Kenny Golladay’s signing continues to haunt Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — The contract the Giants offered receiver Kenny Golladay will go down in history as one of ex-GM Dave Gettleman’s biggest mistakes. It’s an albatross around the neck of the new front office. This is one of the main causes of their current salary cap chaos.

But two and a half years ago the decision to sign him wasn’t viewed that way. Yes, $72 million over four years with a $40 million guarantee seemed like too much for Golladay even then. Yes, it looked like the Giants would bid against themselves. But they needed a No. 1 receiver, and many in the NFL still believed Matthew was Stafford’s favorite target at the time.

It’s also something Golladay believes he still is — even if no one else is doing it.

“Yes, definitely,” he said on Thursday. “I never think less of myself. I still feel like I can do things like that.”

However, the evidence is against him in the middle of his second season in New York, when the Giants (7-2) go into a game against the Detroit Lions – Golladay’s old team – at the Meadowlands on Sunday. He has only played five games this season, including one in which he received 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 straight through his hands.

He was booed by the New York crowd after that game and then immediately benched by Giants coach Brian Daboll. In his place in the second half was Isaiah Hodgins, who was released from waivers just 11 days earlier and was only playing in the fourth game of his three-year NFL career.

Golladay now has just two catches (on eight goals) for 22 yards this season and 39 catches for 521 yards and zero touchdowns in 19 games for the Giants over two years. Of course, the Giants would cut or trade him if they could, but his contract makes that impossible until this offseason, when he’ll still leave $14.7 million in “dead cap” money.

If he never plays a down for the team again — which is certainly possible given that he sustained a hamstring injury while sitting at the bottom of the depth chart — they paid him about $1.03 million for every catch he made Has. And even if he does return to their lineup, the Giants are clearly not expecting much. As desperate as they are for help, they would rather rely on Darius Slayton (19 catches, 327 yards and 2 touchdowns) whom they nearly beat this summer, 5-foot-8 rookie Wan’Dale Robinson (14- 127-1 ) and a revolving door of discards and bottom-of-the-list players like 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 is averaging just 177.3 yards per game and just eight touchdown passes in nine games while having the third-worst passing offense in the league. He sure could use a 6-4, 213-pound receiver like old Kenny Golladay.

Will the 29-year-old ever get close to this player again?

“I think Kenny Golladay is a really good football player,” said Giants offense coordinator Mike Kafka. “He comes to work prepared every day. He goes through the process. This week is no different.”

That’s hardly confirmation that Golladay ever rediscovered his old form, which is a shame as his old form was pretty good. He had 65 catches for 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns in Detroit in 2019, which obviously convinced the Giants of his potential. Over the next year, he was 20-338-2 in the five games he played before suffering a hip injury and undergoing a feud with the coaching staff that made it clear he would not re-sign with Detroit.

In March 2021, he was the clear head 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 recipients who landed relatively lucrative long-term deals.

“There was no one close to him in that class,” said an NFC executive. “I definitely understood why the Giants wanted him. Maybe not for that money, but there weren’t many doubts about the player, although there were some questions about his make-up 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. The Giants then housed him in the New York area for several days, giving him full court press and employing a number of their high-profile players to woo Golladay, whom Jones described at the time as “a big playmaker in that league.”

His fall since then has been as quick as it is breathtaking. Even Golladay isn’t sure why it all went so wrong.

“I don’t know,” he said after Sunday’s game. “It’s tough. But I’ll keep pushing myself. Just knowing what kind of player I can be and what I want to show on the field and what’s going on this year, I think that’s the hard part .”

Of course, no one is sure what type of player they can be anymore. He actually got off to a good start in his Giants career, with 17 catches for 282 yards in his first four games, including his peak performance of six catches and 116 yards in a Week 4 win in New Orleans. At first it certainly looked like Gettleman was right to make a big leap into this deal.

The next week in Dallas, Golladay injured his knee and missed the next three games. He never surpassed three catches or 53 yards the rest of the way.

Then he underwent off-season knee surgery. Then he pulled a hamstring at training camp this summer. He then suffered an MCL sprain that cost him four games that season. Now his hamstring is a problem again, limiting him in practice and making him questionable for Sunday’s Giants game.

It all took its toll on his body and mind. But his teammates don’t think it will mean the end of his season or his career.

“It’s New York. It’s a tough place, obviously with the boos and the people saying and writing everything,” said Giants running back Saquon Barkley. “But I feel like at the end of the day, especially after an MCL, it’s difficult to just come back and boom, go straight to the level you want to be. You have that in your head, but sometimes you come back and I have to adjust, get back in the flow of things.”

That’s true, but it’s been three years of adjustment for Golladay since that 2019 season in Detroit — a season he said “was probably my better year. I got a lot of opportunities there.”

The Giants were keen to give him those opportunities. Even after he sprained his knee earlier this season, they were so confident of getting something out of him that they felt comfortable selling the troublesome, often injured and no doubt talented first-round pick Kadarius Toney to the Chiefs for 2021. They figured Golladay’s return would at least give their flimsy receiving corps some sort of boost that it would give them some production.

They didn’t expect that he wouldn’t give them anything at all.

“I don’t know,” said Giants coach Brian Daboll. “I just think we’ll take it week by week, go into training and see how it goes at the end of the week.”

Unfortunately, things never really went well for Golladay and the Giants.

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