EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants had questions prior to their meeting with former Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay. About some off-the-field stuff. His behavior last season. His hip and injury history.
They signed him anyway, agreeing to four-year deal for $72 million that could be up to $76 million with $40 million guaranteed.
Golladay made the Giants feel comfortable enough that what some close to him call a quiet personality and sometimes aloof nature was going to fit into coach Joe Judge’s program, and that the guaranteed $40 million would be a prudent investment rather than one of those deals that in two years makes you snicker at the thought it ever had a chance of working.
This 31st-ranked Giants offense is adding the No. 1 wide receiver it desperately needed and getting running back Saquon Barkley back from a knee injury that cost him most of the 2020 season. The Giants also acquired another tight end and red zone playmaker (Kyle Rudolph) and took a flier on perhaps the fastest player in the league with the signing of wide receiver John Ross and his 4.22 40-yard dash.
There are no more excuses for Giants quarterback Daniel Jones or offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Year 3 is the time to turn the “conviction” general manager Dave Gettleman and the rest of the Giants’ brass has in Jones into results and victories.
Golladay needs to transform into the Giants’ version of Stefon Diggs, whose arrival elevated Buffalo’s Josh Allen from a promising young quarterback into an MVP candidate in his third season. It doesn’t even have to be that dramatic a jump; just something more palatable than the 11 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions Jones produced last season.
Golladay will help as long as he stays healthy. He played 16 games once in his four seasons with the Lions, but did produce a pair of 1,000-yard seasons and a league-best 11 touchdown grabs in 2019.
“He fits with [any quarterback],” an NFL executive said of Golladay working with Jones. “Not a great route runner but plays big to the ball in contested situations.”
That should be music to the Giants’ ears, especially after their recent offensive investments failed to have this quality. They haven’t had it since Odell Beckham Jr. was shipped to Cleveland two years ago.
The Giants used top-six picks in each of the previous three drafts on a running back (Barkley, 2018), quarterback (Jones, 2019) and left tackle (Andrew Thomas, 2020). They have also shelled out significant cash for a top wide receiver (Golladay) and paid a trusty sidekick (Sterling Shepard) two years ago. The only thing left to deflect blame from Jones now would be a young offensive line that the Giants are hoping grows together this season.
Make no mistake, Jones needs to make this work or the Giants are in a boatload of trouble. They are fully invested in him as their quarterback now and for the future. It’s why finding him help in NFL free agency and the 2021 NFL draft has been a top priority this offseason.
“Every team needs playmakers, let’s be honest,” Gettleman said recently. “Good lord willing, Saquon will be 100% and obviously he’ll make a huge difference. … And, oh, by the way, we’re not playing until September, so we’ve got free agency, and we’ve got the draft, and we’ll see how it plays out. It’s not like we don’t realize what we need, but, again, at the end of the day it’s also about adding really good players.”
That is what Golladay brings. He was the consensus top wide receiver to hit the market, even if he came with questions. One NFL general manager described it as “durability issues and some questions on character.”
It did not end well for Golladay in Detroit, and it’s pretty well known his relationship with former coach Matt Patricia was frayed. Heck, Golladay liked a social media post about his coach getting fired before the season was even over.
As one source said throughout the negotiating process, “his value is hurt with the off-field stuff.”
In this case, that worked in the Giants’ favor. Golladay was hoping the market would be more financially fruitful. Ultimately New York deemed this price and risk reasonable, but only after vetting him face to face. The move would not have happened without the in-person visit.
It’s the move the Giants needed to make this free-agency period a success. They didn’t land Leonard Floyd, hence missing on adding a high-end pass rusher. Failing to land a No. 1 wide receiver would have been a major disappointment as well, considering the goal was to fill at least one of those voids with a top-of-the-market player this week.
The additions of just quarterback Mike Glennon, Rudolph, running back Devontae Booker, defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo and linebacker Reggie Ragland while losing guard Kevin Zeitler, receiver Golden Tate and defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson would have been uninspiring at best. It would have been hard to argue the Giants weren’t worse than they were entering free agency if that was how this week unfolded.
But Golladay changes it all.
He gives Jones that target (much like Plaxico Burress did for Eli Manning) who will demand the defense’s attention with his size on the outside and ability to go up and make contested plays downfield. Golladay’s 13.92 air yards per target over the past four seasons is seventh among all wide receivers.
His presence will have a trickle-down effect. With Barkley also drawing attention, it should make tight end Evan Engram and receivers Darius Slayton and Shepard that much better facing almost all one-on-one matchups. Last season proved it was harder for them when they received extra attention from defenses.
No more excuses. This is the make-or-break season for the offense. The Giants have added too many premium resources to accept mediocrity, or heaven forbid the pathetic production they have received in return each of the past two years.
Pressure is on them all, but mostly Jones. And it got turned up the second Golladay agreed to a deal.