New York Giants’ GM Dave Gettleman stunned the sporting world yesterday with his decision to trade superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr to the Cleveland Browns.
In return, his counterpart John Dorsey sent the Browns’ 2019 first round pick (at number 17), a third-round pick and starting safety Jabrill Peppers. Many Giants fans were understandably upset (understatement) though some analysts (and fans) have tried to look on the positive side as this indicating a rebuild of the franchise.
The problem is, if Gettleman’s motivation for swinging this trade is to reconstruct Big Blue’s roster, he’s actually just made that rebuild a much lengthier and tougher process. Let’s examine this argument in various ways.
Trading players for picks (2018)
Many teams seeking to rebuild their roster accept that a necessary part of this process will be a number of seasons where the product on the field will not be pretty, and the team’s record at the end of those 16 games will perhaps be even less so.
The pay-off for this is that the team gets high draft picks and can therefore pick up the can’t-miss-talent coming out of college. In order to maximise their chances in the lottery that is the draft, teams often trade away their best players (who are usually in the prime of their careers) with the thinking that a) that player will be no longer producing at such a high level when the roster begins to come together, and b) that the picks received for that player will help speed up the reconstruction process.
The problem here is that the Giants had that opportunity last year with the number 2 pick in the draft. If Gettleman thought a rebuild would be necessary then last year he should have dealt OBJ, shopped Eli Manning, traded down from the second overall pick and maximised his draft options. Don’t get me wrong, the Giants pick, running back Saquon Barkley, is a transcendent talent at the position, but in terms of positional value for a team needing a rebuild, there were better long-term options.
This brings us to this offseason. When I first saw news of the trade, my initial reaction was negative…on behalf of the Browns. I thought they’d sold the farm to get Beckham, giving up multiple first round picks or more. But a first rounder and a third rounder, plus a young safety who hasn’t been a game changer yet?! Dorsey must be chuckling as he pours the champagne…
The other head scratching aspect to this decision is the Giants extended Beckham’s contract just seven months ago giving him $41 million in guaranteed money when he signed his extension.
As a result, he will count $16 million against the Giants cap space this year, and $5 million next year. That is simply not a wise use of resources and limits the Giants’ freedom of movement in their rebuild. For instance, some of that cash could have been used to retain young safety Landon Collins. Or at least even used to attempt to extend the former Alabama player.
Also, let’s face it, rebuilding franchises need to utilise the draft and free agency to turn their fortunes around. As a result, they need to have resources available to attract (and occasionally overpay) younger free agents hitting free agency for the first time, and also to sign low risk, short term ‘rental’ veterans. Given the Giants woes on the offensive line in recent seasons, and the fact even average linemen are expensive during free agency, Gettleman could have directed some of that money dedicated to Beckham towards other necessary areas had he made this decision seven months ago.
Let’s look at the other side of this though.
Perhaps Gettleman feared back in August last year that any trade value Beckham had would be depleted because other teams were well aware of his desire for a new deal and would take advantage of any Giants reluctance to acquiesce to his demands. Prospective suitors may have thought they could get Beckham for much less than the Giants wanted because they wouldn’t want a dissatisfied OBJ on the roster.
Well that argument holds much less weight given what Cleveland has handed over this offseason. If Gettleman’s plan was to extend Beckham, get one more season out of him while they saw what this roster could do, before trading him (or retaining him if they had made the playoffs), then he has badly misjudged the situation.
Future starts now
The Giants now have the sixth and 17th overall pick in the 2019 draft. The team could package those picks together and move up to ensure they get the QB they want, whilst safeguarding against other teams who might take a QB and those who need to take a signal caller.
Most analysts see Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins as the likely pick here. But what does every rookie QB need most? Weapons. By trading away Beckham, Gettleman has put a big barrier in the way of the development of any potential rookie Giants quarterback.
The former LSU receiver has consistently made plays, even when double covered, and even when there was no offense without OBJ. What better crutch could there be for a first-year quarterback to lean on? You only need to look at what happened to Josh Rosen in his first year in Arizona to see the problems rookies face at the game’s most important position when they’re surrounded by a lack of elite talent.
The other issue here is that, say the Giants accept a couple or more losing seasons, before the rebuild comes to fruition, Beckham is only 26. He could still be there as a threat on offense, whilst having helped the franchise through the lean years. It’s not like his game relies purely on speed either, which obviously declines with age, so he’s still likely to be producing at a high level (barring injury) into his late twenties at least.
Conclusion: delayed decision
The only way I can understand Gettleman’s decision is that something went terribly wrong with the Giants when self-scouting the quality of the roster after the former Panthers GM was appointed in New York. Gettleman and his staff perhaps thought they were closer than they were to playoff and Super Bowl contention.
If that’s the case, it’s an indictment of the team’s staff and front office. Analysts regularly point out that bad teams convince themselves they are only a few pieces away from a Lombardi trophy.
Since Beckham’s extension then, the team has maybe decided it needs to embark on a process of stripping down the roster to start again. Let’s face it, for all his work ethic, that was probably a process OBJ wouldn’t want to be a part of, and the franchise probably feared Beckham would be agitating to be traded or even repeat his criticism of the team and his QB in the media, as done previously.
The problem with all this is that a rebuild isn’t actually the wrong decision, it’s just a late, and costly, one.