With the Giants, it’s become easy to recognize the change of seasons.
Not the weather adjusting from summer to autumn to winter. Not the intensity shifting from preseason to regular season to postseason.
For them, the delineation on their calendar that takes place around this time each year is a more profound shift. The NFL’s trading deadline is approaching, and that means the organization takes a look at where it is and where it wants to be going.
It’s the annual transition from this NFL season to next NFL season. And around the Giants, even with more than half of the scheduled games remaining and an outside chance at climbing the rickety ladder that is the standings in the NFC East, it’s beginning to look a lot like 2021.
For the last two years, it’s been marked by plenty of movement. In 2018 the Giants shipped out two defensive starters in Eli Apple and Damon Harrison. In 2019 they added Leonard Williams. This year’s turnover has already begun with the trade deadline of Nov. 3 still more than a week away. On Friday, a day after the team lost to the Eagles and Markus Golden recorded a sack, the Giants traded Golden to the Cardinals for a sixth-round pick in this coming April’s draft.
There may be plenty more moves to come, too, with the team sporting an unimpressive 1-6 record. Even before they faced the Eagles there was chatter about guard Kevin Zeitler, tight end Evan Engram, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and wide receiver Golden Tate generating interest from other teams.
Golden may have been the easiest to move because of his reasonable contract, because he never seemed to quite fit into the Giants’ schemes even when they were crippled with injuries at his position, and because he went to an organization that knows him well. He was drafted by and spent the first four years of his career with the Cardinals.
That doesn’t mean others won’t find new homes in the coming days, though.
Fourth-year running back Wayne Gallman has seen this yearly migration of players and developed a way of handling them.
"I just have to wait and see who’s going to be there the next day," he said.
The Giants do have one game remaining prior to the deadline, but if they have any nibbles on players they would be crazy to risk injury to that asset in the Monday night contest against the Bucs, potentially scuttling any swap with just hours before the cutoff.
Perhaps with an eye toward potential trades, the Giants have several players already in the pipeline of COVID-19 testing on their way to being added to the roster including veteran receiver Corey Coleman and two rookies, defensive back Monte Hartage and tight end Rysen John, who were with the team in training camp. They should be in position to be added to the practice squad or roster this coming week.
"Honestly, I really don’t think about that because I can’t control who’s going to leave and who’s going to stay," Gallman said. "I love my teammates, so I’m pretty sure whoever is going I will hit them up. You can’t really control those things. You just have to worry about coming to work each day and doing your job."
Tomlinson, in the last year of his rookie contract and a productive player in the middle of the defensive line, went so far as to make a public appeal to stay with the Giants. Asked if he would mind being dealt to a competitor, he replied: "I feel like the Giants are a competitor. The franchise, the organization is built on that. It’s just the tradition. The toughness, the D-line is built on physicality. I just feel like that’s something I always want to be a part of."
Joe Judge made it clear that the Giants are focused on winning as many games as possible this season and not yet thinking about next year’s roster or assets that can be acquired and used down the line.
"To me, we’re going out there to be competitive and win every game every week," he said. "We’re not racing for some kind of a draft pick, that’s not our priority right now. We’re trying to go out there, we’re trying to win, that’s our goal as an organization."
But Judge also admitted there is some thought focusing beyond that goal.
"We’re always thinking about the future in what we do," he said. "The future includes the game coming up that week as well as the long-term picture… We’re putting together a foundation for a team that we hope lasts, that will play the right type of football for a long time. We have a culture being built right now that is moving in the right direction."
Can you smell it? Can you sense it? Ah yes. The change of seasons.
And if the Giants can service that long-term vision at the possible expense of short-term wins, well, that might be a trade they’d be willing to make.