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Assessing Giants GM Dave Gettleman: Good, bad, ugly of his trades

Let’s spend part of the bye week taking a deep dive into the work done by Dave Gettleman

Washington Football Team v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Beyond the obviously not good enough 12-30 won-loss record during his time as New York Giants general manager, how has Dave Gettleman performed? Does he deserve the opportunity to stay beyond this season season, should that be something the 69-year-old wants to do?

These are questions I get asked all the time. For a while now I have been promising an in-depth look at the work done by Gettleman in his three seasons at the helm of the Giants. Let’s use the bye week to dive into what will really be a Dave Gettleman performance review.

This will be broken up into pieces. Trades, free agency and the draft will be covered in separate posts. A fourth post will give some thoughts on what I think might happen with the GM job going forward.

Today, we begin with the trades Gettleman has made.


Alec Ogletree

(March 7)

Giants received: LB Alec Ogletree, 2019 seventh-round pick (DT Chris Slayton)
Rams received: 2018 fourth-round pick, 2018 sixth-round pick

When the Ogletree trade was made, I lauded the move. Finally, the Giants were upgrading the linebacking corps. Boy, was I wrong! Gettleman said Ogletree would be the team’s “defensive quarterback.”

Dave-Te Thomas, long-time NFL scout who died earlier this year, told me the Rams couldn’t wait to get rid of Ogletree and that he was a disaster running a defense. Turns out, that was spot on. Ogletree turned out to be a bad player with a massive contract who at times couldn’t get himself lined up, much less run a defense.

The Giants would have been better served to keep the draft picks and the cap space, and just give the job or funning the defense to Goodson. As we found out, though, the Pat Shurmur/James Bettcher coaching staff had no interest in that.

Verdict: Bad trade

Jason Pierre-Paul

(March 22)

Giants received: 2018 third-round pick (DT B.J. Hill), 2018 fourth-round pick (QB Kyle Lauletta)
Buccaneers received: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, 2018 fourth-round pick

I expressed my feelings on this trade when the Giants faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a few weeks ago.

I think Gettleman and the Giants did the right thing. Considering his health, production and the three years he had left on a four-year, $62 million contract he had signed with the previous regime, it looked pretty apparent — at least to me — the Giants weren’t going to get their money’s worth. I thought at the time that Gettleman had gotten excellent value for a player the team didn’t want. It’s just that JPP is, well, JPP and there is nothing normal about him. All the credit in the world to Pierre-Paul for making the Giants look bad here.

Verdict: Right idea, wrong result

Riley Dixon

(April 20)

Giants received: P Riley Dixon
Broncos received: 2019 seventh-round pick

I have watched Dixon for two years now. I quite honestly don’t have a clue why the Denver Broncos thought they needed an upgrade. The guy is terrific.

Verdict: Outstanding trade

Brett Jones

(Aug. 26)

Giants received: 2019 seventh-round pick (OL George Asafo-Adjei)
Vikings received: OL Brett Jones

The Giants needed cap space, Jones was going to ride the bench behind Jon Halapio and Gettleman managed to clear roughly $3 million in cap space by moving Jones.

There was disbelief at the time, including from here, that the Giants really never gave Jones an opportunity to win the center job after he played well filling in for Weston Richburg the prior season. Jones, though, has done little since being dealt. He started three games for Minnesota in 2018, and has played just one offensive snap in the past two seasons.

The Giants got nothing out of Asafo-Adjei, who was quickly out of the league.

Verdict: Does anyone really care?

Eli Apple

(Oct. 23)

Giants received: 2019 fourth-round pick (traded), 2020 seventh-round pick (T.J. Brunson)
Saints received: CB Eli Apple

Shurmur tried to give Apple, who had gone to the media with gripes about previous coach Ben McAdoo, a clean slate. In the end, the Giants decided they were better off moving on. Apple has been through New Orleans and is now in Carolina since the deal.

Verdict: Good move that had to be made.

Damon Harrison

(Oct. 24)

Giants received: 2019 fifth-round pick (traded in DeAndre Baker deal)
Lions received: DT Damon Harrison

Harrison was a great player for the Giants and there was outrage in the fan base when Gettleman moved on from the run-stuffing ‘Snacks.’ In the end, though, Gettleman was right. Harrison’s play fell off a cliff in 2019 and while he was picked up this season by the Seattle Seahawks he has yet to play a snap.

Verdict: Good move


Kevin Zeitler

(March 8)

Giants received: OL Kevin Zeitler
Browns received: LB Olivier Vernon

To be honest, this might be the best trade Gettleman has made. The Giants were set to release Vernon, wanting out from under the three remaining years on the five-year, $85 million contract Jerry Reese signed him to in 2016. They ended up getting a quality guard in Zeitler.

Vernon has played in just 17 of 25 games and given the Browns just 5.5 sacks. Zeitler, though he isn’t having a great season, is the veteran anchor of an improving offensive line. The Giants could save $12 million against the 2021 salary cap if they cut Zeitler. Whether they keep him or not, the two years they have already gotten from him make this a winning deal for Gettleman.

Verdict: Excellent trade

Odell Beckham

(March 12)

Giants received: S Jabrill Peppers, 2019 first-round pick (DT Dexter Lawrence), 2019 third-round pick (LB Oshane Ximines)
Browns received: WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Ahh, here we are. The most controversial trade of the Gettleman era. Let’s just realize we are all going to see this one differently. There are those who are happy he’s gone and supported the trade. There are still those who think the Giants screwed this one up, and no matter what will always think they screwed it up. That’s just how it is.

There was always an undercurrent of expectation that Beckham wasn’t going to finish his five-year, $90 million contract with the Giants. The relationship was just too rocky. The fact that Gettleman and the Giants sent Beckham packing just a year after giving him that mega-deal, though, was stunning.

Everyone sees Beckham’s sideline antics and off-the-field decisions differently. Gettleman, ownership and Shurmur concluded that the headaches caused by Beckham’s constant ability to distract, to find headlines for the wrong reasons, combined with the fact that the Giants weren’t winning with Beckham as the center of their universe, made it time to move on. And, no, I’m not saying he was a bad guy. Just that he had a tiring ability to keep the spotlight on himself for things that didn’t help the Giants win football games.

Would Beckham go on to star and make the Giants regret banishing him to Cleveland? Did Gettleman get enough in return with Jabrill Peppers and draft picks that turned into Dexter Lawrence and Oshane Ximines?

“You’re not going to be able to do a thumbs up or thumbs down on this trade (OBJ) for a little bit ... in two or three years, you will have your opinions,” Gettleman said at the time.

We now have nearly two years of evidence. What does it tell us?

When it comes to Beckham, the evidence tells us he appears to be a declining player. Yes, some of you will scream that calling him “declining” is unfair because he’s out for the season right now with a torn ACL.

Look hard at the facts, though.

Look at the 2020 receptions and yards per game. That’s half, less than half actually, of what he did as a rookie. Those numbers have consistently dropped year over year, with the exception of 2018. His catch percentage and yards per target follow the same pattern.

Is that tied to quarterback play? Would all of that be different if he was in San Francisco playing for Kyle Shanahan or Kansas City playing for Andy Reid? Maybe, but the numbers are what they are. There is no factual, production-based argument that can be made that indicates 2020 Beckham is the same player he was his first couple of seasons with the Giants.

When you think about Beckham and whether or not the Giants did the right thing, it’s probably also fair to consider the pre-torn ACL chatter that the Browns might be tiring of Beckham and looking for a way to move on.

Now, did the Giants get enough in return? Again, everyone is going to have a different take on that and no minds are going to be changed here. Gettleman said the deal passed the “litmus test” of two-first-round picks (a former first-rounder in Peppers and the 17th pick they used on Lawrence).

The Minnesota Vikings got a first-round pick and three Day 3 picks from the Buffalo Bills for Stefon Diggs. The Houston Texans got only David Johnson, and second- and fourth-round picks for DeAndre Hopkins, a far more impactful player than Beckham at this stage of their careers.

Peppers is a good, but not great player. There is no doubt, though, that he is a critical player, one of the team’s young leaders, and a guy they depend on to provide energy and play-making.

Lawrence is a good, young, ascending player. He’s having more impact in the middle of the Giants’ defense than he did a year ago when he made the NFL All-Rookie Team. How good will he be? I don’t think we know yet.

Cumulatively, do Peppers, Lawrence and Ximines — when healthy — help the Giants more than Beckham might have? Two good players and one who might develop into a much-needed pass rusher isn’t a bad haul.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the Beckham trade was that Gettleman chose to replace him with Golden Tate, and the Giants just haven’t gotten as much from Tate as they expected.

In the end, Gettleman and the Giants did what they felt was right. Nothing that has happened over the past two seasons leads me to conclude that they made the wrong move.

Verdict: I’m fine with this trade.

B.J. Goodson

(Sept. 2)

Giants received: Conditional 2020 seventh-round pick
Packers received: LB B.J. Goodson

The Pat Shurmur/James Bettcher coaching staff didn’t want Goodson. We can debate why all day, but that’s the reality. It’s a minor miracle that Gettleman got something in return for Goodson after the team announced it was going to waive the veteran linebacker. Because the pick the Packers would have surrendered for Goodson was later than what the Giants would have had in a swap of picks with Green Bay, the Giants actually ended up with nothing. So, it is a trade that ended up not really being a trade. It was kind of a giveaway.

Verdict: Don’t really think this even deserves a grade, but it was a questionable decision from the coaching staff.

Leonard Williams

(Oct. 28)

Giants received: DL Leonard Williams (plus $4 million of Williams’ salary)
Jets received: 2020 third-round pick, 2021 fifth-round pick

This is a trade Gettleman never should have made. He took on money and gave away two draft picks for a player who was set to be a free agent at the end of the year when the Giants were a losing team that should have been shedding salary and adding draft picks — mostly so that the Giants would get the inside track on signing the player for 2020 and beyond.

Gettleman hoped the Giants would be able to sign Williams to a long-term deal. That didn’t happen and he is playing 2020 on a franchise tag that is costing the Giants $16.126 million. That seems like a ridiculous amount of money for a guy who had a half-sack in 2019 and had developed a reputation for “almost” making a lot of plays, but in the end not actually making enough plays.

A funny thing has happened, though. The 26-year-old Williams is playing his best football since a Pro Bowl 2016 season, has become the Giants’ best defensive lineman, and is earning himself a big pay day at the end of the season. If the Giants let him get away, he won’t be easy to replace.

Williams has 5 sacks and appears on his way to surpassing his career-best of 7. Williams tied for fifth in the league in pass-rush productivity among interior defensive linemen. He’s been a disruptive player who has both made plays and helped his teammates make plays.

Chris disagrees with me on this one, feeling Williams is the same player he was a year ago but Patrick Graham is making better use of him. Maybe there is merit to that, but production is production and Williams is — overall — the most productive defensive lineman the Giants have.

If they are able to sign him long-term and he remains productive I think the angst over how the Giants acquired him will eventually dissipate. If he leaves via free agency, well, then it’s fair game to criticize the resources the Giants invested in him for just a season and a half.

Verdict: Trade that shouldn’t have been made, but ... Williams is a good player who is helping the Giants play good defense.


Isaac Yiadom

(Sept 3)

Broncos received: 2021 seventh-round draft pick
Giants receive: Isaac Yiadom

The Giants needed bodies at cornerback, and Yiadom is a 24-year-old former third-round pick by the Denver Broncos who had fallen out of favor there with a new coaching staff. He’s the kind of player you take a flier on with a seventh-round pick.

Yiadom didn’t play all that well in an early-season opportunity, but has been solid for the Giants the past two weeks.

Verdict: Good, low-risk move

Markus Golden

(Oct. 23)

Giants received: 2021 sixth-round draft pick
Cardinals received: Markus Golden

The Giants employed a seldom-used unrestricted free agent tender to bring Golden back to the team after a 10-sack 2019 season. The veteran edge rusher was obviously, though, not a comfortable fit for what Patrick Graham wanted at the position and played sparingly. The Giants ended up getting something for a player they didn’t really seem to have a role for.

Verdict: Good move