Tight end Evan Engram and safety Jabrill Peppers are both coming back from injuries, but the Giants consider them to be big parts of their future. So it was no surprise on Wednesday night when they picked up both of their fifth-year contract options for 2021.
The moves were long expected, and something of a no-brainer, considering the two young players still come relatively cheap. The option on the 24-year-old Peppers is only $6,770,000. For the 25-year-old Engram, the amount is only $6,013,000.
Those amounts are also only guaranteed for injury. They become fully guaranteed next March, on the first day of the next league year.
Even though Giants GM Dave Gettleman wouldn't commit to those options last week, the decision was never in doubt. Engram, the 23rd overall pick in the 2017 draft, is a talented receiving tight end who is a mismatch nightmare for defenses, especially when he's healthy. He had 44 catches for 467 yards and three touchdowns in just eight games last year. And Peppers, taken 25th overall by the Cleveland Browns, was the centerpiece of the Odell Beckham trade one year ago. It's likely the Giants never would've traded the star receiver if they hadn't gotten Peppers in return.
The only thing that made these decisions even slightly uncertain was the health of both players. Engram suffered a Lisfranc injury to his foot last year and had surgery in December. And Peppers missed the final five games with a transverse process fracture in his back. Though it's impossible to tell exactly where they are in their progress since they're not allowed at team facilities, the expectation has long been that both will be back in time for training camp.
And both will return to increased competition at their position. In Engram's absence last year, tight end Kaden Smith emerged as a receiving option (31-268-3 in nine games), and the Giants signed blocking tight end Levine Toilolo in free agency. And at safety, the Giants drafted Alabama's Xavier McKinney in the second round on Friday night.
The Giants are hopeful, though, that Peppers and McKinney give them a dynamic duo on the back end of their defense, with skill sets they believe will complement each other. And while Smith and Toilolo are both solid second and third tight ends, it's clear that Engram is their best option when he's at full strength.