Darren Waller

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.”

Minor NFL Transactions: 6/10/24

Today’s minor moves:

Detroit Lions

  • Waived: LB Steele Chambers

New York Giants

Seattle Seahawks

  • Waived/injured: NT Buddha Jones

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brightwell was waived/injured by the Giants in May but ultimately reverted to IR. The former sixth-round pick struggled to carve out a role behind Saquon Barkley in New York. Brightwell’s tenure with the Giants will officially end with the RB having collected 256 yards from scrimmage.

Thompkins suffered a hamstring injury in late May that ultimately led to him getting waived/injured. As ESPN’s Jenna Laine notes, it’s about a two-week recovery timeline for the Grade 1 strain, meaning the wideout should be on the brink of full health.

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times passed along a troubling wrinkle to the situation last week, noting that Thompkins’ release quickly followed public accusations of spousal abuse from his estranged wife. The woman, Maria Castilhos, posted pictures of injuries that she claims were sustained in February of 2023.

“First and foremost, Deven categorically denies the allegations levied against him by his estranged wife, Maria Castilhos,” attorney Brett Gallaway said in the statement. “Unfortunately, Deven and Maria have been going through a contentious divorce proceeding and child custody battle, and it appears that she thought it would help her case to release these false and defamatory videos.

“… We expect he will be fully exonerated after a review of the facts, background, and clear ulterior motive behind the release of these videos and fabricated assault allegations.”

Thompkins served as Tampa Bay’s primary returner in 2023, finishing with 16 kickoff returns (for 327 yards) and 25 punts (for 234 yards). The former UDFA had a limited role on offense, hauling in 17 catches for 83 yards and one touchdown. As Stroud notes, coach Todd Bowles said the “door is open” to Thompkins returning to the Buccaneers once he’s healthy, although the team has already replaced him on the roster with Cody Thompson.

Giants TE Darren Waller To Retire

Throughout much of the offseason, the future of Darren Waller has been in question. The veteran tight end has been expected to retire for some time, though, and to little surprise that is the direction he has elected to move in.

Waller has informed the Giants he will hang up his cleats, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. The 31-year-old made it clear he would make a final decision no later than the break between mandatory minicamp and training camp. With the final aspect of New York’s offseason program set to take place over the coming days, the team can now move forward knowing Waller will not be in the fold.

The former Pro Bowler faced major expectations upon his arrival with the Giants, which came about last offseason via trade. He was attached to a three-year, $51MM pact, but much of that will now come off the books given this decision. Waller’s retirement will create roughly $11.6MM in cap space while incurring a dead money charge of just over $2.4MM in 2024 and ’25. Given the nature of the free agent market at this time of year, of course, the team will be hard-pressed to find a starting-caliber replacement.

Plenty of snaps will be available to 2022 fourth-rounder Daniel Bellinger once again. He served as New York’s starter as a rookie, but his role diminished last season with Waller in place. The Giants added Theo Johnson in the fourth round of this year’s draft, and he will aim to carve out at least a rotational place in the team’s offensive plans. Veterans Jack Stoll and Chris Manhertz are also in the picture at the tight end spot.

Waller began his career as a sixth-round pick in 2015. His Ravens tenure consisted of sparse usage and a one-year suspension in 2017 for a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. After joining the Raiders, however, he saw a major uptick in production. During the 2019 campaign, the Georgia Tech product posted 1,145 yards. He followed that up with a 107-1,196-9 statline one year later, cementing his status as one of the top pass-catching options at the position around the league. Hamstring injuries became a problem over the past three years, however.

Over time, the missed action increasingly became an issue for the Raiders, and Waller’s injuries were a key factor in the decision to find a trade partner. The Giants paid only a compensatory third-round pick to acquire him last March, but Waller’s tenure in the Big Apple will go down as a notable disappointment. Injury consideration was a central component of his decision-making process with respect to attempting at least one more year in the league, something which would have seen him receive as much as $12MM.

Instead, Waller will call it a career after eight seasons and nine years in the NFL. With over $42MM in career earnings, he will now turn his attention to his post-playing endeavors. The Giants, meanwhile, will prepare for training camp with added financial flexibility but a vacancy on the TE depth chart.

Giants Expect TE Darren Waller To Retire

Darren Waller has yet to make a final decision on his playing future. As things stand, though, it would come as a surprise if the Giants tight end continued his playing career in 2024.

ESPN’s Jordan Raanan reports Waller is likely to make a retirement decision no later than next week’s mandatory minicamp. The team’s position is that he is leaning toward hanging up his cleats rather than suiting up for a second campaign in New York. The 31-year-old’s future has been in doubt throughout the offseason, and he has not taken part in OTAs.

Waller spoke about his situation in April, stating a final call may have been made prior to the draft. That did not happen, but he has pledged to inform the team of his decision before the break between mandatory minicamp and the start of training camp in July. New York’s minicamp will run from June 11-13, meaning clarity on the situation should arise by that point.

As Raanan notes, the Giants are proceeding as if Waller deciding to play would be a “pleasant surprise.” The former Pro Bowler posted a second consecutive 1,000-yard season in 2020, but he has been beset by hamstring injuries for much of the time since. His trade from the Raiders to the Giants brought about expectations for a rebound, but he was limited to 12 games and one touchdown catch. New York has made preparations for a Waller-less tight end room this offseason.

The team still has 2022 fourth-rounder Daniel Bellinger (who has started 24 of his 29 games) on his rookie pact. He is joined by free agent additions Jack Stoll and Chris Manhertz as well as Theo Johnsonwho was drafted in the fourth round. That group will look to serve as capable pass catchers if Waller does indeed elect to hang up his cleats.

The latter is on the books for three more years, but none of his remaining salaries are guaranteed. The Giants would generate $11.63MM in cap space against a dead money charge of $2.46MM by moving forward with a post-June 1 release. If Waller decides to end his playing tenure, he will depart the NFL with just over $42MM in career earnings.

Darren Waller Addresses Timetable For Retirement Call

Seeing Evan Engram prosper with the Jaguars, the Giants made a move to bring in a comparable receiving tight end by trading for Darren Waller last year. But that addition brought more Waller injury trouble; now, the former Pro Bowler remains uncertain on playing in 2024.

Considering retirement after a few injury-marred seasons, Waller looks to still have a place with the Giants. The ex-Raiders standout brings an upper-echelon skillset as a receiving tight end, and the Giants would not have an easy time — particularly at this juncture — replacing him. Waller, 31, plans to inform the team of his decision before the June hiatus between minicamp and training camp. While informing the Giants by the draft would give them the opportunity to find a young replacement hopeful, Waller cannot guarantee he will decide by then.

That would be ideal, but I also don’t want to put that on myself,” Waller said (via The Athletic’s Vic Tafur) of informing the Giants by the draft. “It’s gotta be before summer break, for sure.

The prospect of a Waller retirement surfaced in early March, but the Giants did not add a starter-caliber tight end in free agency. The position became thinner before the market opened, with Dalton Schultz re-signing with the Texans and Hunter Henry staying with the Patriots. Noah Fant re-signed with the Seahawks during the legal tampering period. Mike Gesicki was available, but he is now with the Bengals for just $2.5MM. Following his Falcons release, Jonnu Smith joined the Dolphins. Gerald Everett rejoined Shane Waldron in Chicago.

Blocking tight end Chris Manhertz and ex-Eagles backup Jack Stoll joined the Giants, but if Waller is truly done, they need another option. Daniel Bellinger remains under contract, but he amassed just 255 receiving yards in 17 games last season. Bellinger also missed a chunk of his rookie year due to injury.

Although Waller missed five games due to more hamstring trouble, he totaled 552 receiving yards. Considering the limited opportunities the Giants’ passing attack offered its aerial cogs last season, that is a fairly impressive number. Only Darius Slayton (770) topped that. The Giants have a major need at wide receiver, but if Waller returns, their passing game would present a higher floor.

Currently helping tight end prospects train for the draft, Waller would need to inform the Giants of his plans in early June if he is to make good on his timetable. The team’s minicamp runs from June 11-13. As part of the extension Waller signed with the Raiders in 2022, he is due $10.53MM in base salary in 2024; that figure is nonguaranteed.

Giants TE Darren Waller Addresses Potential Retirement

A report from earlier this month stated Darren Waller was committed to playing in 2024. The Giants tight end has not made a firm decision one way or the other, however. He confirmed that when speaking publicly about his situation.

Waller had his debut Giants campaign cut short due to the latest occurrence of his hamstring issues. He is still under contract for three years, although none of his salary is guaranteed over that span. Even if he were to hang up his cleats, though, the 31-year-old’s career would prove to have been a lucrative one as he has more than $42MM in total earnings.

“I’m undecided at the moment,” Waller told Dan Duggan of The Athletic (subscription required). “It’s really the idea of signing up for another journey. It’s tough, it’s long, it requires a lot. And 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.”

The former sixth-rounder topped 1,100 yards in consecutive seasons with the Raiders, demonstrating his ability as one of the league’s most dynamic tight ends when healthy. Waller has been limited to 32 games in three years since then, however, something which factored heavily into his trade from Vegas to New York. In 12 games with the Giants, he posted 552 yards and one touchdown on 52 catches.

Waller noted he has no firm timeline on his decision, adding the Giants have not imposed one. Still, the team would no doubt prefer to have clarity with free agency and the draft on the horizon. Replacing the Georgia Tech product would become a key priority for a team already in need of pass-catching additions if necessary. Health and finances are factors going into Waller’s thought process, but he noted his ultimate decision will come down to “deeper” reasons.

“I’m not just coming back to collect an extra check, because that’s not what I’m trying to do or who I’m trying to be,” he added. “At this point in my life, I’m blessed to be able to be more than OK financially. Plus, if the only reason I’m doing something is because of an amount of money, I know that’s not a decision I need to be making.”

TE Darren Waller Contemplating Retirement

TODAY, 8:50am: Not so fast. Waller is still considering retirement and is “undecided” on his NFL future, per Schwartz and Dunleavy. The New York Post duo add that the Giants were “convinced” that Waller was returning following a conversation with his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Now, they’re facing the prospect of having to find a new tight end for next season.

FRIDAY, 12:45pm: Things did not go according to plan for the Giants or Darren Waller in 2023. After the veteran tight end gave thought to hanging up his cleats, though, he will remain in New York for at least one more season.

Waller was acquired via trade from the Raiders last March. Vegas had grown frustrated with his injury troubles during his time with the team, and the move provided an opportunity to start over. However, hamstring issues continued to lead to missed time, and the 31-year-old was limited to 12 games with the Giants.

Paul Schwartz and Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post report Waller contemplated retirement following another frustrating campaign. The former Pro Bowler managed 52 catches for 552 yards and one touchdown in his debut New York season, figures which fell well short of his best years with the Raiders. Poor play along the offensive line quarterback injuries hampered the team as well, of course, but few would argue with Waller being a cut candidate given his contract status and injury history.

In spite of that, the Post reports notes that the Giants will retain him for 2024. Waller has three more years on his deal, but none of his base salary is guaranteed in that span. He is due to carry cap hits ranging from $14MM to $17.5MM between now and 2026, and in the next two seasons a release would yield notable cap savings. The same would also be true if the Giants moved on via a Post-June 1 designation this year, but they will instead keep Waller in the fold for another season.

Dunleavy adds that New York has been connected to a free agent move at the tight end spot this offseason. A veteran backup could complement Waller’s skillset while providing insurance against further missed time. If no agreement is worked out on that front, the Giants also have 2022 fourth-rounder Daniel Bellinger in place on his rookie contract.

Adding at the skill positions will be a major priority for New York this offseason, regardless of if a Daniel Jones successor is drafted or Saquon Barkley is retained. A bounce-back season from Waller would go a long way in leading the team to an improved showing on offense, and he will have the opportunity to deliver one in 2024.

Giants Activate TE Darren Waller From IR

DECEMBER 16: It didn’t take much practice for the Giants to deem Waller ready to return. Two days after opening his 21-day practice window, New York has announced Waller’s activation off of IR. The 31-year-old tight end is still listed as questionable heading into Sunday’s trip to New Orleans, but if he’s available to play, it’s an immediate upgrade to the Giants’ offense. Despite having not played since October, Waller is still second on the team in both receptions and receiving yards. If healthy, Waller will take most of the offensive snaps with Daniel Bellinger, pushing converted wide receiver Lawrence Cager back to a reserve role.

DECEMBER 14, 11:02am: In a move which comes as little surprise given Waller’s comments, the Giants have indeed designated him for return. He now has 21 days to be activated, and he could be brought back onto the active roster in time for Week 15. New York has five IR activations remaining.

DECEMBER 14, 8:58am: The Giants’ offense could be close to getting a notable boost. Tight end Darren Waller remains on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury, but he feels confident he will be able to play in the near future.

Waller has not played since Week 8 after he encountered his most recent hamstring issue. The team’s decision to place him on IR guaranteed a four-week absence, but the Giants can now bring him back at any time. Doing so would require designating him for return, which would open his 21-day practice window. That has still not happened, but Waller’s remarks indicate he is ready to return to action.

“Just a matter of them opening up the window and I’ll be at practice,” the Pro Bowler said, via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post“Whenever that is, I’ll be out there. I’m just waiting [for] the word.”

Despite missing signficant time, Waller ranks second on the Giants in both receptions (26) and yards (384). Being able to return to the field would thus give the team another option in the passing game, something which would be a welcomed addition. New York ranks last in the league with an average of 180 passing yards per game, though the offense has received a spark in recent weeks with undrafted rookie Tommy DeVito under center.

While Waller could help the Giants continue their winning streak if he were to be activated in time for Week 15, a return to the field at any point could help him reclaim some value from an otherwise disappointing debut season with the team. The 31-year-old arrived with signficant expectations after being traded by the Raiders this offseason, given his own track record and the Giants’ lack of proven pass-catching options. Waller has scored just one touchdown in 2023, eclipsing 76 yards in a game twice to date.

The former sixth-rounder is under contract through 2026, and he is due eight-figure compensation each year beginning in 2024. Roughly $2.5MM is guaranteed each season, however, so the Giants would be able to move on from him with relative ease if they elected to do so. Waller could play his way into New York’s long-term plans with a return to the field and strong play, though, something which could be around the corner.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/4/23

Today’s minor moves and gameday callups for Week 9:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

  • Elevated: QB Dresser Winn

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Commanders

With Kyler Murray not being activated from injured reserve this week, the Cardinals are heading into Week 9 with Clayton Tune as the only quarterback on their active roster. Driskel will be called up for the week as a standard gameday elevation to back up Tune.

With Matthew Stafford listed as questionable for tomorrow’s game, the Rams are adding some depth at the quarterback position. Dresser Winn had a breakout 2022 campaign at UT Martin, tossing 18 touchdowns while adding another three scores on the ground. He joined the Rams as an UDFA but was cut at the end of the preseason. He had a brief stint in the Canadian Football League before rejoining the Rams practice squad earlier this week. If Stafford can’t go, Brett Rypien will get the call under center for the Rams.

Peters will be elevated for the second straight week in Seattle. The 41-year-old, playing in his 19th NFL season, split snaps with right tackle Stone Forsythe last week against Cleveland.

NFL Injury Rumors: Giants, Banks, Stafford

The Giants received some good news with the announcement that starting quarterback Daniel Jones has received clearance to play and is line to start Week 9 in Las Vegas. In the same breath, though, New York was forced into the realization that it will be without Jones’ safety net and security blanket as backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and tight end Darren Waller will both be absent this weekend and, potentially, longer, according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan.

Taylor sustained a rib cage injury that knocked him out of last week’s overtime loss to the Jets. Waller is also dealing with some injury trouble concerning his groin and hamstring. Despite the injuries last week, Taylor and Waller led the Giants in passing and receiving, respectively, in the loss, despite only totaling eight yards passing and four yards receiving.

Raanan relayed the report from head coach Brian Daboll, who mentioned that he doesn’t expect either player back any time soon. In fact, the head coach didn’t rule a stint on injured reserve for Taylor or Waller.

Here are a few other injury rumors from around the NFL, starting with a Texans rookie starter:

  • Houston placed rookie center Jarrett Patterson, who had been forced into the starting lineup due to other injuries along the offensive line, on IR on Tuesday. The specifics of Patterson’s injury weren’t reported at the time, but Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2 informed us this week that Patterson suffered a broken fibula. After receiving multiple medical opinions, Patterson will avoid surgery but is still expected to miss six to eight weeks.
  • On the second to last drive of last week’s loss to Cincinnati, 49ers starting left guard Aaron Banks suffered a foot injury that he wouldn’t report until finishing the game. Per a report by David Bonilla of 49ers Webzone, head coach Kyle Shanahan communicated that he expects Banks to miss a few weeks with a turf toe injury. “Yeah, with turf toe, you never know,” Shanahan said. “So, they told me it should be a few weeks, is what I got here. I know that’s a little vague, but I would say that means at least three weeks.” Luckily for San Francisco, one of those weeks should include the team’s Week 9 bye.
  • While dealing with a UCL sprain suffered in this past weekend’s loss to Dallas, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has been classified as day-to-day. After testing out the thumb injury on Tuesday, Stafford sat out the remainder of this week’s practices, according to Kevin Patra of NFL Network. Still, head coach Sean McVay reported Stafford will be labeled as questionable heading into the Week 9 and will be a game-time decision to play. If Stafford is unavailable on Sunday, backup quarterback Brett Rypien will make the start. Rypien has gone 2-1 in three starts over his first four years in the league but has thrown twice as many interceptions (8) as touchdowns (4). Either way, Los Angeles will leave Sunday headed towards a bye week, allowing Stafford an extra week of rest to potentially return for Week 11.