Kadarius Toney’s no longer a member of the New York Giants, but he’s finally helped improve the team’s passing game. The Giants dealt Toney to the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2022 NFL season for a third-round pick general manager Joe Schoen has now used to trade for Las Vegas Raiders’ Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller.
This stunning deal was initially reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, with his colleague Jordan Raanan confirming the Giants used the Toney pick, 100th overall, to get the trade over the line:
While many naturally expected Schoen to target a marquee wide receiver in free agency, the Giants have instead pivoted to a dynamic tight end with two 1,000-yard seasons on his CV.
Raanan’s fellow ESPN reporter Field Yates broke down what Waller is set to earn during the remainder of a contract he extended with Raiders back in September 2022. The payouts include $11 million in base salary for 2023:
It’s a solid outlay, but one the Giants can justify to finally equip quarterback Daniel Jones with a go-to target.
Giants Finally Get Daniel Jones Top-Tier Playmaker
When the Giants gave Daniel Jones $160 million over four years they were betting big his breakout season in 2022 wasn’t an anomaly. Making sure Jones builds on an excellent first year under head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka required getting him some better weapons, a requirement Waller fulfils.
The latter has been one of the more prolific tight ends in the league in recent years. His best seasons came in 2019 when he turned 90 receptions into 1,145 yards and three touchdowns, before snagging 107 catches for 1,196 yards and nine scores a year later.
Those numbers offer an exciting hint at how effectively Waller can gash defenses at every level, but there are still concerns. Specifically, the long-term health of a player who turns 31 on September 13, with Raanan noting Waller “has played just 20 of 33 games past two seasons.”
When he’s been available, there’s been nothing wrong with Waller’s production. Even in a down year with the Raiders, Waller still averaged 13.9 yards per reception and converted 18 of his 28 catches into first downs, per Pro Football Reference.
As well as being a consistent chain-mover, Waller was also a big-play threat, evidenced by this 25-yard touchdown catch against the New England Patriots in Week 15:
This is the kind of field-stretching capability the Giants lacked in the passing game last season. Now, Jones has a big target to aim for in 6’6″ Waller, who will offer something different than diminutive wide receivers Sterling Shepard, who is 5-foot-10, and Wan’Dale Robinson, who stands at 5-foot-8.
Waller should become Jones’ favorite target in a system orchestrated by Daboll, who knows how to get the best out of talented tight ends from his days with the Pats, per Jeff Howe of The Athletic:
If Daboll gets Waller back to his best, it will put a different spin on the Toney trade.
Giants Now Have Winning Edge from Toney Trade
For a long while it looked as though the Giants were the losers of the Toney deal. Especially after the player they drafted 20th overall in 2021 helped the Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.
Toney’s multi-faceted talents as an electric receiver, runner and returner appeared to have been acquired cheaply for the mere cost of a pick the Chiefs originally got from the Chicago Bears, per Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer:
Using this pick to secure a talent with Waller’s track record flips the script slightly and gives the Giants at least part of a win from the Toney deal. The victory will be complete if Schoen also finds room to add a quality wideout alongside his new tight end.
There’s still a possibility, with NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo predicting the Giants are “gonna add some value wide receivers” during the remainder of free agency.
Garafolo’s theory holds up amid rumors the Giants are already keen on Cole Beasley and Parris Campbell. Neither would represent the infusion of marquee ability Jones’ supporting cast needs, but Waller’s arrival can take care of that concern.