There are always risks when building through free agency. There is always a reason why a player hits the open market. Part of the reason why the three most high-profile players the Giants signed during this cycle were available has to do with their health. Or lack thereof.
Wide receiver Kenny Golladay and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson are coming off injury-shortened 2020 seasons. The Giants checked them out and then put loads of money on the table. The latest development with tight end Kyle Rudolph makes it clear the Giants are, if not rolling the dice, certainly taking gambles. The three highest contracts they wrote for players outside their organization went to players unable to finish last season on the field.
The hip flexor issue that limited Golladay to just fives games in 2020 for the Lions is well-documented. The knee problem that limited Jackson to just three games in 2020 for the Titans is not a source of conjecture. The Giants, though, thought Rudolph was ready to roll when they offered him a two-year deal worth $12 million. Word came down on Tuesday that something might not be right with Rudolph, who missed the final four games last season for the Vikings with a foot injury.
By Wednesday, it was revealed that the foot is not yet healed and that Rudolph needs surgery.
“It was certainly an interesting 24 hours, one that was unexpected,’’ Rudolph said. “It’s kind of a blessing that we’re able to find this issue.’’
The surgery, Rudolph said, will take place “as soon as possible,’’ and he expects to be back in plenty of time to be ready for the start of his first season with the Giants.
“I’m not expecting to miss any football,’’ he said. “I’m extremely excited, when we do start playing football to be out there with my teammates.’’
While playing for the Vikings last season, Rudolph, 31, hurt his foot Dec. 6 against the Jaguars. He missed the final four games, was released and, after 10 years with the Vikings, agreed to terms with the Giants. Four months after initially injuring the foot, it has not yet healed fully, which caused a momentary snag in the contract signing — it was initially supposed to be on Tuesday. The Giants did not make any financial adjustments to the deal. Rudolph will count $4.75 million on this year’s salary cap. He receives a signing bonus of $4.5 million.
“This is 100 percent what happened during the season that caused me to miss the last four games of the season,’’ Rudolph said. “Everyone expected it to heal on its own and it didn’t. It needs to be fixed. I’m extremely grateful for the Giants’ medical staff … and I’m excited to get it fixed and move past it.’’
The two big-ticket signings for the Giants played a total of eight games in 2020 and needed to convince their new team — with checkups at Hospital for Special Surgery on their visits — they were good to go.
Jackson, 25, hurt his knee during a Sept. 11 practice, three days before the Titans’ season opener in Denver. He landed on injured reserve, was not activated until Nov. 11 and did not play in a game until Week 15. The Titans were vague as to the specifics of the injury. After the season, it was learned Jackson was dealing with patellar tendinitis.
In 2019, Jackson was unable to finish the season, missing the final four games with a foot issue.
Golladay, 27, endured a brutal 2020 season. He missed the first two games with a strained hamstring and the last 11 games with a hip flexor.
The injury history did not cost Golladay (four years, $72 million) or Jackson (three years, $39 million) anything, as they both received market-value money.
There is no doubt the Giants did their due diligence on all three players, in terms of medical workups. There is also no doubt Golladay, Jackson and Rudolph are no longer with their former teams at least in part because of their unavailability last season. The Giants wrote contracts worth a total of $123 million for three players who missed a combined 28 games in 2020.
There are risks with every signing, more so when the players brought in are coming off significant injuries that caused significant missed time.