EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – One decision was to trade a high-profile wide receiver, while the other was to retain the best quarterback in Giants history. But to general manager Dave Gettleman, dealing Odell Beckham, Jr. to the Cleveland Browns and keeping Eli Manning under center for a 16th season had a vital common denominator – each was the right move for the franchise as he constructs the roster for the 2019 season.
"We just believe this was in the best interest of the New York Football Giants," Gettleman said today on a conference call in his first extensive public comments since dealing Beckham last week for safety Jabrill Peppers and first- and third-round draft choices in next month's NFL Draft. "I want everybody to know that this was purely a football business decision. There's no intrigue, there's no he said, she said, none of that stuff. So let's not waste time with those types of questions after the fact. Odell was a tremendous talent, making him a valuable asset. With football being the ultimate team game … we turned that fact into three assets, at the very least."
Gettleman is equally certain keeping Manning is the right move. He cites the second half of the 2018 season, when the Giants were 4-4 and Manning threw 13 touchdown passes and only five interceptions.
"You turn around and look at what happened last year," Gettleman said. "Once we got that O-line fixed, better – we're going to continue working on that - look what we did in the second half of the year on offense. This narrative that Eli is overpaid and can't play is a crock. So at the end of the day, you have to say Gettleman is out of his mind, or he knows what he's talking about when he evaluates players. That's really what it is. … If you disagree with me, that's fine. But if you turn around and look at what he's making right now and look around the league and see what quarterbacks are making, if you were in my shoes, you'd say the way he finished the season and what he's making, there wasn't a decision to make."
This month, Gettleman also acquired guard Kevin Zeitler in another trade with the Browns, and signed wide receiver Golden Tate, defensive end Markus Golden, defensive tackle Olsen Pierre. He has re-signed kicker Aldrick Rosas and offensive linemen Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley, among others, and has 12 draft choices to acquire more assets.
It's all part of Gettleman's plan to build the roster this offseason. But the other elements of his strategy will remain under wraps until he is ready to reveal them.
"Very honestly, it's not my responsibility to tell you guys what I'm doing," Gettleman said. "Just like it's not my responsibility to respond to every rumor that comes down the pike. That's not my job. It's not my responsibility. Trust me, we've got a plan. Over time, you've got to be patient. Everybody wants answers now in this instant-gratification society, instant-gratification world, and everybody wants answers now. Over time, you'll see it. You've got to trust it.
"We have positions to address, and that plan is to address those positions, plain and simple, and we'll do it with whatever means necessary. You may do it with a draft pick, you may do it on a waiver claim, you may do it in free agency, you may sign an unrestricted free agent, you may sign a street free agent, you may sign a third-year player that doesn't get a qualifying offer from his team, and you may make a trade. There's a million ways to do it. We're exploring and using all those options."
Gettleman rejected the term "rebuilding" with regard to his current actions and goals, and made it clear he believes the Giants can build the roster and simultaneously succeed on the field.
"We're building," Gettleman said. "The object of this is to win as many games as possible every year. We're building. We were 3-13 when I took over. We were 5-11 last year - 12 of those games were by a touchdown or less. We're building. I don't understand why that's a question. Really and truly, you can win while you're building. Down in Carolina (where he was previously the G.M.), I walked into a different situation. The first year, we go 12-4. Then the next year, we had to build a little bit. We had a crazy year, go 7-8-1, but make the playoffs because the NFC South was struggling. We win a playoff game, lose a playoff game. Then the next year, we did everything but win the ultimate prize. You can win while you're building. They're not separate pieces."
The Beckham trade was one of the most significant in franchise history. In his first five seasons, the former first-round draft choice forced his way into any conversation about the NFL's very best wide receivers. But when Cleveland general manager John Dorsey reached out to Gettleman last Tuesday, it set in motion a long day of negotiations that resulted in each side receiving what it was seeking in a trade.
"Obviously, there's a lot of stuff that factors in, but at the end of the day, in order for us to move Odell, the other team was going to have to knock it out of the park," Gettleman said. "We were not actively shopping him. Calls were coming to us, and the only one I reached out to was, again, Buffalo, and I was just as much giving (G.M.) Brandon (Beane, with whom he worked in Carolina) a hard time as anything else. For us to get Jabrill Peppers, who we think is going to be a very good safety in this league. He's young, we've got him under contract for three years at very reasonable value. To get another one (first-round pick), this year is number 17, and to get that kind of a value in this type of a draft, and to get a third-round pick completing our dance card for April, it was just too much to pass up. It was too much value for us. You look at everything, but at the end of the day, it's really about football. We've got positions to address. This was about us having the ability to address multiple positions.
"I completely understand why people are going to debate the merits of this deal, because draft picks are involved. This trade really won't be able to be completely evaluated until we get further down the road. Finally, because of Odell's talent and personality, this was a decision we did not enter into lightly. There were a number of factors to take into consideration."
One was that Beckham last year signed a $90 million contract extension, and Gettleman said that deal wasn't made so the Giants could send Beckham to another team.
"As I said publicly twice, we didn't sign him to trade him, but obviously things change," Gettleman said. "Frankly, what changed is a team made an offer we couldn't refuse. As it turns out, the fact that he was signed for five more years made him very attractive, and enabled us to get legitimate value. You ask me about my mantra of quitting on talent, and yes, I believe that fully, but quitting on talent is when you cut a player or get marginal value in return, and we all know this did not happen here.
"Speaking of value, you ask me how we came to this. My barometer or litmus test was the franchise tag. So just for the sake of discussion, or explanation, if we had not signed Odell back in August and we had played the season out and we had put the franchise tag on him - if another team had signed him and we didn't match it, we would've gotten two first-round picks. So that was my litmus test. Oh, and by the way, as a point of reference, it only happened once in league history, that was in '98 with Carolina signing (defensive tackle) Sean Gilbert off the franchise tag. Again, as our litmus test, it turns out we not only got two first-round picks, but we also got a third."
And with them, Gettleman will continue to build the Giants' roster.