The transformation has been swift and far-reaching, and Dave Gettleman clearly isn’t done.
Not even three months into his tenure, the Giants’ general manager has remade the offensive line, significantly upgraded at linebacker and added depth at running back and in the secondary.
With the Giants switching to a 3-4 defense that no longer revolves around the line, Gettleman traded defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, 29, on Thursday, barely a year after he signed a four-year, $62-million contract extension.
It makes complete sense, given the circumstances of a team in the midst of a major transition. Pierre-Paul hasn’t been the player he once was since suffering a devastating injury to his right hand in a fireworks accident on July 4, 2015. He has totaled only 16½ sacks in the three seasons since the accident, and after losing three fingers and suffering a badly damaged thumb, isn’t as sure a tackler as before.
Couple that with new coordinator James Bettcher’s switch to a 3-4 alignment, and Pierre-Paul doesn’t fit the scheme the way a man with his kind of salary should. He’s best suited for a 4-3, but Bettcher’s system relies more on strong play from the linebackers. Bettcher showed interest in Pierre-Paul two years ago, while he was in Arizona, but the Cardinals were willing to give JPP only a one-year deal.
Gettleman already had addressed some of the need at linebacker by trading with the Rams for Alec Ogletree and signing free agent Kareem Martin, a former Cardinal. The Giants also signed defensive lineman Josh Mauro, who like Martin played for Bettcher last season in Arizona, another indication that the coordinator is intent on bringing in players who fit his system.
The Pierre-Paul trade netted the Giants a third-round pick, giving them four selections among the top 69 in next month’s draft. It also clears important salary-cap room in 2019, which will come in handy if the Giants decide they want to re-sign impending free agents Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins.
The Giants will save $2.5 million in cap space in 2018, but that figure balloons to $37 million combined in the 2019 and 2020 league years. That undoubtedly will come in handy for Beckham, Collins and any other significant contracts that come up by then.
Thursday’s deal adds plenty of intrigue to an already fascinating set of possibilities in the draft. The Giants have the No. 2 overall pick, and with Pierre-Paul gone, there is speculation they might take North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb, by far the best pass-rushing prospect.
They also could go for a quarterback — Josh Rosen (UCLA), Sam Darnold (USC) or Josh Allen (Wyoming) could be there — or take Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.
Or does Gettleman use his leverage at No. 2 and entertain trade offers to move down and acquire even more picks? The Bills might want to move up from No. 12 to get a quarterback, and even the Browns, who have the first overall pick, might want to get in position to take the top two players by trading their No. 4 pick.
Or does Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan, who has done plenty of his own wheeling and dealing this offseason, climb one more spot by trading with Gettleman and better positioning himself to get a top quarterback?
As Gettleman attempts to fit together the puzzle that will become his 2018 roster, there are more changes to be made, not the least of which will come in the draft.
New quarterback? New pass rusher? New running back?
Or maybe all of the above.