Darius Slayton's season wasn't dull, that's for sure. It started with trade rumors and morphed into him taking a pay cut, all while chatter that he might be cut before the first game built to a cacophony. He was inactive in Week 1 and did not have a catch the next two weeks while playing only four and then 14 snaps.
But the Giants' receiving corps became a mess thanks to injuries, the Kadarius Toney trade and Kenny Golladay's diminished role and the 26-year-old Slayton got a chance and seized it.
The former fifth-round pick out of Auburn became Big Blue's best deep threat. He might not have produced touchdowns the way he did as a rookie in 2019, when he grabbed eight, but he had 46 receptions and even led the Giants with 724 receiving yards, finishing sixth in the NFL in yards per catch (15.7).
Now, as the Giants work on the roster this off-season - they need to find a bona fide No. 1 receiver - GM Joe Schoen and the rest of the brass have to figure out if Slayton still fits.
Should the Giants keep Slayton, a four-year veteran, or let him go?
The case to keep him
After the difficult start to his season, Slayton persevered and was a productive member of an unheralded receiving group, contributing more than almost anyone would've guessed back around Week 1. As the season progressed, Slayton's snap count soared. Only Saquon Barkley was targeted more in the passing game.
Yes, the Giants have work to do at his position, but there could be a spot for Slayton, who has produced 724-or-more yards receiving three times in his career. He may not fit most fans' ideal of a No. 1 receiver, but he has had success with the Giants and, in the Wild Card Round victory over Minnesota, he offered an example of what he can do. Slayton had four catches for 88 yards, including a grab good for 47 yards. As a receiver further down on the depth chart, he's appealing.
Slayton had a career-best catch percentage this year (64.8%), more than seven percentage points higher than his previous best. Here's the list of receivers who had more yards-per-catch than Slayton: Miami's Jaylen Waddle, Buffalo's Gabriel Davis, Philadelphia's AJ Brown, the Jets' Corey Davis and the Kansas City's Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Slayton was slightly better than Terry McLaurin of the Commanders (15.5) and Davante Adams of the Raiders (15.2).
That's fine company.
Slayton also has a level of familiarity with the Giants' staff and scheme. Plus, he and Daniel Jones seem to have developed a rapport over their careers. At one point during this past season, Slayton said of Jones: "We're like an old married couple."
The case to let him go
The free agent class is not rich in wide receiver talent, so that might mean Slayton is in higher demand on the open market. Perhaps his price tag rises rapidly and the Giants look elsewhere.
He's also had trouble with drops in his career - a main reason he was on the roster bubble before the season started. While Slayton jacked up his catch rate this year, he still had some drops, including a glaring one in the Wild Card Round against the Vikings.
With about three minutes left in the game and the Giants up by seven points, Jones hit Slayton in stride on a 3rd-and-15 play. If Slayton had caught the pass, he likely would've run for a first down and squashed Minnesota's hopes of a comeback. But he dropped it and the Giants had to punt, giving the Vikings one final chance they couldn't convert. Slayton was dejected on the bench and got a pep talk from Brian Daboll, who reiterated after the game that Slayton was an important piece.
There's a lot going on with the Giants' wide receivers. Richie James, who tied for the team lead in catches with 57, joins Slayton on the free agent market. Wan'Dale Robinson, the promising rookie who blew out his knee during the season, says his goal is to return by Week 1. We'll see. Isaiah Hodgins, the waiver claim who got more and more important by the week, should be back. Golladay seems likely to be cut based on his disappointing Giants' tenure. Will the Giants re-sign Sterling Shepard, who missed most of this year with a knee injury but is a proven culture booster?
In free agency, Jakobi Meyers and JuJu Smith-Schuster are two of the top names. Does Big Blue dinner companion Odell Beckham Jr. factor in anywhere? Maybe the Giants add a receiver with their first draft pick, No. 25 overall.
However it shakes out, Slayton could be a nifty No. 3-type receiver on the Giants. If another team is willing to give him a bigger role that means bigger money, the Giants should probably move on.
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