It is officially the time of year to open with a popular refrain: The New York Giants are one year late with an important decision.
This time, it’s more like eight months, but the time frame doesn’t really matter. The Giants, who have gone a combined 8-24 the past two seasons, have traded wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns. A year ago, the Giants decided to keep quarterback Eli Manning and made a few big free agent signings in an attempt to contend in 2018. That did not happen. Now, the Giants are trading away their best players for pennies on the dollar and are beginning a full rebuild.
The Giants have been heavily criticized because they did not get two first-round picks in return for Beckham. New York received a first-rounder, a third-rounder, and starting safety Jabrill Peppers in the deal. The Giants lost their star wide receiver in the trade, and $16 million in cap space went out the door with him. If the Giants had traded him last year before signing him to a long-term extension, they would not have had to absorb the huge cap hit. The Giants only had around $24 million in cap space this offseason, which means that they would have had around $40 million if they did not have the $16 million in dead cap. As a result, Big Blue has not been able to sign any big-name free agents. They have had to re-sign second-stringers and starters at fringe positions. The only semi big-name free agent they have been able to sign from outside the organization is safety Antoine Bethea, who is entering his fourteenth year in the league.
The biggest problem regarding the Beckham trade has nothing to do with the disappointing return or the $16 million in dead cap. The problem is on a much larger scale. In making this move, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman proved what fans and insiders have known all along: The Giants front office has no long-term vision for what they want the franchise to become. Like his predecessor (Jerry Reese), Gettleman is flying by the seat of his pants.
Last year, Gettleman and the Giants thought that the team was a few pieces away from contending. The front office falsely believed that the team was capable of making a playoff run. Instead of tearing it down, Gettleman decided to try to build a contender. Left tackle Nate Solder was signed to a record-breaking contract. Other veterans such as Jonathan Stewart, Patrick Omameh, Josh Mauro, Kareem Martin, and Michael Thomas were signed to give the Giants some depth at key positions. None of those signings worked out for the Giants.
On draft night, the Giants continued their ill-fated retooling by drafting running back Saquon Barkley instead of drafting a quarterback. The rest of the Giants draft made sense, but the decision to pass on a quarterback may haunt the franchise for many years.
Last season, the Giants predictably got off to a slow start. They were 1-7 as they headed into their bye week. Alas, the 2018 Giants more closely resembled the last-place 2017 Giants than they did the playoff-bound 2016 Giants.
In the midst of the 1-7 start, Gettleman decided to begin the rebuild. From October until today, the Giants traded away many of their best players. Gettleman traded away Beckham and defensive starters Damon Harrison, Eli Apple, and Olivier Vernon. In return, the Giants received a first-round pick, a third-round pick, Peppers, right guard Kevin Zeitler, a fourth-round pick, a fifth-round pick, and a seventh-round pick in return for those four players.
Let’s now add the loss of Landon Collins into the mix. In the past year, the Giants lost five players who combined to make seven Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams. As a result of these moves, the Giants lead the league in dead cap. There is a slim chance that the Giants end up using the picks they acquired to draft players who are as good as the ones they let go.
To repeat, the slim return on the trades is a symptom of a larger problem. The New York Giants do not have a vision for the future.
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