While the clock is certainly ticking, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has a few months left to enjoy a position that is unusual among his contemporaries: He gets to have his cake and eat it, too.
Most new general managers arrive right on the ledge of a massive rebuilding project or somewhere around halfway back up the mountain. Their moves indicate urgency in either direction. They are judged by how quickly it comes together.
But Gettleman, who dealt Jason Pierre-Paul to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a third-round pick and a swapped fourth rounder on Thursday, has been playing both sides of the fence deftly.
He took a step toward the future by cutting ties with a pair of promising draft picks from a previous regime—Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg—on the offensive line, but then signed 29-year-old Nate Solder to the largest offensive line contract in NFL history.
He’s closely evaluating draft-eligible quarterbacks but insisted that Eli Manning will remain on the roster at least this season, allowing his $5 million roster bonus to guarantee last week without much fanfare.
He traded Pierre-Paul for a minimal cap gain in 2018, but saved a massive chunk of money on the defensive end’s salary for the 2019 season while opening up a starting spot for a pass rusher with less mileage that will likely fit the scheme better (a hint: We have thought for some time that he may solve that via the draft.)
All of these moves serve to create a relatively blank slate for Gettleman’s true financial target, the 2019 offseason, while still keeping one foot in the deep end on 2018. In theory, the Giants are dreadfully overmatched in the NFC East but keeping Manning and Odell Beckham together with a top-10 left tackle and a defense that still contains Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins could help them air out the stench of 2017 while pivoting toward the future.
These sort of half-in, half-out rebuilds are difficult to execute, but it gives the team’s new general manager the chance to make a few critical evaluations. Should Odell Beckham remain on the roster and play out the season under his option year, Gettleman will get to see how he plays in a functional, receiver-driven offense without the security of a long-term deal. The same can be said for Collins on defense. He’ll be just 25 years old heading into free agency next year.
Over the next two offseasons, Gettleman will likely dismantle nearly all of Jerry Reese’s drafts and finds from free agency. Cutting Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was the beginning of the exodus of any veteran with baggage around the age of 30, and Pierre-Paul’s fate is likely a sign of things to come.
The ability to systematically tear something down while inserting a few fan-friendly splashes in the meantime to keep up the product is good work—if you can find it. All the while, the true master plan is in the works far off in the background somewhere waiting for its full reveal.
Only then will you get your feet held to the fire like the last general manager.
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