How Would Giants Offense Change if Darren Waller Retires?

How would the Giants need to adjust if Darren Waller retires, as is expected?
Oct 22, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants tight end Darren Waller (12) catches a touchdown pass during the first half in front of Washington Commanders linebacker Jamin Davis (52) at MetLife Stadium.
Oct 22, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants tight end Darren Waller (12) catches a touchdown pass during the first half in front of Washington Commanders linebacker Jamin Davis (52) at MetLife Stadium. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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One of the biggest storylines surrounding the New York Giants this offseason is the uncertainty of whether or not tight end Darren Waller, whom the Giants acquired via trade with the Las Vegas Raiders for a third-round pick before the 2023 season, will retire.

Waller dealt with injuries for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, but prior to that, he had back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons to establish himself as one of the most dangerous pass-catching tight ends in the NFL. 

The decision to trade for him and the compensation given up made the trade a low-risk, high-reward move. The Giants used the draft pick acquired from the KAnas City Chiefs in the Kadarius Toney to the Chiefs, essentially making the trade Waller for Toney, the latter of whom had no interest in being a Giant.

However, with Waller all but certain to retire, there will be questions about how the team plans to re-align the offense to compensate for the loss. 

To some, Waller retiring might not seem like a loss given the disappointing production he delivered for the Giants in his thus far only season, so in looking at how the team could potentially move on from him, we’re taking into consideration what a healthy Waller brought to the table in both skills, ability, and potential production if healthy. 


If Waller announced his retirement, where would he leave the Giants offense? The immediate thought goes to the tight end room, which would now be left with Daniel Bellinger, Chris Manhertz, Jack Stoll, Tyree Jackson (injured), Lawrence Cager, and rookie Theo Johnson. 

Bellinger has had an inconsistent first two years of his career as far as production goes, but the film has been good, and his blocking ability is the best on the team.

It’s easy to break this tight end room into two groupings: in-line and flex. The in-line group–Bellinger, Manhertz, and Stoll–should be relatively unaffected by Waller’s presence (or lack thereof). 

The flex group is where Waller fits into, joining Jackson, Cager, and Johnson. The departure of Waller would significantly decrease the quality of the room.

Jackson is a quarterback-turned-tight end who’s yet to crack a rotation, playing in two games last season for the Giants. He was seen with his arm in a brace at the most recent OTA after he left OTA No. 3 a couple of weeks ago mid-practice with a trainer.

Johnson is an athletic but raw rookie who is playing a position with the longest development time in the NFL.

Cager would be the most capable of taking that spot, but even he is a wide receiver-turned-tight end who’s been unable to break out to this point. He has found more playing time than some other position converts, but he lacks as a blocker and isn’t a starter-quality player.

If Waller were to retire, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Giants looked for potential roster additions via trade or free agency. Indianapolis Colts’ Mo Alie-Cox and New York Jets’ CJ Uzomah are potential cut candidates this season that could be had for late Day 3 compensation if the Giants wanted to make a trade instead of waiting for them to hit the waiver wire.

Free agency right now lacks talent for move tight ends, with Brycen Hopkins, who spent the last four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, being the only one I would consider right now. Hopkins hasn’t had a productive career, but he’s an athletic mismatch that can at least hang and bang as a blocker, and he’d be an upgrade over current depth.

Another option for the Giants would be to for a tight end like Jace Sternberger, Sal Cannella, or Sage Surratt.


Despite playing in just 12 games last season, Waller still had the , behind only Darius Slayton and Wan’Dale Robinson. The rest of the Giants’ tight ends combined saw just 33 targets for the year. 

Waller’s versatility allowed the Giants to have him on the field and line him up all over the formation to exploit defenses. In 2023 Waller spent . Few tight ends in the NFL can play that role and be as effective in every phase as Waller has over his career.

The Giants spent , which would likely drop if Waller is no longer on the roster. The 12-personnel package consists of one running back, two tight ends, and two wide receivers, but if Waller is gone, then we would likely see the Giants break out more 11-personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers).

The issue with 11-personnel is that last season, the Giants had the third-worst EPA per play in that grouping and had the second-worst success rate and explosive play rate. In the 12-personnel, the team had the 22nd-ranked EPA per play and success rate but also the seventh-best explosive rate.

It’s possible that the Giants were planning on deploying more 11-personnel this season regardless of Waller’s decision because of the addition of receiver Malik Nabers in the first round of this year’s draft. 

Even if the Giants hadn’t drafted Nabers, they would have almost certainly gone for more 11-personnel if Waller did indeed retire due to concerns about the tight end depth.

If Waller were to retire, the most likely personnel combinations would be Devin Singletary at running back, Bellinger at tight end, and a combination of Slayton, Robinson, Nabers, and Jalin Hyatt at receiver. 

Without Waller, the Giants don’t have an overpowering personnel combination, meaning that they have worse 11-personnel and 12-personnel groupings.

I would expect the Giants to try to push the ball downfield more often, with or without Waller, considering the improvements to the offensive line and the addition of Nabers to an already vertical receiver room. 

The offense in 2024 is almost guaranteed to be better than it was in 2023, but it would be even better with Waller. It’s not the end of the world, though, if Waller retires. The coaching staff has been preparing for this very real possibility since the end of last season when word initially leaked out that the tight end was thinking of calling it a career. 

Despite the rough year he had with the Giants, losing Waller would hurt because he created mismatches the Giants offense, had it been functioning as drawn up, could have been exposed to their advantage. 

Brandon Olsen


Brandon Olsen is the founder of Whole Nine Sports, specializing in NFL Draft coverage, and is the host of the Locked On Gators Podcast.