Dave Gettleman’s first trade back in his career as a general manager in the NFL was finalized quickly when the Eagles leapfrogged the Giants to grab Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith just ahead of them. But the groundwork for the deal that eventually sent the Giants to the 20th overall selection and netted them three other picks – including a first-rounder in next year’s draft – was in the works for a while.
"We had called around and you do that calling and I had spoken to [Bears GM] Ryan Pace," Gettleman said on Thursday night. "I had heard he was interested in moving up, so I called him. When I spoke to him, he said, ‘Yes, we're very interested.’ And then the conversations begin."
The two sides touched base on Thursday before the draft began, just to make sure there were no changes in expectations. Finally, the Bears rang the Giants as the first round was unfolding.
"He called me again somewhere around the seventh pick, somewhere in there," Gettleman said. At that time Smith and a number of other players were still in play… but far from certain. "And then we got on the clock and from there (assistant general manager) Kevin Abrams took over and finished off the trade."
Gettleman said the Giants had plenty of internal discussions regarding a trade back in this draft.
"We had really talked this through," he said. "Me, Joe [Judge], Chris Mara, Tim McDonnell, Kevin Abrams and Mark Koncz, we had all discussed thoroughly, really looked at our board. We had a lengthy meeting on Monday and we followed it up with another meeting on Wednesday. We knew what we wanted. We knew where we wanted to go and we knew at which point we would consider a trade back. And then we met again at 6 o'clock [Thursday] to just constantly review and talk it through and it was a great group effort. We all felt very together on the decision. And we made it."
Gettleman said he was not surprised that the Eagles were able to pull off a rare intra-division trade with the Cowboys to get ahead of the Giants.
"[Eagles GM] Howie [Roseman] is not afraid to trade with anybody," Gettleman said. "I had a conversation with him earlier in the week and he said, ‘Dave, do you have any problems trading with me?’ I said, ‘No, if it works for both of us, it works for both of us.’"
The Cowboys apparently felt the same way.
The 2020 regular season ended with the Eagles sticking it to the Giants, playing Nate Sudfeld at quarterback in the second half of a close game against Washington that, had Philadelphia won, would have sent the Giants to the playoffs despite their 6-10 record. That the 2021 season essentially begins with the Eagles outmaneuvering the Giants for Smith – and once again using a fellow NFC East team as an accomplice – should only heighten the rising animosities among the already strained rivalries.
"Trades happen a lot," Judge said. "Normally it doesn't happen within the division but hey, look, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. They made a move that worked for them and that was a good business move."
The Giants may have missed out on the player they coveted, but they wound up with a nice consolation prize in versatile receiver Kadarius Toney, who they selected 20th overall. And, perhaps most important, they picked up those extra picks, including two next year.
"It was very important to get the first round pick next year," Gettleman said. "As I told you guys at my pre-draft presser, there's a lot of unknowns here with this group and plus a lot of kids went back and took advantage of the NCAA giving them an additional year of eligibility. That obviously played into our thinking."
The Giants will now have two first-round picks next year, theirs and the one from a Bears team that may very well be starting a rookie at quarterback. They selected Justin Fields from Ohio State with that 11th overall selection.
"Obviously it was too good an opportunity," Gettleman said of the trade. "It added too much value, and we felt very comfortable with where our board was and we felt comfortable with who would be there, who would be available in that [20th] slot. So we made it. We were very pleased we were able to make the play."