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2023 Free Agency

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Staying with Daniel Jones, Giants 'best football decision' for Darius Slayton


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Darius Slayton grew up in Atlanta. He was a high school star in nearby Norcross. Slayton trains in that area in the offseason. So, when Slayton officially became a free agent last week and the Atlanta Falcons initiated a dialogue, it seemed logical he might continue his NFL career in his native state.

But Slayton had other ideas and re-signed with the Giants, who drafted him in 2019 and with whom he spent his first four pro seasons.

"Atlanta is where I'm from," Slayton said on a Zoom call with reporters. "It's where my parents live. It's close to where a lot of my family lives. One of my best friends was a free agent; he just got signed by Atlanta. So, I had a lot of – I guess you could say – reason to want to be there or to want to go there. First of all, free agency, it's got to be mutual, which I think they had interest in me, which they expressed. But ultimately, I think the best football decision for me was being back here with Daniel (Jones) and continuing to grow with him in (coordinator Mike) Kafka's offense."

Jones and Slayton were each members of the 2019 draft class. Slayton has caught more Jones passes (155, including the playoffs) for more yards (2,290) than any other receiver. They have developed a strong partnership on the field and friendship off it. Slayton has said they've grown up together in the NFL.

Two weeks ago, Jones signed a new four-year contract. His return was clearly an allure for Slayton to do the same.

"I might've been more happy for his deal than my own deal, honestly," Slayton said. "Just because I've been here for everything that it's taken for him to get here and kind of seen the way that people viewed him before and the way they view him now. Anybody who follows me on Twitter knows Daniel Jones slander is not being tolerated on my timeline. That'll be that way probably until the day I die. So, I'm extremely happy for him. And I'm just glad he was able to get his deal."

View the best photos of wide receiver Darius Slayton's time with the Giants.

The Giants have worked hard this offseason to give Jones an assortment of productive targets. They re-signed Isaiah Hodgins, Sterling Shepard (who missed most of the 2022 season with a torn ACL) and Slayton. Last week, they acquired free agent wideouts Parris Campbell and Jeff Smith and traded for former Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller, who caught 107 passes in 2020, his last fully healthy season.

"It would've been kind of crazy to leave after somewhat building all these bricks, and as soon as we get the thing build, just jump off the top," Slayton said. "Would've been kind of crazy. But I definitely wanted to stick around and be at the top and take in the view myself. I think just some of the guys we've been able to sign and go get, it's a testament to what we've been able to build here and what Kaf and Dabs (head coach Brian Daboll) and those guys have been able to bring to us.

"We got a lot of guys that can fly, a lot of guys that can play. I think that's only going to help our team. It's only going to make us better. It's only going to make the competition around here better. So, I'm looking forward to OTAs and camp and getting a chance to compete alongside these guys."

The 2022 season started slowly for Slayton. He was inactive in Week 1, was not targeted in either of the next two games and caught just one pass in the fourth game, against Chicago on Oct. 2. But the following week he caught a season-high six passes in a victory against Green Bay in London (a figure he tied against Washington on Dec. 4, when he had a season-best 90 yards).

Slayton finished the season with a team-high 724 yards on 46 receptions. He scored two touchdowns. With 740 yards as a rookie, 751 in 2020 and 720 last season, Slayton became just the second Giants player to lead the team in receiving yards in three of his first four seasons. The only other player to do it was Odell Beckham, Jr.

With free agency beckoning, Slayton was a candidate to be wearing a different uniform this year.

"We had multiple teams that were interested," Slayton said. "This is really a pretty weird free agency year. Teams really weren't just throwing around money kind of like in other years. But we had a few teams that were interested that I probably could've went with, but ultimately the Giants, when they got D.J. back – obviously because the quarterback is a pretty big piece of being a receiver – but just the familiarity here, with Dabs, and Kaf and (general manager) Joe (Schoen) are building here and some of the guys they acquired, I just felt like this would be the best place for me to go. And obviously, I'm comfortable. I enjoy being here. I enjoy the people here. So, it was easy to come back.

"I just think in general in life, I try not to bring emotion into things that aren't emotional. And football is not emotional. Either you go out there and you make plays and the people that make the decisions play the people who make plays, or you don't. So, at the end of the day when it comes to football or anything like that, I tend to point the thumb and not the finger and look at what I can do better – what have I done to put myself in whatever situation? And sometimes in life, you do everything you're supposed to do, and you end up getting screwed over. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't somewhat contribute to my situation last year. And at the end of the day, I have to take responsibility for that and do better."

Slayton has played in 59 regular-season games with 40 starts and started both postseason games in which he played. His regular-season totals include 170 receptions for 2,554 yards (15.0-yard avg.) and 15 touchdowns with a long catch of 55 yards. In the 2022 playoffs, he had five receptions for 92 yards (18.4-yard avg.) and one rushing attempt for 3 yards.

Now he has an opportunity to build on those numbers and continue contributing to the Giants' resurgence.

"I've built a relationship with a lot of guys around here – a lot of people in this building," Slayton said. "Even today, there's been a lot of hugs and smiling faces. That's definitely something that I knew would be here if I came back here. I definitely aspire to be a great player for this franchise."

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2023 cycle.