The words seemed disingenuous as soon as they were uttered, but Dave Gettleman insisted with a straight face that the media had it all wrong.
“We didn’t sign Odell to trade him. OK?” the New York Giants general manager said, just a week ago, as he stood behind an interview podium at the NFL scouting combine.
“I know that’s all over the place,” he continued, dismissing reports of the team’s interest in dealing its most talented wideout, Odell Beckham Jr. “So understand that. That’s all I need to say about that.”
The game of semantics officially ended Tuesday night with the stunning news that the Giants have agreed to trade Beckham to Cleveland in exchange for the Browns’ first-round pick in next month’s draft (pick No. 17 overall), a third-round pick and safety Jabrill Peppers.
The Beckham era — a drama-filled, five-season stint that peaked with a jaw-dropping, headline-grabbing one-handed catch and was littered with head-scratching spectacles of aggression, immaturity, dehydration and one ill-fated boat ride in Miami — has come to an abrupt and astonishing end.
And now, there’s only one final question left to ask: What are you doing, Gettleman?
Just this past summer, the Giants’ brass felt compelled to offer Beckham a five-year, $90 million extension. Now, seven months later, management is content to part ways with the same generational talent it could never figure out how to control.
Making the move all the more infuriating for loyal Giants fans is the compensation, which many around the league deem far too low for a player of Beckham’s caliber. There’s also this reality: Freeing themselves of Beckham’s antics and polarizing nature means the Giants will have to carry $16 million in dead money on the books.
But the act of trading away Beckham isn’t as perplexing as the timing of the move in conjunction with other baffling decisions by Gettleman.
Although Beckham is a tremendously gifted athlete and playmaker, he has played in all 16 regular-season games only once in his career (2016), the Giants are 31-49 during his five seasons and he has no playoff wins to his name.
Prior to the NFL’s October trade deadline, I wrote a column in which I highlighted the one pressing matter the organization had to address: “Do you plan to rebuild the foundation of this football team on Beckham’s shoulders?
“If the answer is anything but an emphatic “yes,” then do everyone — yourselves, Beckham and your fan base — a favor and just get rid of him, salary-cap hit be damned.”
Well, the Giants chose the player they want to build their future around.
And it wasn’t Beckham.
But that begs another question altogether: If you didn’t think you could win with him, why sign Beckham to such a lucrative extension?
A year ago at this time, Gettleman and team owner John Mara were so confident they had the right quarterback in place that they opted not to draft a succession plan behind veteran Eli Manning. Instead, they selected running back Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick. Their offense, they assumed, would be competitive, if nothing else. But the Beckham trade — which came on the heels of the Giants trading linebacker Olivier Vernon to the Browns and free-agent safety Landon Collins fleeing to the rival Washington Redskins — was further proof that the teardown in East Rutherford, New Jersey is still underway, despite what has publicly been said by the front office.
In dealing Beckham, the Giants have lost a rare talent. And truth be told, they’ve rid themselves of potentially unavoidable headaches down the road. But they’ve also managed to raise even more questions about Gettleman’s handling of the Giants and his track record of jettisoning talented star players.
In fact, one of those players, Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, couldn’t help but deliver a few social-media salvos aimed at his former Carolina Panthers GM this week.
“In ‘Gettleman’ WE Trust,” Norman tweeted after it was reported Collins signed a six-year, $84 million contract with Washington.
On the other side of the negotiating table on the Beckham deal was John Dorsey, who assumed the Browns GM job three weeks before Gettleman was hired by the Giants. But the outlook for both franchises is markedly different.
In the same timeframe, Dorsey found a new face for his franchise (the explosive, playmaking, trash-talking Baker Mayfield) and transformed the no-luck Browns from an AFC North doormat to a playoff contender. Meanwhile, the Giants are trying to hold the fort with a 38-year-old quarterback and a running back they may be forced to grind into the ground.
There is, of course, still time for Gettleman to bolster his depleted roster during the draft. Plus, the acquisition of Peppers, a New Jersey native, undoubtedly offsets the departure of Collins. But it’s understandable why fans in New York have lost faith in Gettleman and his master plan.
The pressure is even greater now for the second-year GM to restore the Giants to respectability.
After choosing to keep an aging Manning on the roster, and failing to secure a suitable backup behind him, Gentleman better have a plan.