Buried at the bottom of the Giants’ press release announcing the big Odell Beckham Jr. trade on Wednesday, was a quote from GM Dave Gettleman about his offseason plan.
“You can win while you build a roster,” he said.
And the deal he struck with receiver Golden Tate on Thursday is proof he’s going to try.
The Giants agreed to terms with the 30-year-old Tate on a four-year, $37.5 million contract with $23 million in guaranteed money, a deal that was immediately criticized for seemingly contradicting the rebuilding project that seemed to be underway. Tate is older and he was obviously expensive — two things rebuilding teams don’t usually want.
But keep in mind, there’s a reason Gettleman won’t use the word “rebuild.” He really thinks he can rebuild and win at the same time.
Maybe he’s fooling himself, but this is what Gettleman and the Giants saw when they looked at their roster at the end of last season: They saw an offense that clicked in the second half of the season, even after Beckham got hurt, and was hard to stop (for the most part) once they got better play from their offensive line. So they figured if they rebuilt the line this offseason, they had a chance to be a dangerous offensive team again.
They still had other work to do and hard decisions to make, of course, to truly rebuild the team into a contender. That’s why they traded Olivier Vernon and his contract, let Landon Collins walk away, and sent Beckham to the Browns, among other moves. But even as he did that, the Giants were adamant they were not throwing away the 2019 season.
Believe it or not, even with a 38-year-old quarterback who is clearly declining, they really do think they can win.
Of course, once they made the decision to trade Beckham – something that wasn’t a football decision and was based more on his off-field headaches, according to sources – they left their offense with a gaping hole that had to be filled. That is where Tate comes in, as Sterling Shepard has never shown an ability to be a No. 1 receiver, and beyond him, they had almost nothing else at the position at all.
Tate was clearly the best receiver on the market – and he’s more than just a slot receiver, considering he only played about 65 percent of his plays from the slot with the Eagles and Lions last season. In a down season, which he split between those teams and where the Eagles struggled to figure out how to use him at first, he still finished with 77 catches for 795 yards and four touchdowns.
In the previous four seasons he averaged 93 catches, 1,056 yards, and seven touchdowns per season.
No, that’s not Beckham-like production, but it’s still up there with the next tier of the NFL’s No. 1 receivers. And unlike Beckham, Tate has been healthy, missing only two games in the last eight years. He’s also not known for creating headlines or distractions, which is significant to the Giants after dealing with Beckham’s drama the last five years.
No one will suggest he can totally replace Beckham. He doesn’t have his star power, nor has he ever had his production. But given everything else he brings to the table, he has a chance to come pretty close.
Is Tate too old for a rebuilding team? Sure. But he’s 30, not 40. Plenty of receivers have been productive into their early 30s. Is he too expensive for a rebuilding team? The devil will be in the details, but $9.375 million per year might be a little much.
Unfortunately, that’s the price of doing business in free agency, though, which the Giants have to do because of years of bad drafting. And as long as the deal doesn’t crush them under the cap in future years, who cares what it does to them now?
Gettleman is trying to build a future for the Giants. He wants them to be a championship-caliber team again in a couple of years, which is why he’s clearing out bad contracts, bad guys, and compiling draft picks. It’s why he’s so intent on finding Eli Manning’s successor, possibly even in this year’s draft.
But he’s not conceding wins now – not coming off a 5-11 season when they lost eight games by a touchdown or less, and not when he thinks the difference is some of those games is as simple as adding a pass rusher and fixing the offensive line. The line is under construction. The defense … well, that needs a lot of work, and surely will be a concentration of the 12 picks he has in the upcoming draft.
The Giants had no chance to win, and no chance to build on their offensive success if they didn’t at least try to replace Beckham’s talent and production. The addition of Tate does that. He helps give the Giants a chance to win this year. And it doesn’t get in the way of any long-term project to secure the future at all.