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Odell Beckham trade anniversary: Did Giants do the right thing?

You probably already know what I think the answer is

College Football Playoff National Championship - Clemson v LSU
Odell Beckham at the College Football National Championship Game, where his post-game behavior caused controversy.
Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Thursday marks exactly one year since this breathless tweet rocked the NFL world:

The New York Giants actually did it. Just one season after GM Dave Gettleman said of superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. that “I didn’t sign him (to a long-term deal) to trade him,” the Giants did just that.

They sent the mercurial/controversial/brooding/always in the spotlight for the wrong reasons though not a bad guy/insanely talented Beckham to the Cleveland Browns in a stunning deal that left Giants fans shellshocked. See the astounding 1,976 comments in our post announcing the trade. The split opinion and emotional reaction pretty much sums up the way Giants fans felt — and likely still feel — about Beckham.

Here is part of what Gettleman said after the trade:

“So, the obvious question is ‘Why?’ That’s the question that everybody has. After much discussion, we just believe this was in the best interest of the New York Football Giants. ...

“Some have questioned why we signed Odell and then traded him. As I said publicly twice, we didn’t sign him to trade him, but obviously things change. Frankly, what changed is a team made an offer we couldn’t refuse.”

In return for Beckham the Giants got former first-round pick Jabrill Peppers, the 17th overall pick in the 2019 draft (Dexter Lawrence) and the 95th overall pick (Oshane Ximines).

Was that enough? Did the Giants win the trade? Did they lose the trade?

In his season-ending press conference in January, Gettleman neither declared victory nor admitted defeat. He asked everyone to reserve judgment.

“Really and truly, we’re not going to know about that trade for two years. Two rookies, and Jabrill (Peppers) is only in his third year. We’re really not going to be able to evaluate that trade until two years,” Gettleman said. “You come back in two years and hopefully I’m standing here, we can have that conversation. I’m being honest, you have to wait. People immediately want thumbs up or thumbs down. Right now, we are excited about Dexter Lawrence, Oshane (Ximines) and Jabrill (Peppers). We’re going to find out.”

Yes, we are. Only the first chapter of that book has been written, with much of the story yet to be told.

I’m not venturing into this topic today to declare Gettleman and the Giants winners in the deal. Nor am I here to hang an ‘L’ in the Gettleman transactions column.

I’m here to discuss one simple question — did the Giants do the right thing by trading Beckham?

And to make one simple point:

The Giants absolutely did the right thing.

Trading away Beckham did not fix all of the Giants’ problems. It did not make Pat Shurmur the right head coach or James Bettcher the right defensive coordinator. It did not make the Giants a better football team in 2019.

Thing is, the Giants were going nowhere with Beckham. If you win, maybe you can put up with the silliness, the distractions, his obvious unhappiness with his surroundings and his quarterback. The Giants didn’t win. In five years there was one winning season and zero playoff victories.

The Giants signed Beckham to that five-year, $90 million deal because Shurmur and the organization wanted to make it work. They thought they could make it work. They thought Beckham was maturing and growing out of his habit of, while not doing Antonio Brown-level things, always finding ways that didn’t help win football games to keep the spotlight shining upon himself.

The 2018 season, especially the infamous ESPN interview with Josina Anderson, made it apparent that wasn’t going to be the case.

So the Giants made the deal. It’s easy to criticize them for signing Beckham to that mega-deal and then cutting bait so quickly. In my view, though, they did what Beckham made it abundantly apparent they had to do.

They moved on from a situation that, after five years of trying, they knew was untenable. They turned one incredibly talented asset into three premium assets they hope will be part of the solution as they try to fix a broken defense and get back on a winning path.

There were enough Beckham-esque distractions in 2019 — rumors he wanted out of Cleveland, cleats that flouted league rules, wearing an expensive watch during games, the National Championship Game fiasco — that showed Beckham is still Beckham. As extraordinary as his football gifts are, so too is his talent for making the non-football headlines about him.

The Giants may yet lose this trade. Beckham might return to the incredible level at which he played his first two seasons with the Giants. Thing is, Beckham’s production has declined each season since his record-setting rookie year of 2014. After averaging 108.7 yards per game and catching 70 percent of the passes thrown his way as rookie, he averaged career lows of 64.7 yards receiving per game and a 55.6 percent catch rate for Cleveland in 2019. The Browns, hyped as Super Bowl contenders, suffered through a dismal 6-10 season and Freddie Kitchens, now a Giants assistant, was fired as head coach.

Beckham turns just 28 during the upcoming season. If he can get healthy, and he hasn’t been fully healthy since suffering that broken ankle in 2016, maybe he can put up numbers that will remind us of just how wonderful he can be on the football field. The players the Giants added — Peppers, Lawrence, Ximines — may not reach their potential. If the Giants return to winning, especially if those players are part of the reason, whatever Beckham does and whoever he does it for isn’t going to matter.

In the end, the Giants simply did what had to be done.