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Giants clear winners in Keith Rivers trade

Keith Rivers has played in 35 games over four years, with 33 starts. (Icon SMI)

Keith Rivers, as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012, would have been a $2.1-million special teams player. Since Cincinnati selected Rivers No. 9 overall in 2008, he's been unable to stay healthy and missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing wrist surgery.

He permanently lost his starting job in the process, with the Bengals turning to Thomas Howard at weakside linebacker.

So, taking those factors into consideration, you can maybe justify the Bengals jumping at the opportunity to unload Rivers on the Giants for a reported fifth-round draft pick.

Here's the truth, though: New York absolutely swindled Cincinnati. We're talking George Clooney and Brad Pitt robbing the Bellagio in Ocean's 11 levels of thievery.

The Giants have two fourth-round picks, the extra one of the compensatory variety. The fifth-rounder that they'll send to Cincinnati pending completion of this trade will be the final selection of that round, No. 167 overall. That's what the cost was for New York to land a former top-10 draft pick who will, assuming he's healthy (granted, a big assumption when we're talking about Rivers), slot into the starting lineup.

Rivers missed nine games his rookie season after Hines Ward shattered his jaw on a block, then sat out three more in 2009 and failed to play even a single down in 2011.

That may make him a bust in general given how high he was drafted, but he's a more-than-adequate solution to New York's problems. Either he or Michael Boley -- likely the latter -- will slide from his normal outside linebacker position into the middle.

Keep in mind that the Giants won the Super Bowl after plucking Chase Blackburn back off the street and plugging him in at middle linebacker. Blackburn wound up being instrumental in New York's playoff run.

Rivers brings a ton more natural talent to the table. When he's been on the field, he's managed to register 186 tackles, with a career-high 77 in 2010.

And the Bengals just gave him away.

Would it have been ideal for Cincinnati to stash Rivers on the bench? Of course not. That said, the Bengals have plenty of cap space ($20 million as of late March) to sit on a contract like Rivers' in exchange for maintaining some depth. Should Thomas Howard falter or suffer his own injury, the Bengals don't really have a secondary option without Rivers.

Sometimes, the whole idea of starting from scratch overshadows logic. This might be one of those situations. From their perspective, using a top-10 pick on Rivers never worked out as hoped, so getting an extra selection in this year's draft eases the pain.

It is also worth mentioning that Houston only managed to get a fourth-round pick from Philadelphia for DeMeco Ryans, who has his own injury issues but has definitely outperformed Rivers in the pros. When compared to that transaction, adding a fifth-rounder for Rivers takes on a better shine.

But the Giants still pulled a fast one here. Worst-case scenario for them: Rivers can't stay on the field or struggles in the early going, forcing New York to re-sign Blackburn (which might happen anyway). Losing that very late fifth-round selection will not cost New Yorkers any sleep.

In a best-case scenario, Rivers manages to stay on the field and provides the Giants some pop on the outside.

Either way, it's worth the gamble for the Giants. And it may be a deal that comes back to haunt the Bengals.
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