The Giants spent a lot of resources improving the tight end position this offseason.
They signed free agent Rhett Ellison to a four-year, $18-million deal and then selected Evan Engram in the first round of the draft.
For the guy who ended the 2016 season as the starting tight end, it was a bit jarring. It certainly changes his role and his perspective during this offseason and heading into the preseason.
But Will Tye has a warning for those who already have crossed him off the Giants’ roster or buried him at the bottom of the depth chart.
“Don’t ever underestimate the underdog,” Tye told Newsday on Friday after a Giants OTA. “He’s always going to come here ready to work.”
Tye would know. He’s been in this role for most of his athletic life, whether it was as a high school player in Connecticut who many scouts believed would pursue basketball rather than football or as a player at Florida State, where he had to compete for scraps of snaps.
That situation eventually led him to Stony Brook, where he played for two years before becoming that program’s first NFL player. His path with the Giants began as a tryout in rookie minicamp, a practice-squad player after he was cut following training camp, and eventually one of the top rookie tight ends in the league in 2015.
Even after that year, he had to keep working.
“I never had a full year where they were like, ‘You have it, we’re going to give it to you,’ ” Tye said of the starting job. “As you saw the last two years, I never started out being the guy, but I always finished being the guy.”
Now Tye is back to being that underdog. And he’s loving it.
“Oh, man, I‘m ready,” he said. “They’re gonna have to put me out there to see what I can do and I’m excited. I feel so comfortable. I’m ready. Whatever they want me to do, I’m ready to take the task head on.”
Tye isn’t quite ready physically. He suffered two stress fractures in his foot late last season and has been letting them heal. He said he still can feel the injury, but he’s been pressing through during the OTAs.
It’s also allowed him to sharpen what he believes is his secret weapon in competing against Ellison and Engram: his knowledge of the playbook. While they are both new to the team and to the offense, Tye has been with the Giants for two full years.
“That’s my edge,” he said. “Whatever I can do, I make sure I do it all the way the right way. Not a second-guess, not relaxed. I’m the guy who when they ask, ‘Coach, what is that?’ he’ll say, ‘Tye, what is it?’ Boom, I know right away. And that feels good.”
It may not be enough to keep Tye around, though. Besides the two additions, the Giants are invested in last year’s sixth-round pick, Jerrel Adams. And they have Matt LaCosse, whose injuries have kept him off the field the past two seasons. The Giants have stuck with him through those injuries and on Friday, he made a few nice plays in the OTA workout.
All of which changes Tye’s place on the team from where it was when last season ended in the playoff loss in Green Bay.
“I’m pretty sure it does,” Tye said of the offseason changes affecting him. “But I’m not afraid of competition . . . That’s the role I’ve had my whole life. Whatever it is, I’m ready for it. I look at it as a plus for me.”
Not everyone would, but Tye certainly will get a chance to prove otherwise.