The Giants ended last season with an urgent need to upgrade their offense in the offseason and by the time first day of NFL Free Agency was over, they were well on their way to achieving that goal.
After inking former Jet WR Brandon Marshall to a below-market, two-year, $12 million deal on Wednesday, GM Jerry Reese followed up by reeling in Minnesota TE Rhett Ellison on Thursday with a four-year, $18 million contract.
Marshall gives the Giants the tall, physical receiver they craved to group with All-Pro Odell Beckham, Jr., breakout rookie star Sterling Shepherd. Marshall, whose specialty is scoring in the red zone, should help the Giants improve their sagging conversion numbers. Big Blue was 22nd in the league in the red zone in 2016, scoring on just 51% of their attempts.
The low conversion rate can also be attributed to the Giants’ inability to rush the football in tight spaces. They have been lacking both a fullback and a blocking tight end which many believe has hurt them more than they would like to admit. Ellison can play both positions.
Ellison may be the missing piece that can help get the running game back on track.The Giants were 29th in rushing last year and it’s apparent they believe they blocking ability had mush to do with that. Ellison, a five year vet, is primarily known as a blocker, catching only nine passes for 57 yards last season for the Vikings. In fact, he has only 51 career receptions for 515 yards and three touchdowns since being drafted out of USC by Minnesota in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
The addition of Marshall and Ellison may not match the thunder Reese made this time last year when he went on a defensive spending spree, but it could yield similar results. The Giants’ offense has been on the smallish side the past few seasons. Long gone are the days when they used to send out supersize receivers such as Plaxico Burress, Jeremy Shockey, Amani Toomer, Kevin Boss and Jake Ballard. The more recent version of the Giants have been smaller and quicker. Beckham, Shepard and the recently released Victor Cruz are all on the other side of six feet. Even their top pass-catching TE, Will Tye, is undersized for the position he plays.
That ends starting now. Marshall is 6’4” and Ellison 6’5”. QB Eli Manning, not known for pinpoint accuracy, could use some bigger targets in the passing game. Marshall will be the biggest target he’s had since Burress. The arrival of the six-time Pro Bowler, who also holds the NFL career record for 100-catch seasons, alleviates the urgent need for a pass-catching TE.
Ellison didn’t get the targets he deserved in Minnesota playing behind Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph, but he can handle the football when asked. Chances are the Giants may not ask him to be a big part of the passing game. His value will come by augmenting the struggling tackles in handling pass rushers and helping to seal the edge for the running backs.