Tight end is a position where the New York Giants need to add greater athleticism, but the team at least made a move to keep what they have by re-signing Lawrence Cager.
Cager was set to be an exclusive-rights free agent, but his return was announced on Monday, February 13, per Dan Salomone of Giants.com. He’s an intriguing talent who converted from wide receiver and showed off some traits as a playmaker late in the season.
Bringing Cager back makes sense, but he’s not the most important ERFA the Giants need to retain. Wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins should be the next player to put his name on a new deal.
Converted Wide Receiver Has Plenty of Upside for Giants
Keeping Cager in the fold is a bargain move that made sense for the Giants after he put together some solid numbers. They included 13 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown.
Cager’s first score in a regular season game came against the Houston Texans in Week 10:
The play showed why Cager can become a useful weapon in the Giants’ passing game. His experience at wide receiver, from stints with the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns, makes him effective on the move.
Head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka can align him out wide, in the slot, or send Cager in motion. Cager’s 6’5″, 220-pound frame makes him a size mismatch in space.
Between his physical attributes and scheme flexibility, Cager warrants more chances to prove his worth next season. It would make sense for Daboll and Kafka to make Cager a more active receiver, based on his ability as a clutch pass-catcher.
Eight of Cager’s catches went for first downs, according to Pro Football Reference. The same source also noted how the 25-year-old averaged six yards per reception.
Greater production is needed from the position after rookie Daniel Bellinger led all Giants’ tight ends with just 30 catches. Bellinger’s more of a blocker than a credible receiving threat, so there’s room for a more dynamic pass-catcher.
Cager proved a useful option down the stretch, just like another former practice-squad receiver the Giants will be eager to bring back.
Isaiah Hodgins the Next Free-Agency Priority for Giants
Giants’ general manager Joe Schoen scored big by adding veteran castoffs after rosters were cut to 53 players. Hodgins was arguably the biggest success story following his arrival in November after spending time on the practice squad for the Buffalo Bills.
By season’s end, Hodgins had become one of quarterback Daniel Jones’ favorite receivers. Jones connected with Hodgins eight times for 105 yards against the Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card Playoffs.
Hodgins’ best moment was when he beat eight-time Pro-Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson with a double move for this touchdown grab:
Like Cager, 6’3″, 201-pound Hodgins offers Jones a big-bodied target. Re-signing one of Jones’ go-to pass-catchers will surely help convince the quarterback to also agree a new contract.
A new deal for Jones will be expensive, “at least $30 million annually, per one agent who spoke to Heavy’s Senior NFL Reporter Matt Lombardo. The Giants have the cap space, $44,419,480, according to Spotrac.com, but Schoen also needs to deal with the futures of running back Saquon Barkley and free safety Julian Love.
A lengthy and expensive to-do list means more bargain-hunting will be in order at other positions of need. Hodgins earned $870,000 in base salary last season and, as an exclusive-rights free agent, can be kept for as little as “a one-year contract at the league minimum salary,” per Pro Football Network’s Ben Rolfe.
Keeping Hodgins and pairing him with Cager are smart moves the Giants can’t miss.