Giants to Sign Speedy Ex-49ers Wide Receiver: Report

Giants to sign Richie James

Getty Ex-49ers WR Richie James Jr.

Nearly two weeks into free agency, it’s become evidently clear the New York Giants are almost certainly not going to come away with a splashy acquisition. Call it frugal. Call it smart. Either way, the new regime in East Rutherford is doing its best to raise the floor of one of the league’s most talent-deprived rosters, all while working under the confines of a less-than-ideal salary cap situation.

General manager Joe Schoen has been busy addressing areas of need with moderately-priced, proven commodities. The additions of Matt Breida, a career 4.9 yards per carry rusher, and a 53-game starter in quarterback Tyrod Taylor quickly jump to mind. On Friday, March 25, Schoen and company took steps towards securing another promising piece on a team-friendly deal. According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, the Giants agreed to terms with wide receiver/return specialist Richie James Jr. on a one-year deal.

James Was Trending Up Prior to Injury

A former seventh-round pick of the 49ers back in 2018, the Middle Tennessee product spent the first four seasons of his NFL career in San Francisco. In 40 career games (10 starts), James has accounted for 689 yards and three touchdowns on 38 receptions — an average of 18.1 yards per reception. The 26-year-old Florida native was coming off a career-best 23 catches in 2020 before a knee injury wiped out the entirety of his 2021 slate.

James’ name may ring a bell to some Giants fans — and more likely, Fantasy Football owners — for his prolific single-game performance two seasons ago when he hauled in nine receptions for 184 yards and one touchdown in a Thursday night loss to the Green Bay Packers in 2020.

Still, while the speedy receiver has shown glimpses of being a weapon offensively, his calling card up to this point of his career has been as a return specialist — an area in which he has the clearest path to make an immediate difference with the Giants. James has accounted for 2,135 yards from scrimmage on 98 total returns (kickoff and punt). He’s also added an extra 161 return yards in 3 playoff appearances, including 61 yards on four kickoff returns in the Niners’ Super Bowl LIV loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Pharoh Cooper, the Giants’ leading return specialist from a season ago, is currently a free agent and all the more unlikely to return to New York now that James has signed. Big Blue did however re-sign CJ Board on March 14, who battled injuries in 2021 but has moonlighted as a returner during his two seasons with the team.

Giants Eager to Move James Bradberry

New York’s unfavorable cap situation has not only led the team to make low-budget additions but also began to force their hand when it comes to the tenure of their more pricey veterans currently under contract. One of those players, James Bradberry, is clearly one of the G-Men’s most talented players on their roster. However, the 2020 Pro Bowl selection’s cap hit has New York desperate to move off their star cornerback, per ESPN’s Jordan Raanan.

“Top cornerback James Bradberry is a candidate to be traded because of an untenable $21.9 million cap hit. Another quality player soon to be gone. The Giants are so desperate to get something in return for the Pro Bowl cornerback they are willing to eat some of his $13.5 million salary in a trade,” wrote Raanan on March 24.

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