Given Dave Gettleman’s frequent assurances that he didn’t sign Odell Beckham Jr. to trade him — only to do just that after the Browns came calling last week — it would be in Eli Manning’s best interests not to take Gettleman’s remarks on Monday as a reliable vote of confidence.
In his first comments to reporters since the blockbuster trade that sent Beckham to the Browns in exchange for a first-round pick (17th overall), a third-round pick and safety Jabrill Peppers, Gettleman said Manning’s play in the second half of 2018 was good enough to bring him back.
“I said it in Indianapolis [at the NFL Scouting Combine] and I’ll say it again. Once we got that O-line fixed, look what we did on offense,” Gettleman said on a conference call. “This narrative that Eli is overpaid and can’t play is a crock, I’m telling you.”
Gettleman did say that about Manning in defending him from criticism. But he also said at the combine that he wasn’t inclined to trade his best receiver, who only last year was signed to a $90 million contract extension.
“We didn’t sign Odell Beckham to trade him,” Gettleman said in Indianapolis. “That’s all I need to say about that.”
So much for the assurances that Beckham was safe. And if Gettleman pulled off a deal for Beckham within hours of first being solicited by the Browns last Tuesday, then what’s to stop the general manager from pulling the plug on Manning?
The answer: nothing.
Manning received his $5 million roster bonus Monday, the latest indication that he remains in the Giants’ plans for 2019. Then again, they paid Beckham a $20 million signing bonus last year, and that wasn’t a limiting factor in Gettleman’s discussions with the Browns. So Manning must realize that things can change on a team in a transition period.
Gettleman won’t use the term “rebuilding” to describe his roster. The preferred word is “building,” and he believes a team still can win while building toward the ultimate goal of winning a championship. But at age 38 and coming off an uneven season, Manning is not the long-term answer for a team that is at least a year away from contending. More likely, the Giants are years away from competing for a fifth Super Bowl title.
Gettleman seemed content with the return on the Beckham trade, but Peppers has the same limitations as the safety they let go last week. The knock against Landon Collins is his range in pass coverage, and that’s precisely the flaw in Peppers’ game. The Giants got a younger, cheaper player out of the deal, but certainly not a better one than Collins.
And one more thing about the trade: Gettleman said it came together very quickly once the Browns inquired about Beckham’s availability. Gettleman felt he had leverage because it was the Browns who initiated the discussion. But at that point, why not shop around the league to potentially get a better deal?
Gettleman seemed to indicate Monday that the 49ers, who’d had several previous discussions about Beckham, weren’t part of last week’s dealings. If so, they should have been, especially with at least a possibility of getting the second overall pick in the draft, which could have translated to quarterbacks Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins or blue-chip defensive end Nick Bosa.
Manning appears to be the quarterback of choice for now, but reports persist that the Giants would consider trading for the Cardinals’ Josh Rosen — in which case it wouldn’t make sense to keep Manning.
The Giants might prefer to wait on a quarterback in the draft — perhaps Drew Lock of Missouri, Daniel Jones of Duke or Ryan Finley of North Carolina State — in which case Manning could shepherd one of them through his rookie season.
But given Gettleman’s changeable plans, Manning is no sure thing. Even with the $5 million he pocketed on Monday.