When it comes to building a roster in the NFL, every team in the NFL gets roughly the same resources.
With every team limited to a 53-man roster, a hard salary cap, and roughly equivalent picks in the draft (when weighted against the team’s ability), the NFL has parity built into every step of the team building process.
The biggest difference between a well-built team and a bad team is how the front office uses those resources, and how well their coaching staff puts the players in position to succeed.
Whether it is in free agency or the draft, the name of the team-building game is getting value. The teams that use their resources the most wisely tend to have the greatest advantage. The Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles have embraced emerging analytics to make their processes, both team-building and game management, much more efficient. Meanwhile the New England Patriots have built a dynasty out of Bill Belichick’s rare philosophy of extreme honesty and flexibility, both in team construction and game-planning.
But for all that, there is one avenue that teams are only just beginning to truly explore, and that are trades. Trading resources — be it players, draft picks or prospects, or money — is a common practice in the NBA or Major League Baseball. The NFL, however, is much more old-fashioned and conservative, but as teams have begun using the careful study of a massive amount of data points (aka: analytics) to help inform their decisions and not just setting limits and thresholds. One of the new frontiers in that study of data is using it to find value inefficiencies in trades, and exploiting them. With the NFL trade deadline (Oct. 30th, at 4 p.m.) fast approaching, sources around the league are speculating an unusually active market.
On the Scouts Honor podcast, long-time NFL scout Dave-te’ Thomas said on the Scouts Honor podcast that Jon Gruden is looking to blow up the Oakland Raiders roster. Thomas said, “He wants to put up Derek Carr, he wants to put up Amari Cooper, he wants to put up Karl Joseph. Who else is left over there, anyway?”
The Giants likely wouldn’t have an interest in Carr or Cooper, and Thomas suggested that the Jacksonville Jaguars could be trading partners for Carr and Cooper. He added that they have almost no choice but to release Blake Bortles at the end of the season. He also threw out that a second round pick could be a potential price for Carr.
Then there are the Arizona Cardinals, who are also sitting at 1-5, could also be putting some of their best players on the trading block as they retool for Steve Wilks’ vision of the team.
“I have the feeling,” Thomas said on the podcast, “that if someone comes along and makes an offer on David Johnson, he’s out the door. Patrick Peterson, he’s another guy that they’re talking about. The two linebackers, Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick, they’re both out on the market right now. They just realize in Arizona that they don’t have a choice, they have to blow up the team and start again.”
Thomas mentioned that in light of the culture clashes going on in the Cardinals’ locker room, the team likely regrets letting new Giants’ defensive coordinator James Bettcher leave.
Peterson is obviously the biggest name put out as a potential trade piece. The All-Pro cornerback was once one of the most highly paid defenders in the NFL, but his salary over the next two seasons, $11 million in 2019 and $12 million in 2020, are a bargain for the caliber of player he is.
Where the Giants’ come in
But what about the other players? What about the youngsters who could be on a team for a long time and are still on a relatively low-cost contract. Each of them was a former first round draft pick, have proven themselves to be capable players at the NFL level, and would likely cost much less than their original draft slots while teams look to recoup something for a player they will otherwise cut.
If those trades materialize, those are the opportunities to exploit inefficiencies and add value to the roster.
Safety Karl Joseph is an intriguing name for the Giants. Joseph was drafted in the first round (14th overall) of the 2016 draft, and is a dynamic downhill playmaker of a safety. He has the ability to play in man or zone coverage, and even matched up with Sterling Shepard in man coverage in the slot in college. He would be an intriguing option next to Landon Collins in James Bettcher’s defense.
Bucannon and Reddick are also intriguing names for the Giants. Bettcher found a niche role for Bucannon in his defense as the “moneybacker”, using the former safety’s skill set as the weak inside linebacker. Meanwhile, Reddick was drafted specifically for Bettcher’s defense.
What truly makes players like Bucannon, Joseph, or Reddick truly intriguing for the Giants is the value they represent. With the teams looking to move in other directions, they don’t present much value for their current teams. But with their age, between 24 and 26 years old, they each could be defensive stalwarts for the next five years. They are also proven NFL players who would likely be both better and more reliably productive than the players the team would select in the draft.
There is also another factor to consider: The quarterback position.
With the Giants currently holding the number one overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, fans and analysts are focusing on the quarterbacks currently projected to go at the top of the draft. However, Thomas isn’t particularly high on the names being thrown around right now.
“If you look at the quarterbacks that are out there right now,” Thomas said, “everybody is talking about the kid from Missouri [Drew Lock], he’s another Blaine Gabbert. Everybody’s talking about Justin Herbert, and it’s insane. Take a look at this guy’s track record outside of this year, he’s never played a full season, there’s always an injury coming up. Are you going to invest that money that you’re never going to see out on the football field? Honestly, I think the best option, if anybody is going to go for a quarterback right now, head on down to Duke. There’s a Blue Devil there that I think is really jumping up the board and that’s Daniel Jones.”
If those quarterbacks truly don’t live up to the hype, could the Giants find value elsewhere?
The coaches are very high on rookie quarterback Kyle Lauletta, who’s poise, mobility, accuracy, and quick release fit well with Pat Shurmur’s scheme. In the podcast, Thomas mentioned that, though they deny it, the Giants had a draft-day deal in place for Minnesota Vikings’ back-up quarterback Kyle Sloter, but they didn’t pull the trigger. Sloter, 24, is a good-sized and athletic QB who is familiar with Shurmur and his system after last year in Minnesota. Shurmur seems to like Sloter, as the Vikings pursued him despite already having four QBs on the roster, after he was surprisingly cut by the Denver Broncos.
A viable starting quarterback on a rookie contract is one of the greatest values a team can find. One on a mid to late-round rookie deal is a rare value indeed.
So, should the Giants take advantage of other poor teams blowing up their rosters for a traditional NFL-style rebuild and trade for young players who could help speed up the Giants’ own rebuild?