Odell Beckham Jr. – his five year career at the New York Giants is over. The stellar wide receiver, who in 4 of the 5 seasons surpassed 1,000 yards receiving and accumulated numerous Giants franchise records and NFL receiving records, has been deemed surplus to requirements.
Even in the midst of a frantic 2019 free agency period this was a startling trade which will define the fortunes of 2 franchises appearing to be headed in different directions. The Cleveland Browns, after years in the wilderness (including a 1-31 record over two seasons in 2016 and 2017), are amassing a highly competitive roster and even at this early stage they can be installed as favourites to make the AFC playoffs in 2019. The Giants in the meantime are in disarray after the release of Landon Collins and now OBJ, with no cap space to speak of to secure any experienced free agents. Following their poor last two seasons (total of 8 wins) they look like a side in full-on rebuild mode with further pain to come on the field in 2019.
How has it come to this?
It could be argued that in terms of NFL offenses OBJ is one of the major ‘game-changers’ of recent times. His rookie season in 2014 propelled him into the public eye. The speed, the one-handed catches, his route-running – he demonstrated quickly why the Giants took him in the 1st round of the 2014 draft. However, this in a way has in turn brought about some of the problems. OBJ very quickly became a marked-man and ever since 2015 controversy has followed not too far behind him. His clashes with Josh Norman in 2015, were a precursor to an odd 2016 with sideline tantrums, a bust-up with a kicking net, the peeing like a dog celebration, culminating in putting a hole in the Green Bay locker room wall after their playoff defeat (his only playoff game). As time has gone on the story has become OBJ over and above the New York Giants – and no one player is bigger than the team. You could tell the ownership were becoming increasingly frustrated with the OBJ ‘circus’ – and I think he was increasingly frustrated with the Giants inability to win games and he probably viewed it in terms of him being the only one capable of winning games. Something had to give.
So, is it a surprise?
In some ways, yes. You could argue that the Giants did have a playoff calibre offense and that, O-line apart, the priority for the Giants was to rebuild the defense. However, looking at the cap space available to them and their draft capital the Giants front office has obviously decided that they needed to take the roster in a different direction, and used OBJ as the way to increase their ability to rebuild the roster. It is clear that Gettlemen & co. have looked at it and come to the conclusion that this requires a root and branch clear out (in the last few months the list is long – Eli Apple, Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon as well as Collins and OBJ).
How do the Giants move forward?
Firstly, and this is something the wider world should not get to hear about, I would hope the management are talking to the players they need to keep (Barkley, Shepard, Engram, Hernandez etc.) and outline how they are all going to take the franchise forward – together. I can see an outline of a plan from the ashes of this recent firesale – and to me it looks like the Giants are going to try to mimic recent approaches by the Colts (build through draft and shun overpriced free agents) and the Chiefs (groom young QB behind veteran for a year). Fine if it works but it will take time and the Giants may well have already written off 2019 and are looking to 2020 and beyond. Certainly not in ‘win now’ mode.
This is where it is now definite that the last 2-3 years have been mismanaged – back in 2016 they ‘fire’ Coughlin but pay big for effectively a new defense to support Eli Manning in order to ‘win now’. The plan fails and the Giants are then hamstrung by the increase in wage bill. Several recent draft choices have also been ‘busts’ – there are only 6 pre-Gettlemen draft picks still on the roster. Instead Eli’s tenure at the Giants will be tarnished with a poor final 3 years, assuming he sees it through 2019.
On the up side – what little there is – they did get a starting safety in return (Jabrill Peppers) to replace Collins, and they have more draft capital with their additional 1st rounder.
Does this mean the Giants now go get Haskins in the 1st round of the draft – probably.
Do they now need a new star receiver out of the draft too – yes, if D.K.Metcalf could fall into their lap that could be adequate compensation for losing OBJ.
Do they still need to rebuild the defense in the draft too? Yes and I can’t see how they do all that with the picks they have.
Was it the right thing to do?
Unfortunately with all these things only time will tell – and by time it is going to take 2-3 seasons to see if this plays out how Gettlemen is hoping. And I’m not sure that the New York Giants fans and media are going to give him long enough to find out. Big trouble in the big apple for the foreseeable future!