The New York Giants continued to empty the cupboard this week, with two trades of defensive starters.
First, New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman shipped former 2016 first-round draft pick Eli Apple to the New Orleans Saints. The G-Men received a fourth-round pick (2019) and a seventh round-pick (2020) in return.
The fanbase was then shocked that Gettleman then sent All-Pro interior defender Damon Harrison to the Detroit Lions for a mere fifth-round (2019) selection. Many fans, ignorant of the salary cap implications, thought Big Blue got fleeced.
Surely, the burly run stuffer was worth more than that.
Keep in mind that Harrison was signed through the 2020 NFL season, at salary cap hits of $6.75 million (2019) and $9 million (2020). The New York Giants remove those salaries plus the remainder of this year from their cap calculations.
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Even with a $3.2 dead cap hit that serves as a tax for his already paid bonus, and the G-Men save over $18 million overall. From that standpoint, the deal makes total sense. Rebuilding teams do not need bloated free agent contracts, and Harrison is also not a player to build around.
Apple’s rookie contract, like all rookie contracts, was fully guaranteed. There were calls to jettison him and tackle Ereck Flowers in the offseason. Those calls were wisely ignored. After watching both players this season, it’s safe to say that neither could be counted on as a foundational piece. It then became time to make a move, and Flowers was cut last week.
In short, the Giants spun Apple into a potentially useful asset (more on that later), and they extricated themselves financially with the Harrison trade. The white flag has been officially raised on the 2018 NFL season for Big Blue.
Talent evaluation deficit
Previously, Gettleman inherited a muddled salary cap situation with the Carolina Panthers, and he cleaned it up effectively. He can do the same with the New York Giants.
Freeing up cap space and acquiring draft picks are essential elements of this team rebuild. But none of it addresses the biggest issue facing the franchise over the past decade – the ability to evaluate talent effectively.
At the end of former general manager Jerry Reese’s tenure, drafting effective NFL players became a huge problem. There were more Damontre Moore and Owa Odighizuwa types, than there were in the mold of Landon Collins or Odell Beckham. Under Gettleman, evaluating veteran players has become and issue. Big Blue brought in edge rusher Connor Barwin, tackle Nate Solder and linebacker Kareem Martin.
None has been as effective as advertised.
Previously, guard Patrick Omameh had been an unmitigated disaster along the offensive line and was essentially replaced by a 33-year old journeyman. Ditto for running back Jonathan Stewart, before he was tactfully transitioned to injured reserve.
We will save the invariable halfback Saquon Barkley or quarterback Sam Darnold discussion for another day, but remember, the Giants decision to snag Barkley was predicated on the franchise’s complete faith and trust in Manning to move the program forward.
At 1-6, we see that doing that became a fool’s errand.
Even still, there are some out there who won’t let go of the notion that it’s time to have a quarterback succession plan.
Because of his no-trade clause, Manning likely won’t be moving anywhere, but an effective, aging quarterback with a salary cap hit northwards of $20 million won’t be in high demand around the league, even in Jacksonville.
Guys like cornerback Janoris Jenkins, edge rusher Olivier Vernon and tight end Rhett Ellison may pique interest for potential contenders. That goes for Barwin and Martin as well, as the future of their position in New York is Lorenzo Carter.
Acquiring assets and clearing cap space has already begun, but the rebuild won’t go anywhere unless and until better personnel decisions get made. If you’re a New York Giants fan, get ready for a two to three year process that just began this week.