That’s one less excuse for Daniel Jones.
With Giants general manager Dave Gettleman continuing his aggressive push to improve an offense that has underperformed for most of the last decade, the team’s third-year quarterback is running out of reasons why he can’t start producing touchdowns at a far more rapid rate.
The latest piece added to the puzzle for Jones’ offense: wide receiver Kenny Golladay, one of the league’s top playmakers when he’s healthy and a player who can begin to provide some Odell Beckham-like juice to an attack that hasn’t been the same since he was banished to Cleveland two years ago.
The Giants paid handsomely to snag one of the premier players on the open market, dishing out $72 million over four years for the former Lions receiver who led the NFL with 11 touchdown catches in 2019. Golladay was limited by injuries last year and played in just five games, but the Giants put him through a rigorous physical evaluation during a two-day visit late in the week and pronounced him ready to go.
Free agency visits have become a rarity these days, with agents hashing out deals over the phone and getting huge deals for their clients, sight unseen. But the Giants wanted to "lay eyes on me," Golladay said Saturday in a Zoom call with reporters, and it gave the 27-year-old receiver to do the same with the Giants.
He came away with only one conclusion.
"Hearing the vision that coach Joe Judge and (offensive coordinator) Jason Garrett — that had me right there," Golladay said. "It was like a no-brainer. I’m glad it worked out."
The Giants paid premium money for Golladay, especially in a market that seemed somewhat muted at wide receiver. After all, Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster didn’t attract offers to his liking and went back to Pittsburgh on a one-year deal at $8 million, not close to the $18 million per year average Golladay secured. And you can argue that the Giants in fact overpaid for Golladay, especially with him coming off an injury-plagued season.
But they’re paying for what they saw in his second and third seasons with the Lions, when Golladay combined for 135 catches for 2,253 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2018-19. He had a big-time quarterback in Matthew Stafford throwing to him, so that helped. Jones hasn’t measured up to Stafford in his first two seasons, but there have been factors not in his control to limit his production.
Inconsistent and erratic pass protection is a big reason. The absence of Saquon Barkley for most of last year was another. And the lack of elite talent at wide receiver and tight end is another.
Well, there is encouraging news on all three fronts there. The Giants’ rebuilt offensive line featuring 2020 rookie tackle Andrew Thomas showed progress as the season wore on, although things still need to get significantly better up front. Barkley is expected to be recovered from ACL surgery in time for training camp, although Gettleman cautions that the team will be careful in his rehabilitation.
And the upgrade at tight end and receiver has been significant over the past several days. Before the Giants hammered out a deal with Golladay on Saturday, they signed Vikings free agent tight end Kyle Rudolph, one of the most sure-handed pass catchers of any player at his position. He’s also a terrific red zone target who will address a major deficiency Jones showed inside the 20 last season. His hands are also far more reliable than tight end Evan Engram, whose drops cost the Giants dearly last season but who is still in the team’s plans for 2021.
Jones himself made sure Golladay knew where he stood with him, as the quarterback helped in the recruiting process.
"He’s still fresh in the league," Golladay said. "I want to grow with him. I feel like me and him can do some good things. We are both very excited."
Said Jones, "I'm very excited to have Kenny. He's been a big time playmaker in this league. When we spoke, he was interested in the culture we have in the building and the mindset of the team. I think he had heard it from coaches but wanted to hear how we saw it as players and how much we believed in it. I think finding the right fit in that sense was important to him."
The Giants may not be done bringing in talent at receiver, and there is still the possibility they might take another playmaker like Alabama’s DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle, or Ja’Marr Chase of LSU in next month's draft. As any quarterback will tell you, there can’t be too many quality targets for his offense. But Golladay’s signing brings added flexibility, leaving Gettleman with a chance to go defense, too. Perhaps a cornerback like Patrick Surtain II of Alabama to help shore up a secondary that was improved last year but can still get better.
But first things first. It’s the offense that needs fixing, and it’s Jones that needs the help. He got a big dose of it on Saturday with the Golladay signing.
Now the rest is up to him.