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Why is New York Giants tight end Darren Waller retiring at 31 years old?

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While it remains unclear as to what motivated Waller to take the decision, we do know that he was still very much a prolific starter for the Giants and one that would have likely been at the top of the team’s depth chart.

Giants’ Darren Waller set to retire at 31

It’s been sometime now that Darren Waller has been toying with the idea of retirement, but his intention was finally confirmed after reports indicated that the Giants’ tight end will indeed hang up his cleats. After failing to show for OTAs, Waller, a former Pro Bowl tight end informed the team that he would be bringing his career to an end, a decision that comes after just one season in the Big Apple. “The passion (for football) has slowly been fading,” Waller admitted in a video statement he released Sunday, disclosing that a medical situation during the 2023 season “forced me to reevaluate” what was important both on and off the field.

“(It’s) a whole lot of money (to leave behind),” Waller said about his decision to retire. “But I feel like I’ve spent most of my life doing what I ‘should’ be doing. ...I’ve been a people pleaser my whole life. ...This is an opportunity for me to kind of take back the power in my life, start to make choices for myself, and take control. ...I’m not disappearing off the face of the Earth. I’m shifting. I’m turning. I’m gonna be going wherever God is taking me next. But this journey will always be something that I hold dear.” For their part, the Giants responded with a measured statement. “We have great respect for Darren as a person and player. We wish him nothing but the best.”

A closer look at Darren Waller

For context, the 31-year-old was yet to attend the team’s voluntary offseason programming, admitting to the media that he was undecided about his future in the NFL. “It’s really the idea of signing up for another journey,” Waller said last month. “It’s tough, it’s long, it requires a lot. And if you’re not fully bought into every single thing of the process, it’s going to be tough. I feel like at the end of the day, you’re doing guys a disservice if you’re not all the way in. So those are the kinds of things I’m taking into account.”

Regarding his career, Waller was acquired from the Las Vegas Raiders in exchange for a third-round draft pick last offseason, after which he went on to play in 12 Games for the Giants in 2023, missing five due to injury. Though he was clearly reliable when Healthy, evidenced by his 52 catches for 552 yards, it was clear that his ability to stay Healthy had always been an issue, even before joining the Giants. Originally, drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Waller surpassed 90 catches and 1,100 yards on two occasions in silver and black, becoming the Raiders’ top target across 14 Games between 2021 and 2022. However, it’s got to be said that his best season was in 2020 when he led all tight ends with 107 catches and close to 1200 receiving yards with a career-high nine touchdowns.

Despite going on to sign a three-year, $51 million contract extension from the Raiders, he was traded the very next season. Ultimately, Waller has made no indication as to what he will do next, but we do know that he released a music video in May chronicling his relationship and subsequent separation from WNBA All-Star Kelsey Plum. Could it be that his future lies in music? Regardless, the Giants will now likely turn to Daniel Bellinger to fill the void left by Waller. The 2022 fourth-round pick is expected to be the team’s starting tight end this coming season.

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