NFC East Reporter
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – The contract the Giants offered wide receiver Kenny Golladay will go down as one of former GM Dave Gettleman’s biggest mistakes. It is an albatross around the neck of the new reception. It’s a major cause of their current salary cap mess.
But two and a half years ago, the decision to sign him did not look like this. Yes, $72 million over four years with $40 million guaranteed seemed like too much for Golladay even then. Yes, it looked like the Giants were betting against themselves. But they needed a No. 1 receiver, and that’s what many in the NFL still believed Matthew Stafford’s favorite target to be at the time.
It’s also something Golladay believes he still is, even if no one else does.
“Yes, definitely,” he said Thursday. “I never think less of myself. I still feel like I can do this kind of thing.”
The evidence, however, is working against him halfway through his second season in New York as the Giants (7-2) face a game Sunday at the Meadowlands against the Detroit Lions, the former team of Golladay. He’s played in just five games this season, including one in which he was given just two offensive snaps. Last Sunday, in a 24-16 win over the Texans, he dropped both passes thrown his way, including a perfectly thrown ball that went right through his hands.
He was booed by the New York crowd after that play, and was immediately benched by Giants manager Brian Daboll. In his place for the second half was Isaiah Hodgins, who was claimed off waivers just 11 days earlier and was playing in just the fourth game of his three-year NFL career.
Golladay now has just two catches (on eight targets) for 22 yards this season and 39 catches for 521 yards and zero touchdowns in 19 games for the Giants over two years. Clearly, the Giants would cut or trade him if they could, but his contract makes that impossible until this offseason, when he’ll still be leaving behind $14.7 million in dead cap money.
If he never plays another snap for the team, which is possible as he suffers a hamstring injury while sitting at the bottom of the depth chart, he will have been paid roughly $1.03 million per catch what did he do And even if he does return to their lineup, the Giants clearly aren’t expecting much. As desperate as they are for help, they’d rather rely on Darius Slayton (19 catches, 327 yards, 2 touchdowns), who they nearly cut this summer, 5-foot-8 rookie Wan’Dale Robinson (14-127-1) . ) and a revolving door of dismissals and underclassmen such as Richie James (20-191), Marcus Johnson (6-63), Hodgins (2-41) and David Sills (11-106).
That’s one of the main reasons quarterback Daniel Jones has averaged just 177.3 yards per game and has just eight touchdown passes in nine games while running the league’s third-worst passing offense. It sure could use a 6-4, 213-pound receiver, like old Kenny Golladay.
Will the 29-year-old be close to being that player again?
“I think Kenny Golladay is a very good football player,” Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said. “He comes to work every day prepared. He goes through the process. This week is no different.”
That’s not an endorsement that Golladay has ever rediscovered his old form, which is a shame, since his old form was pretty good. He had 65 catches for 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019 in Detroit, which is what obviously sold the Giants on his potential. The following year, he was 20-338-2 in the five games he played before suffering a hip injury and going through a falling out with the coaching staff that made it clear he would not re-sign with Detroit.
In March 2021, he was the clear leader of a weak free agent class at receiver that included Will Fuller, Curtis Samuel, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Corey Davis. Davis (three years, $37.5 million from the Jets) and Samuel (three years, $34.5 million from Washington) were the only other receivers to land relatively lucrative long-term deals.
“There was nobody close to what he could do in this class,” said one NFC executive. “I certainly understood why the Giants wanted him. Maybe not for that money, but there weren’t a lot of questions about the player, even though there were some questions about his makeup and that hip.”
If the Giants shared those concerns, they didn’t show it. Golladay’s first free-agent trip was to Chicago, but he left without a deal. Then the Giants hosted him in the New York area for several days, giving him courtside press, using a bunch of their high-profile players to help woo Golladay, who Jones said at the time that he was “a great playmaker in this league.”
His decline since then has been as rapid as it has been impressive. Even Golladay isn’t sure how it all went so wrong.
“I don’t know,” he said after Sunday’s game. “It’s tough. I’m going to keep moving forward, though. Just knowing what kind of player I can be and what I want to put on the field and what’s happened this year, I think that’s the hard part. .”
Of course, no one knows what kind of player he can be anymore. He actually got off to a strong start to his Giants career, with 17 catches for 282 yards in his first four games, including a game-high six-catch, 116-yard performance in a Week 4 win at new orleans At first, it looked like Gettleman was right to jump on this deal.
The following week in Dallas, Golladay injured his knee and missed the next three games. He never topped three catches or 53 yards the rest of the way.
Then he had knee surgery in the offseason. Then he pulled a hamstring in training camp this summer. He then suffered a sprained MCL that cost him four games this season. Now his hamstring is a problem again, keeping him limited in practice and making him questionable for Sunday’s Giants game.
It is clear that all this has taken its toll on his body and mind. But his teammates don’t think that means the end of his season or his career.
“It’s New York. It’s a tough place, obviously with the boos and people saying and writing whatever,” Giants running back Saquon Barkley said. “But I feel like at the end of the day, especially after an MCL, it’s hard to come back and boom, go straight to the level you want to be. You have it in your head, but sometimes you come back and you have to adjust, get back into the flow of things”.
That’s true, but for Golladay, it’s now been three years of adjustment since that 2019 season in Detroit, a season he said was “probably my best year. I had a lot of opportunities there.”
The Giants desperately wanted to give him those opportunities. Even after he sprained his knee earlier this season, they were so confident they could get him something that they felt comfortable trading 2021 first-round pick Kadarius Toney 2021, often injured and undoubtedly gifted. They figured Golladay’s return would at least give their weak receiving corps some sort of boost, which would give them some production.
They didn’t expect him to give them anything.
“I don’t know,” Giants manager Brian Daboll said. “I think we take it week by week, go out to practice and see how it goes at the end of the week.”
Unfortunately, for Golladay and the Giants, it never went well.
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