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The Giants had the second-worst offense in the NFL last season and a quarterback, Daniel Jones, who struggled the entire year. It wasn’t a mystery why that happened, as far as they were concerned. They simply didn’t have the dangerous offensive weapons around him.
So they set out this offseason to change that. And on Saturday, they did.
The Giants addressed their biggest weakness with an unexpectedly big, bold move, giving a four-year, $72 million contract with $40 million guaranteed to free-agent receiver Kenny Golladay. The 6-4, 214-pounder has long been the object of their affections, dating at least back to last season when they had a few trade discussions with the Detroit Lions. He was their clear No. 1 target in free agency, according to a source, as long as they could afford him.
Somehow, they made sure they could, even out-bidding the Chicago Bears when they made late push to lure the 27-year-old away from New York, a source said. The Giants did everything they could to get the one player they knew they absolutely needed.
And now they’re all out of excuses. Adding Golladay makes the Giants a winning team again, period. He has to. The only way he doesn’t is if they’re wrong about Jones or wrong about the rest of the team they’ve built around him. And if they are, the Giants might be stuck in a deep, dark hole for years.
They don’t think they’re wrong, though, so think about this for the 2021 season: An offense that finally has a legitimate No. 1 receiver for the first time since the Giants traded away Odell Beckham Jr.. That’ll take the pressure off Sterling Shepard, who is more of a possession receiver, and give time for Darius Slayton to grow into the deep threat he seems to be. They also now have two receiving tight ends, signing the sure-handed Kyle Rudolph to pair with the drop-prone Evan Engram, who is still dangerous when he holds on to the ball.
And then add all that to an expected healthy return of Saquon Barkley, who is still one of the most talented running backs in the NFL. There are still issues, of course. The offensive line is still young and questionable, and there are still plenty of questions about Jones. But this has the potential to be the most dangerous Giants offense since 2011, when they had Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham at receiver, powering their Super Bowl XLVI championship run.
Even if that’s a bit hyperbolic until they actually prove it, the Giants are still now a loaded team. They know they have a playoff-caliber defense, especially after they brought Leonard Williams back with his own monster contract. Now they’ve got the offense, too. So they have to be a playoff contender – and not just a sluggish, 6-10 team that tries to back into a division title. In Year 4 of the Dave Gettleman Era, they absolutely have to be a winning team.
And that means Jones, in his third year, has to be what Gettleman thought he was back in 2018 when he made him the sixth overall pick in the draft. Gettleman has never wavered in his belief that Jones is the right and worthy successor to Eli Manning. And coach Joe Judge has gotten on board with that since he was hired a year ago. Their faith in Jones has been strong, both publicly and privately.
He just now absolutely, positively has to prove them right.
The Giants certainly went out of their way to give him what he needs to succeed. Golladay, with his size and ability to make tough, contested catches, has the chance to be the game-changer that Plaxico Burress once was for Manning when he joined the Giants as a free agent in 2005. Every quarterback needs that big, reliable target. Jones simply had no one he could really count on his first two years.
That’s why the Giants went so hard after Golladay, though this was hardly a slam-dunk signing. They had to work at it. There were questions about him, from his injured hip to his character, and the Giants wanted to meet him face to face and have their own doctors examine him before they committed to any deal.
They got a break, because the free-agent receiver market fell apart and Golladay didn’t get any major offers in the first few days. That gave the Giants time to set up a visit, which began on Thursday evening and continued through Saturday afternoon. He had long, sometimes intense meetings with Judge and Gettleman, according to a source, and the Giants left impressed and convinced he’d fit into their plans. When his hip checked out too, they made their offer. And even then, they had to survive a bidding war with the Bears.
But Golladay, according to a source, wanted New York as much as the Giants wanted him, convinced he could be a star with this team, on this stage. The Giants were obviously convinced, too.
Now it just has to happen. There is no more patience and no more time to build and grow. Gettleman has to be right about the team he has built, and they have to all arrive this season. He has to be right about Jones. And he definitely has to be right that Golladay was worth all that money, that he can do what Burress did for Manning, what Stefon Diggs did for Josh Allen in Buffalo last year.
Golladay wasn’t the missing piece in a Super Bowl contender, but he certainly was the missing piece that should return the Giants to respectability and possibly even more. It has to happen, or they’re going to be forced to rethink everything they’ve built over the past three seasons. There’s no choice. They are now all in, financially and otherwise, banking on the end of four years of miserable football.
And none of them can afford to be wrong.