EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In two separate trades that will significantly alter both their offense and defense, the Giants have acquired safety Jabrill Peppers, guard Kevin Zeitler and two draft choices while sending the Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. and linebacker Olivier Vernon
“The New York Football Giants would like to thank Odell Beckham, Jr. for his contributions,” said Giants general manager Dave Gettleman. “We truly wish him well in Cleveland, and we want to wish OV the best and nothing but success for both of them.”
The deal is contingent on the players passing physicals with their new teams, which are expected to be completed no later than Monday.
The trades are the first by the Giants in which the teams exchanged players in 12 years, and that deal was also with the Browns. On March 9, 2007, the Giants acquired running back Reuben Droughns from Cleveland for wide receiver Tim Carter. Droughns played two seasons for the Giants and led the Super Bowl XLII champions with six regular-season rushing touchdowns.
The two selections received in the 2019 NFL Draft are 17th overall selection in the first round and the 32nd pick in the third round (95th overall, which the Browns had acquired from New England).
“With the first-round draft choice, that gives us six and 17,” said Gettleman. “As we continue to build this team, you need draft pick capital. This trade enabled us to do that.”
Barring another deal, the Giants will select two players in the first round for the first time since 1984 (linebacker Carl Banks and offensive lineman William Roberts).
“We’re very excited we were able to get a quality NFL guard in Kevin Zeitler,” said Gettleman. “We’ve already had him in here, and he passed his physical. That really adds another piece to the offensive line repair that we have going. Now, we have most of the line under control for the next couple years. It’s a great opportunity for us to build stability on our offensive line. We’re excited about that.”
Zeitler (ZITE-ler), 6-4 and 315 pounds, has started 103 of the 104 regular-season games and all four postseason games in which he’s played at right guard. He has started 72 consecutive regular-season games (plus two postseason games), missed only eight games in his career, and he played in every one of his team’s games in each of the last four seasons.
The Wisconsin native was the 27th overall selection in the 2012 draft by the Bengals. He started every game in his rookie season. In 2013, he missed four games with a foot injury and the following year four more with calf injuries. He has not missed a game since. Zeitler started all 16 games (plus one playoff game) for Cincinnati in 2015-16, and after joining the Browns as a free agent, for Cleveland in 2017-18.
At the University of Wisconsin, Zeitler played in 43 games with 36 starts. He helped the Badgers win back-to-back Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl berths in his junior and senior seasons, and he was named a first-team All-America his final year.
Zeitler will bring production, experience and stability to the only offensive line position in which the Giants started three different players last season.
Peppers, 5-11 and 213 pounds, will make an immediate impact for the Giants at safety.
“We’re very excited to have Jabrill,” said Gettleman. “A lot of people remember him from his days at Paramus Catholic. He’s coming back home. I spoke to him last night and he’s excited and thankful and couldn’t wait to get here. Jabrill is a quality safety in this league and he is a legitimate linchpin on the back end of your defense. The way this game is being played, your safeties are critical in pass defense.”
The 25th overall selection in the 2017 draft out of Michigan, Peppers started all 29 games in which he played at safety. Peppers made 134 tackles (96 solo) and had 1.0 sack, two interceptions, eight passes defensed, and four fumble recoveries. He also averaged 7.3 yards on 55 punt returns.
In 2018, Peppers started all 16 games and was credited with 77 tackles (52 solo), 1.0 sack, and had five passes defensed and three fumble recoveries. He twice had a career-high eight tackles – on Oct. 21 at Tampa Bay (career-best seven solo) and Dec. 2 at Houston (four solo).
Peppers is a New Jersey native who starred at two high schools located a short drive from MetLife Stadium – Don Bosco Prep and then Paramus Catholic.
Beckham, the Giants’ first-round draft choice in 2014, played in 59 regular-season games and had 390 receptions for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns. The catches and receiving touchdowns are both the second-highest totals in Giants history, while the yardage total is fourth. Beckham was a Pro Bowler in each of his first three seasons.
In 2018, he led the Giants’ wide receivers with 77 receptions catches for 1,052 yards and six touchdown catches. The latter two figures were team-high totals.
Vernon played three seasons for the Giants after joining the team as a free agent in 2016, following four years with the Miami Dolphins. He twice led the Giants in sacks, with 8.5 in his first season with the team and 7.0 last year (when he also had a team-high 21 quarterback hits).
In 2018, he moved from defensive end to outside linebacker when James Bettcher became the coordinator. Vernon missed the first five games with an ankle injury before finishing with 30 tackles (23 solo) in 11 games. He had at least 1.0 sack in four of those games, including 2.5 in the finale vs. Dallas. On Jan. 10, Vernon was named to the NFC Pro Bowl team as a replacement for Chicago’s Khalil Mack, who was unable to participate due to injury. It was Vernon’s first Pro Bowl selection.
The Giants currently own 12 selections in the 2019 draft, including their two first-round selections, two in the fourth round (one acquired from New Orleans in the Eli Apple trade), and three in the fifth round – their own, the choice they received from Detroit for Damon Harrison, and a compensatory selection. The Giants have one choice in the second, third and sixth rounds, and two in the seventh round (selections acquired from the Rams for linebacker Alec Ogletree and the Vikings for center Brett Jones; their own seventh-rounder was sent to Denver for punter Riley Dixon).
“You can win while you build a roster,” said Gettleman. “We do have a plan, and this is a part of it.”