Eli Manning is due a bonus of $5 million if he is on the Giants’ roster on the fifth day of the NFL year, meaning his bank account gets a hefty direct deposit Sunday. Or perhaps Monday, if the electronic transaction is delayed a day based on weekend inactivity. Either way, what for the past 15 years was a formality — Eli getting paid — is now a litmus test for an entire franchise.
If that money is moved from team to player, Manning would be assured of returning for a 16th season. This was considered a foregone conclusion as recently as earlier this week, but with Tuesday night’s stunning development — the trade of Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns — it is reasonable to suspect general manager Dave Gettleman, with the tacit approval of ownership, is capable of dislodging anyone at any time.
Not that Manning should ever be lumped in with Beckham, in terms of current and future value and certainly not as far as the sentiment the two athletes engender in the building. The Giants adore Manning and, based on the return they received in this trade, tolerated Beckham. It was always assumed Beckham would outlast the quarterback who threw him every one of his 390 receptions and 44 touchdown catches, given the vast (12-year) age disparity. Beckham moves on to spend his middle-age NFL years in Cleveland and, unless the Giants’ universe tilts off its axis, Manning rides out the end of his career where it all started.
The only way keeping Manning around on what is clearly a rebuilding team makes any sense is if the Giants now, not later, secure a quarterback they envision as next in line. Bringing back Manning, Alex Tanney and Kyle Lauletta as the quarterbacks in the room in 2019 is illogical. So Gettleman must find a quarterback in the NFL draft or elsewhere. In the draft, Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State is the best choice, unless the Giants’ scouting department is wowed by Drew Lock and they take him with the 17th-overall pick. Elsewhere, working a trade with the Cardinals for Josh Rosen is an even better option, as it would allow the Giants to keep the No. 6 pick in the draft — dealing that away is a non-starter — to be used for desperately needed defensive help.
At the trade deadline last year, Gettleman sent away Damon “Snacks” Harrison and Eli Apple. Thus far this offseason, Gettleman had no interest in keeping Landon Collins (who will sign with the Redskins) and traded away Olivier Vernon and now Beckham. In return for all these maneuvers, the Giants got back in the 2019 draft a first-round pick, a third-round pick, a fourth-round pick, a fifth-round pick, a 2020 seventh-round pick, plus a starting guard (Kevin Zeitler) and a starting safety (Jabrill Peppers). The exodus leaves the Giants without a No. 1 receiver, unless they believe Sterling Shepard can step into that role, and, incredibly, with their CAREER sack leaders as Alec Ogletree (6.5) and Kareem Martin (six).
What Gettleman does own is draft capital — 12 picks this year, including two in the first round (Nos. 6 and 17 overall), one in the second round (No. 37), one in the third round (No. 95), one in the fourth round and four in the fifth round. At this time last year, Gettleman and the scouts were evaluating the 2018 quarterback class, and it is believed they had a solid grade on Rosen. They quite possibly view him as a stronger prospect than Haskins, even after Rosen’s rough rookie year with the Cardinals. If so, this is the play for Gettleman.
With the Beckham deal bringing back a second first-round pick, Gettleman could easily part with a second-rounder if the Cardinals are indeed serious about taking Kyler Murray with the No. 1-overall pick. This way, a team that does not figure to be a contender in 2019 would have its young quarterback prospect, learning the ropes from Manning before replacing him, likely at some point during the season.
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