Giants TE Darren Waller retires after 1 season with team, describes scary medical situation that preceded decision

Former Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller has retired from the NFL at 31 years old after a single season with the New York Giants.

Waller informed the Giants of his decision prior to the start of their minicamp, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports. The Giants confirmed his retirement in a statement Sunday afternoon.

“We have great respect for Darren as a person and player," the statement reads. "We wish him nothing but the best.”

New York's mandatory minicamp starts Tuesday. The Giants traded a third-round draft pick to acquire Waller from the Las Vegas Raiders prior to last season.

Waller addressed his decision in a YouTube video released Sunday afternoon. He mentioned his recent divorce from WNBA All-Star Kelsey Plum and described a frightening medical situation off the field last season that "forced me into a position to re-evaluate."

Waller didn't explain what the medical condition was, but described a scene that led to a hospital stay midway through the season while he was away from the team with a hamstring injury suffered in Week 8 against the Jets.

"Last season in New Jersey, we played the Jets on October 29," Waller said. "I got hurt that game. The following week, the Giants were playing the Raiders in Vegas. ... I started to feel like this fever coming on. ... The fever starts to build, I start to get the chills and stuff like that. By the time I pull into my parking garage at my condo and get out of the car, I'm, like, shaking pretty violently, like uncontrollably."

Waller said that he "couldn't breath" in his bed the next morning and called 911. He said that paramedics responded and that he ended up spending 3 1/2 days in a hospital.

"Was pretty clear I almost just lost my life," Waller said. "I don’t know if I really feel like if I would’ve died that I would’ve felt great about how my life was going."

Waller didn't share his diagnosis, but went on to say that his passions in life had changed.

"The worst possible thing for ... somebody like me would be to think that I am supposed to choose one lane of life, one path and stick with it like most of the world does," Waller continued.

An eight-season NFL veteran, Waller had reportedly been contemplating his retirement throughout the offseason. His decision came as no surprise to the Giants, who selected Penn State tight end Theo Johnson in the fourth round of April's NFL Draft. The Giants surely expected more than a season of his services when they traded for him in 2023.

Darren Waller played a single season with the Giants after the acquired him from the Raiders with a third-round pick. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Darren Waller played a single season with the Giants after they acquired him from the Raiders with a third-round draft pick. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) (Cooper Neill via Getty Images)

Waller addressed his status on social media on June 3 amid reports that he had been contemplating retirement. He said then that he had yet to make a decision.

Waller started 12 games for the Giants in 2023, tallying 52 catches for 522 yards and a touchdown. He previously played six seasons with Raiders and made the Pro Bowl after the 2020 season. He played his first two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens starting in 2015.

Waller remained a productive NFL starter and would have projected atop the Giants' depth chart had he remained with the team. He released a music video in May depicting his relationship and marital breakup with Plum. The couple announced their divorce earlier in May after a year of marriage. It's not clear if Waller intends to pursue music further.

With Waller gone, third-year tight end Daniel Bellinger projects as New York's No. 1 tight end next season. Bellinger started 13 games last season, tallying 25 catches for 255 yards. Johnson and former Philadelphia Eagles starter Jack Stoll could also compete for starting time.

Per Spotrac, Waller's retirement frees up $11.6 million in salary-cap space for the upcoming season. He'll account for dead cap hits of $2.45 million in 2024 and $4.9 million in 2025.