indicating Hubbard is the “clear leader” on the depth chart going into camp (subscription required).

Hubbard usurped free agent signing Miles Sanders, who received last year’s top UFA RB contract (four years, $25.4MM), during Carolina’s dismal season. The former fourth-round pick totaled 902 rushing yards behind an injury-plagued O-line, averaging only 3.8 per carry, and scored five touchdowns. Sanders also suffered a heel injury while working out on his own, and the malady worsened during OTAs, Person adds.

Considering the Panthers also added Rashaad Penny — who overlapped with Dave Canales in Seattle — and it would not be shocking to see them move on from Sanders despite the dead money hit that would come. Though, it would cost Carolina more than $7MM to drop Sanders; the team would also carry 2025 dead money from that transaction.

As for the Giants, they have been linked to adding another veteran RB to the mix. Singletary is in place as the projected starter, with Tracy and Eric Gray behind him. The team has not re-signed multiyear backup Matt Breida. New York did add UFL rushing leader Jacob Saylors on Tuesday, but its backfield obviously does not appear as imposing as it did when Barkley resided atop the depth chart.

With costs rising on Big Blue’s payroll, the team opted not to re-sign the two-time Pro Bowler. It is not known if the Giants truly would have taken Brooks as a Barkley successor in Round 2, but the Panthers took that option off the table to be safe.