The New York Giants wide receiver room already lacked a marquee name, but the group is now set to lose one of its most consistent performers. Richie James tied for the team lead with 57 receptions in 2022 and he’s agreed join the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
Losing James is a blow, since he was one of the best, low-cost free agents signed by Giants general manager Joe Schoen last offseason. James’ expertise for head coach Brian Daboll’s offense helped the 27-year-old go from potential gadget receiver and sometime punt returner to a key target for quarterback Daniel Jones.
The latter will now focus on building a rapport with James’ obvious replacement, Parris Campbell, who arrived from the Indianapolis Colts during free agency. Signing Campbell and trading for Pro-Bowl tight end Darren Waller made James expendable, even though the Giants still retained more than one incumbent wideout.
Richie James Odd Man Out After Giants Re-Signed Others
Aside from the new arrivals, Schoen also re-signed Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins. Of all those moves, the decision to bring back Shepard probably raised the most eyebrows.
He’s an intelligent route-runner with some field-stretching speed, but Shepard has also endured a career nearly wrecked by injuries. The 30-year-old has missed 34 games since 2018 with various ailments, including concussions and a torn ACL that ended his 2022 campaign after less than three weeks.
Shepard knows Jones well, but James is three years younger and proved himself a resourceful pass-catcher at key moments last season. He caught a touchdown to highlight a 7-reception, 76-yard effort during a win over the Colts in Week 17 that elevated the Giants into the playoffs.
James succeeded in turning many of Jones’ short throws into key gains. Specifically, he moved the chains with 29 first downs, per Pro Football Reference.
The same source also noted how James dropped three passes, and hanging onto the football was a problem at times for No. 80. He let one slip through his grasp with open field at his mercy against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round.
Ultimately though, James proved a bargain on the 1-year deal he signed worth $1.065 million. Ironically, James playing above expectations made it easier for the Giants to trade 2021 first-rounder Kadarius Toney to the Chiefs.
Now the two will play together, leaving the Giants to look to new and familiar faces to fill the void at a key position still lacking some star power.
Daniel Jones Already Forming Connections With Richie James’ Replacements
There’s no shortage of options to replace James, with Campbell the obvious candidate. At 6-foot-1 and 208 pounds, he’ll give Jones a slightly bigger target to aim for, but Campbell’s game is still defined by the ability to work the middle and make yards after the catch.
The Giants are now counting on Campbell for many more contributions like this one. It will be a tall order for a receiver who has yet to top 63 catches and 623 yards in a single season, but the early signs are positive Campbell can elevate his game with Jones.
They’ve been putting in some early work at a gathering in Arizona that also included Shepard, according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan.
Waller and Hodgins were also part of the workout, per Raanan, so Jones is wasting no time getting up to his speed with his reshuffled supporting cast. It’s good news, not only for the new faces, but also a returning pass-catcher like 6-foot-4 Hodgins, who offers Jones a big-bodied target on the outside.
Slayton provides deep speed, while Wan’Dale Robinson can thrive in the slot the way James did, provided the Giants’ second-round pick from 2022 recovers fully from a torn ACL.
The Giants want quality over quantity around Jones, but Schoen still deserves credit for providing enough options to feel comfortable about letting somebody as productive as James walk.