Bill Barnwell declares Giants winners of Odell Beckham Jr. trade

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For some, it seems like forever ago when the New York Giants made a trade to send Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns.

At the time, many believed the Giants didn’t get enough in return for Beckham. However, the notion that New York was going to get a return that included multiple first-round picks wasn’t realistic.

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On Monday, ESPN released a list of trades that were reevaluated since 2018 including the Giants and Browns trade that sent the star receiver to Cleveland. Bill Barnwell marked the Giants as the winners of the Beckham exchange.

At the time: The Giants were almost universally blasted for trading Beckham, only weeks after general manager Dave Gettleman had dismissed trade speculation by saying, “We didn’t sign [Beckham] to trade him.” OBJ was dealt months after signing a five-year, $90 million extension, with the Giants paying him $20.5 million for his final 12 games in a Giants uniform. I saw this as a clear victory for the Browns, who were getting a franchise wide receiver locked up for years at a below-market price.

What happened: Beckham’s first two years in Cleveland have been a major disappointment. An uneven first season under Freddie Kitchens saw him go from being the king of slants to producing the league’s worst EPA on slant routes in 2019. Beckham was then off to a slow start in 2020 before tearing an ACL. Baker Mayfield‘s numbers were better across the board without OBJ in the lineup, and while correlation is not causation, the Browns simply didn’t miss him during their run to the postseason.

While the Giants haven’t replaced Beckham in the lineup, they’ve gotten more out of the players on the other side of this trade. Peppers hasn’t been the sort of game-disrupting safety scouts might have expected from his time at Michigan — and he doesn’t play the more valuable free safety role — but he’s a solid strong safety and a team leader. Lawrence has been the best player in this trade, living up to expectations as a stout run defender while adding four sacks last season. Peppers and Lawrence might have been replacements for departed veterans in Landon Collins and Damon Harrison, but they’ve held up their end of the bargain. Beckham hasn’t in Cleveland, and four years removed from his last Pro Bowl appearance, it would be a surprise if he was a No. 1 receiver in 2021. This one has flipped all the way around for Gettleman and Big Blue.

In hindsight: Win for Giants

The fact that the Giants signed Beckham to a major extension less than a year before they parted ways with him still pains many Giants fans. However, most logical fans would agree that Big Blue did win the trade.

That was not, however, the only Giants trade listed by Barnwell. The Leonard Williams trade was also reevaluated.

Many still can’t believe general manager Dave Gettleman gave up draft capital to bring in Williams in the middle of a season where the Giants were out of the playoff picture.

At the time: This trade was inexplicable when it happened. The 2-6 Giants sent a third-round pick and a compensatory selection to the Jets for Williams, who was going to be a free agent after the season. You could maybe justify it as trading for a player who was going to earn a compensatory selection after the year, but the Giants didn’t have the sort of roster to sit out free agency in 2020, and signing a similarly expensive player would have cost them the compensatory pick. The Jets were trading away a player they didn’t expect to re-sign in free agency.

What happened: Williams produced a half-sack in a half-season with the Giants. Facing free agency, the Giants franchised Williams, who … then delivered a career season in 2020, with 11.5 sacks and 30 knockdowns. General manager Dave Gettleman then eventually signed him to a massive extension, making him one of the highest-paid defenders in the league. Davis started six games for the Jets at safety in 2020, and Carter was one of two players the Jets drafted named Michael Carter this past April.

Do the Giants deserve credit for the Williams trade in 2019 given what happened in 2020? It’s tough to say. They gave up two picks for a half-season of him (where he wasn’t a difference-maker) and the right to franchise him before the 2020 season. He was a star in 2020, but given that he was making $16.1 million, the Giants didn’t get much more than what they paid for in the process. They could have avoided that altogether and held on to the two picks by simply waiting until the offseason, so the only way trading for Williams in 2019 makes sense is if the Giants thought they had no shot of signing him in free agency after the season. This deal looks better after he delivered on his promise in 2020, but it’s still tough to make the logic line up and justify the timing of the deal.

In hindsight: No winners

It seems silly that the Giants are not declared the winner in this one after Williams’ double-digit sack season last year. However, many will argue that Big Blue could have waited to land Williams in free agency back in 2019.

Although Barnwell marked the Williams deal as having no winner, that tune might change after this year if Williams comes close to replicating his performance from 2020 and helping the Giants to their first playoff appearance since 2016.

Gettleman’s trades have been a mixed bag in his time with the Giants. Of course, many still have not let go of the fact that Gettleman did not trade Landon Collins for a return in the season before they let him walk via free agency (ditto Dalvin Tomlinson last year).

Coming off the 2020 offseason, Big Blue has high hopes to turn a corner this season. Regardless of who won trades in the past 2021 will be an extremely important year for Gettleman & Co.

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