If you could do it all over again, would you?
No, not a life-changing decision about your love life or your chosen profession. Not balking at a hefty investment in a do-at-home hand sanitizer start-up kit. Something far more important and polarizing.
If the Giants could go back in time and trade away Odell Beckham Jr., and receive from the Browns the exact same return, would they do it?
The answer to that is this: It is a happy anniversary for the Giants.
Thursday is one year to the day Dave Gettleman, with the blessing of ownership, shipped the superstar wide receiver to Cleveland. Less than two week after proclaiming “We didn’t sign Odell to trade him” Gettleman did just that, acquiring in exchange safety Jabrill Peppers and two 2019 draft picks: No. 17 (in the first round) and No. 95 (in the third round). At the time, the deal certainly did not appear to be a slam-dunk for the Giants, given Beckham’s outrageous production in his five years with the Giants – when he was healthy.
“I think you have to look overall it was probably a pretty good deal for the Giants,’’ an NFL talent evaluator, who has extensively scouted all four players in the trade, told The Post. “The Giants needed players and they still need players. One guy wasn’t going to make that much difference.’’
The Giants knew there was risk: Beckham might put up monster numbers in his new environs. But after writing a five-year contract worth $90 million they grew too tired of his antics and distractions and the sense that he was never going to be fully happy with his surroundings or his quarterback, Eli Manning.
In 2019, Peppers started the first 11 games at strong safety before a fracture in his back landed him on injured reserve. With the 17th-overall pick, the Giants took massive defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence out of Clemson and at No. 95 they stayed on defense to select Oshane Ximines, an outside linebacker from Old Dominion.
The initial reaction was mixed. A hybrid safety (Peppers), run-stuffer (Lawrence) and a developmental edge rusher (Ximines) as the bounty for trading away one of the NFL’s most dynamic talents?
Beckham failed to make the Giants look bad, as he and the Browns endured a dismal first year together. Beckham played in all 16 games but his output (74 receptions, 1,035 yards and only four touchdowns) was less significant than any full season he spent with the Giants. Beckham was not right, physically, for much of the season and had surgery in late January to repair a core muscle injury.
Once again, Odell & Controversy sounded like partners in a law firm. He was fined for getting in a fight with Marlon Humphrey of the Ravens. He was forced to change his “Joker’’ cleats at halftime in Denver. He denied reports he was so sick of Cleveland he was imploring opposing players to “Get me out of here.’’
Do not think for a moment Giants officials ignored all this. They tuned in with familiar dismay when Beckham, looking impaired or worse, self-destructed on national television while celebrating LSU’s national championship game victory over Clemson. Beckham threw money at players and slapped a police officer in the butt so hard in the locker room at Mercedes-Benz Superdome that an arrest warrant was issued for simple battery. “Not our problem anymore’’ was a relief felt by many in the Giants building.
Not that the performances of the three players the Giants acquired to help fix their defense blew anyone away. Lawrence put together a fine rookie year, starting all 16 games and showing at 342 pounds he is a load in the middle. He had only 2.5 sacks and has a long way to go before fulfilling Gettleman’s prediction that he can be a pocket-pusher.
Pro Football Focus analytics liked Lawrence, grading him as the NFL’s 19th-best interior defender, but was not nearly as bullish on Peppers, ranking him as the 47th safety, or Ximines, putting him as the 82nd edge player. Beckham also did not impress PFF in 2019, as he was graded as the 60th wide receiver, much lower than three Giants: Sterling Shepard (24), Golden Tate (35) and rookie Darius Slayton (53).
Ximines debuted with 4.5 sacks, more in a rookie year than Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and the same as Jason Pierre-Paul had in his first year. Peppers is an eye-of-the-beholder type of player, a master of nothing in some eyes and a versatile hole-plug option in other eyes.
“I liked Peppers coming out (of Michigan) and I like him now,’’ the talent evaluator said. “He can certainly play a lot of spots. He’s going to be in a new scheme this year and I think he might very well flourish.’’
The talent evaluator is extremely high on Lawrence – “I love Dexter, he’s a tremendous talent, could be an annual Pro Bowl guy’’ – and, while initially skeptical of Ximines is now intrigued.
“When you get three-for-one and Beckham didn’t set the world on fire this year, I think the Giants got the better of the deal,’’ he said.
The Giants went 4-12 without Beckham and the Browns as one of the league’s most disappointing teams went 6-10. The immediate aftermath: This mega-trade helped neither team.
Fully evaluating this deal will take a few more years. For now, the Giants certainly do not have seller’s remorse.
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