Ellison signed a four-year, $18 million deal with $6 million guaranteed on Friday. He’ll be asked to fill several roles that went unattended last season.
It’s to the point that the former Minnesota Viking doesn’t even know how to categorize himself.
“It’s hard,” he said Friday on a conference call. “I guess you can say H-back because that kind of puts tight end and fullback in one thing. A little bit of everything – fullback, tight end, getting split out whatever it is. It’s just knowing the concept and how you fit in it. I don’t really look at it as position. I’m just a moving piece.”
He’s now a piece that the Giants value in their offense. It is what they envisioned last season for Will Johnson, who spent the entire season on injured reserve with a nerve problem in his shoulder.
With Ellison signed, the Giants are releasing Johnson, a source confirmed an NJ Advance Media report.
The loss of Johnson hurt last season as the Giants’ running woes (29th in the NFL) stretched beyond their offensive line. Just two days into free agency this year and they’ve already upgraded their blocking at wide receiver with Brandon Marshall and tight end/fullback with Ellison.
“Rhett is a versatile, hard-nosed player who we feel is one of the best blocking tight ends in the league,” general manager Jerry Reese said in a statement. “He also has good hands and is a very capable receiver in the pass game.”
Ellison, 28, is comparable to former Giants tight end/H-back Bear Pascoe. While at USC he watched tape of Pascoe because they had similar roles. Ellison visited the Giants during the pre-draft process in 2012 and said that was where he wanted to land.
Instead, he was a fourth-round pick by Minnesota, where he spent the first five years of his career.
It didn’t all go smoothly with the Vikings. Ellison suffered a torn patellar tendon in his knee (the same injury that derailed Victor Cruz’s career with the Giants) in the final game of the 2015 season. Ellison managed to make it back for the start of the following season, but said it took a while last year for him to get back to feeling like his old self.
Ellison even took a shot to his knee in Week 4 against the Giants. His knee ballooned and he missed a game. But Ellison claims in the long run it helped loosen some scar tissue. He feels better than ever now after signing with his new team.
Just how much Ellison will be used and when he’s still not quite sure. He hadn’t had the opportunity to talk that over with the Giants' coaches just yet.
But there should be opportunities, either at tight end or fullback. Coach Ben McAdoo explained recently at the NFL combine that the Giants didn’t originally plan to go without a fullback last season. That came about after Johnson and Nikita Whitlock suffered serious injuries during training camp.
The signing of Ellison indicates the Giants could be more multiple this season, using more formations and packages after spending almost all of 2016 with three wide receivers, one running back and one tight end (11 personnel) on the field. They ran over 90 percent of their offensive plays in 11 personnel.
Ellison is open for whatever they have in mind.
“My whole MO is whatever they need me to do, I’m going to do it – blocking, catching, whatever it takes for this team to be successful,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to be doing.”