It’s back to reality for the Giants.
Trading pass-rusher Markus Golden to the Cardinals on Friday is a signal the fourth-quarter collapse against the Eagles ended delusions of playoff contention and solidified the Giants’ (1-6) position as sellers before the Nov. 3 NFL trade deadline.
“Just because there is a trade deadline coming up doesn’t mean there is going to be a string of moves,” coach Joe Judge said before the Golden trade, “or we’re going to have to look to go ahead and flip a lot of things.”
Golden, who was strangely used as a spare part by the Giants despite a rash of injuries at outside linebacker, had a team-high 14 quarterback pressures in limited snaps. The Giants dumped about half of his $4 million salary and picked up a sixth-round draft pick in 2021. Golden returns to the Cardinals, who drafted him in 2015, to ease the blow of losing Chandler Jones to injury.
It’s a trickier than usual deadline for the Giants, who must make evaluations before returning to on-field action Nov. 2 for a Monday-night game against the Buccaneers.
Is general manager Dave Gettleman empowered to make moves impacting the future while on the hot seat? What message will a fire sale send to the young locker room? How will subtracting pieces impact the development of other players, especially if trades strip quarterback Daniel Jones of more protection and playmakers?
This is where ownership’s decision in January to hire Judge and retain Gettleman, creating disjointed timelines, is an issue.
Gettleman might want to act in self-preservation and add a player to boost the struggling roster — as he did by shipping two draft picks to the Jets for pending free agent Leonard Williams in the middle of a nine-game losing streak last season — while Judge can look to the future as a first-year coach.
“We’ve had great synergy in the building since I have been here with everybody involved,” Judge said. “We’ve been very open with a lot of discussions and talking through the personnel. I expect that to continue. We’re not racing for some kind of a draft pick. That’s not our priority right now. We’re trying to win.”
Here is a look at five other veterans who could be dealt for mid- or late-round picks if this becomes a full-fledged firesale:
TE Evan Engram: The Giants turned down offers for Engram two years in a row. The phone will ring again with a lesser return price — but still probably the highest (fourth- or fifth-rounder) of anyone on this list.
Engram, 26, is finally healthy after two injury-plagued years, but seems mismatched for this offense. His production (235 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown) is far from expectations and his drop against the Eagles soured fans. Some team will see the explosive athleticism and say, “Our coaches can unlock his talent!” Will the Giants pull the trigger?
Until March, Engram’s $6 million salary for 2021 is only guaranteed for injury, so he offers trade flexibility as a half-season rental or an extended bargain if he breaks through. Fits: Bills, Patriots, Panthers.
DT Dalvin Tomlinson: Preliminary extension talks haven’t gained much traction even though Tomlinson, 26, repeats he wants to stay put. He is a top run defender with $612,000 remaining on the final year of his contract.
“I feel like the Giants are a competitor,” Tomlinson said. “It’s just the tradition. The toughness. The D-line is built on physicality. I just feel like that’s something I always want to be a part of.” Fits: Bills, Chiefs, Lions.
OLB Kyler Fackrell: Smart move by Fackrell, 28, signing a one-year, $4.6 million deal in free agency after a down year. He has three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble, recapturing some of the disruption he created during a 10.5-sack season for the Packers in 2018. Fits: Seahawks, Raiders, Patriots.
OG Kevin Zeitler: Regarded as the team’s best offensive lineman, Zeitler, 30, is enduring a subpar season and the Giants could move him to make way for rookie Shane Lemieux. Zeitler’s $14.5 million cap charge in 2021 falls to $2.5 million in dead space if released. Fits: Bears, Bills, Steelers, Eagles.
WR Golden Tate: The Lions received a third-round pick for Tate at the 2018 deadline. Since joining the Giants, Tate, 32, has missed four games to suspension, two to injury and his signature yards-after-catch are way down this season after he ran free in 2019. He has two years and $14.5 million remaining on his deal — or $4.5 million in dead space. Fits: Patriots, Ravens, Saints.