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‘Things I think’: Leonard Williams trade, Daniel Jones, 2023 halfway point

The Giants are setting themselves up for the future as a critical second half of the season arrives

Carolina Panthers v New York Giants
Leonard Williams
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Big Blue View readers love the New York Giants’ trade of Leonard Williams to the Seattle Seahawks, with 72% (3,902) of 5,402 voters giving the move an ‘A’ grade.

So do I.

At 2-6, trading the 29-year-old Williams was really a no-brainer for the Giants. At 29, in the final year of his contract and with his production seeming to be in decline, there was no chance the Giants were going to give Williams another multi-year contract. GM Joe Schoen made that clear last offseason, choosing to swallow Williams’ gargantuan $32.3 million 2023 cap hit rather than work out a contract extension that would have provided immediate cap relief.

So, truthfully, it has always been clear that this would be Williams’ last season with the Giants. With the Giants realistically out of the playoff hunt getting something in return for Williams and getting some salary cap relief was easily the best option.

But that return! Wow!

With an apparently robust market for Williams’ services, GM Joe Schoen was able to secure a 2024 second-round pick and a 2025 fifth-round pick for Williams. That is more than the third- and fifth-round picks then-GM Dave Gettleman gave up to get Williams in 2019 — when Williams was considered to be in his prime.

The second-round pick from Seattle would be No. 61 if the 2024 NFL Draft were held today. Schoen, who may not be done dealing before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. NFL trade deadline, currently holds picks 3, 35, 61 and 69 in the draft.

That would give Schoen four cracks at good players in the early portion of the draft. Or, and maybe more significantly, it gives him assets to use to move up in the draft should he and coach Brian Daboll decide that quarterback has to be on the menu.

I’m not the only one who can see the potential dominoes. It’s pretty obvious. Peter Schrager of Good Morning Football sees them:

In moving Williams, Schoen chose the highest possible draft compensation over getting major cap relief. The Seahawks are reportedly taking on less than $1 million of the $10 million remaining on Williams’ 2023 base salary. Schoen did get some cap relief by converting Williams’ remaining $10 million in base salary to a signing bonus split between this season and the 2024 void year in Williams’ contract.

In case you haven’t seem them, here are the specifics:

If my math is right, that should create about $4.7 million in cap relief for the Giants this season. That is nice, but the draft compensation is far more than could have been expected.

This is a big win for Schoen.

About the Daniel Jones timeline

There has been a good deal of angst over Daboll saying that Jones was cleared for contact by doctors on Sunday morning — before the game against the New York Jets. We all saw what happened, and of course it would have been nice to have Jones available rather than Tommy DeVito.

Reality is, though, that was never possible once the Giants ruled him out. I asked Daboll on Monday to clarify NFL rules about a players’ game status. He confirmed that once a player is officially ruled OUT, as Jones was on Friday, that cannot be changed. The player cannot play.

Now, why did the Giants rule Jones out instead of listing him as questionable or doubtful? Daboll said the medical staff told him Friday morning that Jones would not be cleared to play against the Jets.

“I told you [the media] when they told me he was going to be out,” Daboll said. “They told me he was out, so he was out, and they told me after the game that they looked at him he’d be ready to go [next week].”

I’m not buying the idea that the Giants screwed this up. They went with the information they were given. Some have made a fuss over the idea that while Jones was cleared in the morning Daboll did not find out until after the game. Again, a big nothing-burger. It didn’t matter. It wasn’t going to affect anything about the game with the Jets, so it’s not a big deal.

Regardless of that, I’m glad Jones is back. Not only because it means we don’t have to figure out who the quarterback will be Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders, but because the Giants do have a long-term quarterback decision to make. Especially if they are going to end up with a high draft pick. The best way to gather information on whether or not they need to select a quarterback is to see Jones on the field with Saquon Barkley, Andrew Thomas, Wan’Dale Robinson, Jalin Hyatt and as many of the offensive weapons the Giants were expected to have as possible. Over the final nine games, can the Giants showcase an offense they can win with?

The last time we saw Jones and Barkley on the field together, the Giants were putting up 31 points in a half against the Arizona Cardinals. Darren Waller’s status is uncertain, but I think the Giants need to see what their offense looks like when it is whole — or as close to whole as it can get.

The halfway point

The Giants are 2-6. That certainly isn’t where they want to be. They have had two games in hand that they probably should have won (Bills, Jets) and likely expected to make a better showing against and perhaps defeat the Seahawks — a game they lost 24-3.

The first half of the season has been a reality check for the Giants, and for their fans. A reminder that Schoen and Daboll were hired before the 2022 season because the Giants were tied with the Jets for the worst record in football over the prior five seasons and that they had experienced a decade of futility interrupted by one 2016 playoff loss.

This was never going to be turned around overnight.

I think Schoen knew when the season began that, despite outside expectations, the Giants weren’t ready for prime time. Or to compete at the upper echelon of the NFC. He said “we’ll see” nearly a dozen times during a season-opening press conference at the end of August when asked about expectations or whether the 2023 team was better than the 2022 version.

The Giants had a lot of things go their way during a shocking 7-2 start to the Schoen/Daboll era. Including the playoffs, the Giants finished 10-8-1. That means they went 3-6-1 over their final 10 games. Add this season’s 2-6 start, that is 5-12-1 over their last 18 games. They are 12-14-1 overall since the beginning of 2022.

That is a reminder that there is a lot of work to be done before the Giants get to where they want to go. It takes more than one year to fix a decade of misery.

Despite this season’s 2-6 record, when you look around the roster there are positive signs with some good young players. Getting to where they want to be, though, is going to take the Giants some time.