Giants waive Kadarius Toney, still in need of game-changing receiver

The Giants have lived by the mantra for years: Don’t give up on talent. It takes time for players to develop. Good teams don’t just dump young players.

But when it came to Kadarius Toney, a first-round pick from the previous regime, this new Giants regime couldn’t wait to give him up — even though he has talent they desperately need.

On Thursday afternoon, the Giants did what had seemed inevitable for months: They dumped the 23-year-old, trading him to the Kansas City Chiefs for a third- and sixth-round pick. Although coach Brian Daboll didn’t shed light on their reasoning — “We just made a decision that we thought was best for the team,” he said — it’s clear the Giants have grown weary of everything from Toney’s attitude to his work ethic to his never-ending injuries. They seemed to know he wasn’t a good fit for their new culture from the start.

And while the deal was generally good for an unwanted, unhealthy player who has zero touchdowns in his career and just two catches for zero yards this season, it’s hard to immediately see this trade as a big win for the Giants. Because Towney, when he was briefly healthy last season, showed he could be an electric, dynamic, game-changing receiver.

And that’s exactly what this Giants team needs.

That’s why this can’t be Giants GM Joe Schoen’s only move. If he wasn’t willing to wait to see if Tony could get well and help, then he should go out and try to bring someone who could. He has to be serious about this unexpected and rare opportunity the Giants have to not only make the playoffs, but maybe even make a postseason run.

And to do that, they’ll need to make a deal for a receiver. Luckily for them, there are a bunch of good ones on the market. According to multiple league sources, receivers such as Denver’s Jerry Jeudy, Houston’s Brandin Cooks and Carolina’s DJ Moore could be available. And the Giants have particular interest in the 6-foot-1, 193-pound Jeudy, a league source said. Jeudy is even something of a known commodity for them, as he was a freshman at Alabama in 2017 when Daboll was the offensive coordinator there.

Now, the Giants have to be careful before pouncing on Jeudy or any receiver. They’re not in a position to do what the Buffalo Bills did in 2020, when Schoen was their assistant general manager and they traded four picks — including a first-rounder — for receiver Steven Diggs. They are still a rebuilding team despite their 6-1 record. They can’t start mortgaging their future now.

But their 6-1 record is still real, and so is their opportunity — which is huge for a franchise that has been to the playoffs once in the last 10 years. Never mind that they weren’t realistically expected to compete for the championship or maybe even the playoffs so quickly. They’re here. And they should at least try and take advantage of the opportunity while they can.

And really, adding a receiver isn’t as out of reach as it might seem. The Giants only have $2.8 million in salary cap space right now, but thanks to Schoen’s remarkable work thus far, they are expected to have more than $60 million in cap space for the offseason, according to Overthecap.com. Of course, that’s before they get to potential contracts or franchise tags for quarterback Daniel Jones or running back Saquon Barkley, but the point is they have room to make a move.

That makes players like Moore and Cooks possible. Moore ($610,000) and Cooks ($690,000) don’t have much remaining salary owed this season, but both have huge guaranteed salaries for 2023 ($19.9 million for Moore, $18 million for Cooks). But that’s essentially the end of the guaranteed money on both of their deals, meaning it will only be a one-year commitment for the Giants. Also, Schoen can always get creative and renegotiate or offer them long-term deals — something that makes more sense for the 25-year-old Moore than the 29-year-old Cooks.

Receivers like Jeudy or even Pittsburgh’s Chase Claypool come with much less of a financial burden since both are still in their rookie years. But both would cost the team top picks that the Giants may not be willing to trade — if Claypool is available at all.

Would it be worth it for the Giants to send the third-round pick they just got from the Chiefs to Denver for Jeudy? Absolutely. What if the cost is higher, like a second-round pick or both of the Giants’ third picks?

Only Schoen knows how brave he is willing to be. And he’ll have plenty of competition, with teams like the Packers, Eagles and Cowboys likely shopping for receivers as well. But he should try because this Giants streak just isn’t sustainable with Darius Slayton, rookie Von’Dale Robinson, Richie James, David Sills and Marcus Johnson as their receivers. The only thing that made the receiver group even remotely palatable was the thought that eventually Tony and maybe even veteran Kenny Golladay would be healthy enough to help.

But Tony is gone, and Golladay would be if the Giants could get absolutely everything for him and his terrible $72 million contract. The Chiefs were much more willing to take a chance on Toney because they already have a loaded Super Bowl-ready offense and could absorb the $5.2 million Tony is owed over the next two and a half seasons even if he never plays. Given the way the receiver market has exploded over the past few seasons, Towney could end up being a steal.

However, the Giants decided that prospect wasn’t worth the wait. And that’s good. It was pretty obvious that things just weren’t going to work out with Tony. And in the end, they got something for what they thought was nothing, which was good.

But their bigger problem still remains. After all, Tony could be the solution, the spark their passing attack needed. Now Schoen must do everything he can to try to find that spark somewhere else.

Ralph Vacciano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that spent 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him on Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.


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