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NFL trade deadline: Giants need to be sellers

Giants need to try to add draft capital, not veteran players

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New York Giants v Los Angeles Rams
Evan Engram
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The 2020 NFL trade deadline is in two weeks. The New York Giants need to be sellers, if possible, and not buyers. Under any circumstances.

The Giants are 1-5. They building/rebuilding/constructing their roster, whatever word you wish to use. They are in the playoff race, but only because they play in the dismal NFC East. They are are not yet a playoff or championship-caliber team, and they cannot delude themselves into thinking that mortgaging more future assets in hopes of making some improbable run to an NFC East title is a good idea.

There cannot be a Leonard Williams type addition to the 2020 Giants. They must think long term here. The Giants have only five picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, per the Draft Network’s pick-by-pick chart. Their fifth-round pick belongs to the New York Jets as the final piece of the Williams trade. Their seventh-round pick was sent to the Denver Broncos for cornerback Isaac Yiadom.

The Giants’ deadline goal should be to add as many draft assets as the possibly can, and at least replace the picks they have already sent away.

Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi, writing for The Athletic, assessed the Giants this way:

Their largest organizational issue affecting the team is they cannot evaluate their talent; they overvalue the players on their roster even though those players have produced a 12-41 record since 2017. With first-year coach Joe Judge wanting to win games, it’s hard for the Giants to tear things down. Judge is trying to build a culture, build a mindset and make the Giants tougher. His roster is so devoid of talent that even though he is coaching hard, he will have a difficult time winning more than four games. And because the NFC East is so bad, the Giants might win too many games, thus removing them from the Lawrence sweepstakes. Why not move receiving tight end Evan Engram for a good value draft pick? Engram will want a new deal next season (as all tight ends desire since George Kittle and Travis Kelce reset the market this past year) and would resist playing for his $6 million fifth-year option, so why not be proactive? Why not take advantage of a needy team? Needy teams are what I refer to as “Wimpy Teams”. Remember, in the cartoon Popeye; his best friend Wimpy was always saying, “he would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today?” Well, some NFL teams would gladly pay next year for something that might help them win today. The Patriots tried that last year with Atlanta receiver Mohamed Sanu; the Eagles helped their Super Bowl chances in 2018 (they beat the Patriots, 41-33) when they acquired running back Jay Ajayi earlier in the season. Teams want to maximize their chances and will gladly give away an asset next year for that burger today. The Giants need to search for a Wimpy partner, sell off receivers Golden Tate or Sterling Shepard to some team just one good receiver away from making a move. The Giants must realize the reality of their situation — which will require honesty amongst themselves, which has not been easy in the last four seasons.

Lombardi is often critical of the Giants, and I often think he has an ax to grind. I do agree with him here, however, that the Giants should be willing to move Engram and other players for the right offers.

Lets’ look at some of the players the Giants might be able to move at the trade deadline.

Evan Engram

Engram might be the big prize on the Giants’ roster for any team looking for a potential play maker who could boost their passing attack. Jason Garrett has not used him in the passing game as frequently as either Ben McAdoo or Pat Shurmur, or in as aggressive a manner when he is targeted. Engram is averaging 3.3 receptions, 5.1 yards per target, 8.9 yards per reception and 29.5 receiving yards per game. All are career lows.

Engram is still only 26 years old and still possesses speed that can cause issues for opposing defenses when he is used to attack them.

The Giants have already picked up Engram’s fifth-year option for 2021 at a cost of $6.013 million.

Personally, I’d rather see the Giants make better use of Engram as a play-making weapon for Daniel Jones rather than trade him away. Still, if they can get a good return they would have to consider it.

Dan Hatman, director of The Scouting Academy and a former NFL scout, said “health is hard with Engram and the Giants might not get more than a sixth- or seventh-round pick. Former NFL GM Jeff Diamond told me it would take a “great offer” to move Engram if he were the GM, and in my view a sixth- or seventh-round pick isn’t it. If the Giants can’t get a third- or fourth-round pick, in my view, they are better off keeping Engram and figuring out how to maximize his ability.

Sterling Shepard

I hate the idea of the Giants moving on from Shepard, who is both a good player and good teammate. But, this is the third year in his five-year career during which he has missed a significant number of games. The New England Patriots gave up a second-round pick for a 30-year-old Mohamed Sanu a season ago. Sanu is both older and not nearly the player a healthy Shepard is. If a wide receiver-needy team is willing to give the Giants a second- or third-round pick for Shepard — which I honestly find unlikely — they have to take it.

Markus Golden

Playing for defensive coordinator James Bettcher, Golden had a resurgent 2019 season and led the Giants with 10 sacks. Surprisingly back with the Giants this season, it’s obvious Golden isn’t going to come anywhere close to those numbers.

The Patrick Graham defense seems to value edge players with a more versatile skill set than the pass-rushing Golden possesses, as Golden has played only 148 snaps in six games. Only once, when the Giants suffered injuries and were short-handed, has Golden played a significant defensive role.

He is playing on a one-year tender and it is pretty apparent he won’t be a Giant next season. If the Giants can get anything in return for him, even something as seemingly insignificant as the seventh-rounder they sent to Denver for Yiadom, they should probably do it.

Kevin Zeitler

When it comes to the veteran right guard, Hatman told me “I’d have to look at cap considerations, but I’d imagine people could be interested in Zeitler.”

Zeitler is in the second year of a three-year, $32 million contract. He carries a 2021 base salary of $12 million and the Giants would incur $2.5 million in dead money (because of signing bonus) if they dealt him.

Diamond said Zeitler would be “hard to trade” because of the money, but if it’s me I make it known that for a fourth- or fifth-round pick I would be willing to send Zeitler packing. Remember, a couple of years ago the Giants moved Damon Harrison to the Detroit Lions for a fifth-round pick. That’s the kind of return, in my view, that might be acceptable, for Zeitler.

I have written this before, but I’m concerned about the 30-year-old nine-year veteran. His play through six games has not been up to his career standards. With fifth-round pick Shane Lemieux on the roster and waiting for a chance I would be willing to see if someone would fork over the Harrison price for Zeitler.

Dalvin Tomlinson

I would really hate to deal Tomlinson, but I think the Giants have to consider it. The 2017 second-round pick is in the final year of his rookie deal, and I’m not sure that the Giants will be able to — or should — re-sign him.

The problem is that with a potential reduction in the NFL salary cap from $198.2 million this year to as little as $175 million next year due to revenues lost because of COVID-19, I think the Giants may be in a situation where they have to choose between Tomlinson and Leonard Williams.

Both are 26. Both are good, but not great, players. The difference is that Williams consistently impacts the pass rush in a way Tomlinson does not and if I have to choose between the two I’m taking the player who has pass rush ability.

The difficulty in dealing Tomlinson would be that the Giants likely wouldn’t get a lot in return. Hatman said that a run-stopping defensive tackle like Tomlinson would “maybe” bring a fourth-round pick because teams “can always find run-stopping defensive tackles.”

A fourth- or fifth-round pick, though, is better than losing him in free agency for nothing this offseason.

Golden Tate

This one seems obvious. Reality is that Tate has not come remotely close to justifying the four-year, $37.5 million contract ($22.95 million guaranteed) GM Dave Gettleman gave him before the 2019 season.

The only real reason for keeping Tate around is that the Giants haven’t really got a whole lot of other experienced, healthy wide receivers to throw the ball to. Is that a good enough reason, though? Probably not, considering that the Giants have to be more about the future than the present.

Problem is, Tate is 32 and putting up the worst production of his career over the first six games of the season. He carries a 2021 base salary of $8.475 million.

Hatman said Tate is “too expensive” for other teams to take on and Diamond said flatly that he “isn’t tradeable.”