The Giants let Landon Collins (perhaps their best defensive player) walk this week with only the hope of a future compensatory pick in return. They didn't trade him at the deadline last year, franchise and shop him this year or even try to negotiate a long-term deal. Pfft, a talented player gone with minimal return.
It has been that kind of run for this once-proud franchise that has won eight games in the past two years and reached the playoffs once since a magical 2011 season. The Giants have regressed into one of the league's worst teams while clinging to an aging quarterback and a way of doing business that might be antiquated.
Whatever it is, the results have been painful. The Giants have two players remaining from their 2016 draft class, none from 2015 and only Odell Beckham Jr. from 2014. They're still paying for the sins of the previous regime led by general manager Jerry Reese, and are seemingly adding to the mess by the day.
ESPN reporters Jordan Raanan and Dan Graziano take a look at where the Giants are now, how they got there and what is next.
Why would they keep Eli Manning and let Collins walk?
Raanan: The Collins move was primarily about positional value. General manager Dave Gettleman wasn't going to pay top dollar ($11.15 million on the franchise tag) for a strong safety with questionable cover skills, 100-plus tackles be damned. Maybe if Collins were a free safety, it would have been different. Meanwhile, quarterback is the opposite end of the spectrum. Gettleman is willing to roll back Manning until the Giants find the ideal replacement, and that might take awhile. Contrary to popular belief, the Giants are confident there are some good games and throws left in Manning's body and arm and he plays a position of tremendous value. So he stays and Collins goes.
Graziano: This isn't exactly an apples-to-apples comparison here, even though I understand the fan frustration that prompts the question. Most teams figure out quarterback first and put the rest of the team together from there. So it's not as if the Giants had a meeting and said, "Do we keep Eli or Landon?" and decided on Eli. They looked at their QB situation, decided Eli for one more year would be the best course of action, and then they got to the rest of their plan. When they got to safety, they decided $11.15 million for Collins was too much given the specific kind of player he is, and they didn't like that he seemed eager to make trouble if they franchised him, so they let him go. I guess if Eli had cleaned out his locker and told people he would skip camp without an extension, he would probably be gone, too. It's a silly way to make a decision -- Collins wasn't going to sit out games and miss out on the $11.15 million. But his gambit worked. Gettleman fell for it.
Is OBJ next?
Raanan: I wouldn't rule it out. If the Giants are in a rebuild, it would make sense. Get what they can for their most valuable asset. Beckham is a transcendent player who would yield a favorable return. It would allow the Giants to get their future franchise quarterback, allow that player to grow and give them time while building around tailback Saquon Barkley. If Gettleman had his druthers, this would seem likely to happen. Beckham butted heads with Giants brass again last season and remains a handful to handle. But ownership has a significant say in this one and the Giants already paid him $21.5 million for one season and would incur $16 million in dead money if he's traded. That would not be easy to stomach.
Graziano: Ownership hasn't vetoed many (any?) of Gettleman's decisions since hiring him as GM, but if he brought a Beckham trade to them, I believe the owners would have to tell him no. If you trade Beckham, you're telling them they just spent $21.5 million for 12 games, and you're incurring the $16 million cap hit for 2019. Lots of people around the league still believe this can happen, and I know a handful of teams are hoping it will happen. But at this time, I don't know of any active trade discussions, and Gettleman would have to be absolutely knocked over by an offer before running it past co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch. Think what the Raiders got for Khalil Mack, and more.
What are some of the Giants' other moves that never should have been made?
Graziano: You mean other than selecting a running back with the No. 2 pick in a draft that had four top-10 quarterbacks when you were entering a rebuilding year with a 37-year-old quarterback? Well, Gettleman's first year wasn't exactly loaded with hits. Alec Ogletree was a massive overpay in trade compensation and contract. The Jonathan Stewart signing was a pure waste of money. Patrick Omameh didn't last the season as a starting offensive lineman. Heck, there really wasn't any art to the Nate Solder signing -- the Giants just kept throwing more money at him until the other teams bowed out. You can tell me he played better in the second half, but he didn't play like one of the highest-paid tackles in the league should. The root problem is the Giants failed to accurately assess their talent level. They thought they could turn it around in one offseason and contend last season. They were nuts to think that.
Raanan: The Giants are hoping to address the quarterback position in the first round of this year's draft. Only they're several years late. They should have gotten in front of the situation before Manning's play dipped to its current level. Instead, it can be argued they're already in the land Gettleman desperately wanted to avoid: "Quarterback Hell." It has the Giants stuck in a rough spot now. They need a quarterback quickly before the primes of their two stars -- OBJ and Barkley -- are wasted.
Who is to blame for the team's lack of direction?
Graziano: This is an institutional problem. Reese was obviously a terrible drafter. There's more than a decade's worth of proof, and it's the main reason the roster got hollowed out and the Giants have been one of the NFL's worst teams for the past half-decade. But the reason the hiring of Gettleman was uninspiring was because it signaled a reluctance to change the Giants' way of doing business. This is a team that has proudly run itself the same way for more than 90 years and doesn't like the idea of change. Hiring a GM in 2017 who outwardly disdains analytics sends a terrible message about who you want to be as a franchise and how you intend to try to compete in a changing league. So I say it starts at the top, with owners who passed up a chance to go in a more forward-looking, open-minded direction. If the past seven years of Giants football haven't convinced them they need to try something different, what will?
Raanan: Their current state is a direct result of Gettleman bypassing the perfect opportunity to rebuild. They were coming off a 3-13 season with a 37-year-old quarterback and had a new coach, new GM and the No. 2 overall pick last year. Could there have been a more perfect time to tear it all down and start over? Instead, the Giants tried to win last season, it exploded in their face (5-11) and now they are stuck in this awkward spot of deciding whether they should try to compete or blow it all up. Gettleman botched it last year and now this organization looks directionless.
What is the long-term plan?
Raanan: Ah, this is the question that seems to have no answer. And that is the problem. The Giants are going nowhere until they get their next franchise quarterback. They want to get him this year, but there are no guarantees. Miss this year and the best-case scenario is the Giants finally having a quarterback ready to win (in his second or third season) by 2021 at the earliest. Beckham will be in his eighth year by then and Barkley his fourth. Most of their primes will have been exhausted. So what is it the Giants are trying to do here? It's unclear at this moment.
Graziano: Draft a quarterback, sit him behind Eli for a year and build a roster around him. Gettleman said as much at the combine, citing Kansas City 2017-18 as the example. Problem is, the main reason the Chiefs were able to keep Patrick Mahomes on the bench as a rookie was that they were winning and Alex Smith was playing well. And obviously, the chances of whomever the Giants draft in April being as good as Mahomes are slim. This is a roster that needs a ton of work on both sides of the ball, and it's going to be hard to get the most out of star talents such as Barkley, Beckham and Evan Engram while they wait for a quarterback to develop.
What moves will Gettleman & Co. make next?
Graziano: I believe they'll draft Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins for quarterback. (Again, their time-trusted scouting process isn't going to lead them to the smallish Kyler Murray, even if you think they should take him.) I just don't know what you do on defense. Their only edge rusher of note was Olivier Vernon, whom the Giants agreed to trade to the Browns in exchange for right guard Kevin Zeitler on Friday. And taking Haskins in the first round this year means passing on one of a dozen or so uber-talented pass-rushers. They're a year behind. They should have taken the QB last year and the pass-rusher this year and they'd look a heck of a lot better. Instead, they have to hit on a QB in the first round and find defense later in a draft that's stacked with defensive talent at the top. I just don't get it. They look stuck in the mud.
Raanan: It appears Gettleman is preparing to overdose on "Hog Mollies." That is his way of referring to linemen. Being a staunch believer that the game is won up front, the Giants are going to be concentrating on the offensive and defensive fronts this offseason. Expect a right tackle in free agency. Think Daryl Williams, whom Gettleman drafted in the fourth round in 2015 when he was with the Panthers. On the defensive side, expect a run-stuffer and a linebacker who can cover, potentially nose tackle Danny Shelton and linebacker Deone Bucannon, a move that had some buzz last week at the combine. Whoever it is, think big in the coming weeks.