How the Giants built around QB Daniel Jones in free agency

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In the span of four hours on March 16, the wide receiving corps for quarterback Daniel Jones and the New York Giants began to take shape.

First, it was Parris Campbell, a speedy receiver with an injury history, agreeing to a one-year, $4.7 million deal around 1 p.m. ET while general manager Joe Schoen and Co. still juggled getting Darius Slayton lured into the mix. Schoen's approach was strength in numbers.

Later that afternoon, just before dinner at 5 p.m., Slayton's deal was finalized. He agreed to re-sign for two years and $12 million, turning down similar offers elsewhere. Schoen had landed two potential starting receivers for less than $11 million combined.

The familiarity was a key for Slayton. The 2019 fifth-round pick truly felt this Giants organization was headed in the right direction.

"It would've been kind of crazy to leave after somewhat building all these bricks and then as soon as we get the thing built, just jump off the top," Slayton said. "But I definitely wanted to stick around and be at the top and take in the view myself."

Slayton got his first taste of winning in the NFL this past season. The Giants (9-7-1) made the playoffs and defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the wild-card round. It wasn't because of the strength of the wide receivers.

It's a position that needed major work this offseason. No team had fewer 20-plus-yard pass plays in 2022. The Giants had 28; Minnesota's Justin Jefferson had 28 by himself.

Campbell and Slayton were some of the most notable offensive moves in free agency, along with trading for dynamic tight end Darren Waller earlier in the week. Just like that, the pass-catchers at Jones' disposal had a much different feel from the group that started Marcus Johnson and David Sills V at wide receiver, and Chris Myarick and Lawrence Cager at tight end at times last year.

Waller -- when healthy -- is more dynamic than anyone Jones has thrown to, perhaps in his entire football career. Waller has a pair of 1,000-yard receiving seasons on his resume and there's a good chance that the 30-year-old tight end is the Giants' No. 1 receiver this year.

"I think just the versatility that he brings to the game and being an all-around tight end and being able to do it all is huge for the wideouts because when Darren Waller is on the field, the defense better check to him," Campbell said. "I think it's just going to gel together perfectly, the pieces that this organization and team is putting together for the offense. I think the ceiling is high, and the future is bright."

The Giants' top receivers now consist of Campbell, Slayton, last season’s late addition Isaiah Hodgins, 2022 second-round pick Wan'Dale Robinson, Waller and tight end Daniel Bellinger. All but Waller are 26 or younger. It's a group with significant speed and explosiveness.

Hodgins, Campbell, Slayton, Robinson and a first- or second-round wide receiver would give the Giants five slam dunks to be on the roster come September. They also took fliers on the speedy Jeff Smith from the New York Jets and Jamison Crowder, who spent one injury-filled season with the Buffalo Bills, and re-signed Sterling Shepard to a minimum deal while he rehabs a torn ACL.

But the Giants still haven't found a true No. 1 receiver. The free agent class wasn't very good at the top. Schoen looked at options via trade, but found Waller to be the best option. Some sought-after wide receiver targets like the Cincinnati Bengals' Tee Higgins and the San Francisco 49ers' Brandon Aiyuk weren't available. Denver Broncos No. 1 receiver Jerry Jeudy was only available for a first-round or early second-round pick.

Multiple sources still expect the Giants to take a wide receiver early in the draft. The Giants have the 25th overall pick in the first round and have been connected to some of the top options at wide receiver.

Schoen and coach Brian Daboll reportedly spent time with Jaxon Smith-Njigba before the Ohio State Pro Day on Wednesday. USC's Jordan Addison pegged the Giants as his most recent contact during an interview this week. Boston College's Zay Flowers and TCU's Quentin Johnston are two other wide receivers the Giants are expected to monitor closely.

Adding another young receiver to the mix remains a major need beyond this season. Campbell is on a one-year deal, Slayton has no guaranteed money in the second year of his contract and Hodgins signed a one-year deal earlier this offseason.

The Giants may be fine at the moment -- or at the very least better than last year -- but there is still more to be done to improve the weaponry around their new $40-million quarterback.