When you're an 0-6 team with plenty of talent, trade rumors come with the territory. With the 2013 NFL trade deadline looming two weeks from now, it's no surprise that impending unrestricted free agent wide receiver Hakeem Nicks has been the center of the trade whispers regarding the New York Giants.
If the Giants are to trade Nicks, they'll have to do so by Oct. 29, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports believes the market is looking strong. According to his sources, several teams—namely the 49ers and Falcons—are contemplating making offers.
There's no doubt the Giants will receive interest. What we don't know is whether they'd be willing to part with a 25-year-old former first-round pick with two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. I suppose everyone has a price, but that price changes depending on how confident the Giants are that Nicks will or won't be an important part of their future.
Here's a rundown of the pros and the cons.
Pros associated with trading Nicks
First, the Giants have many holes to fill, and they're a team that strongly prefers to build via the draft. La Canfora reported that "several GMs contacted believed the Giants could get at least a third-round pick for Nicks, even if he is just a late-season 'rental' who then hits the open market in March."
If that's the case, it might make more sense to get rid of Nicks now and avoid the strong possibility of getting nothing for him in the offseason.
Plus, Nicks might only be 25, but he hasn't been himself since 2011. Injuries derailed his 2012 campaign, and he's lacked electricity in 2013. He isn't pulling away like he used to, and as a result, he has zero touchdowns through six games. He's also dropped three passes and has caught only 58 percent of the balls thrown his way, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Quarterback Eli Manning just hasn't been throwing Nicks' way as often as he has to Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle, which indicates Nicks might be falling out of favor. Cruz signed a six-year, $46 million deal in the offseason and is on pace to have a career year, and Randle—a second-round pick out of LSU in 2012—probably has more upside.
Nicks has better numbers, but Randle has been on the field only 62 percent of the time. On a per-snap basis, the sophomore receiver has been more productive than Nicks. Plus, Randle has scored three times.
The Giants very rarely break the bank for free agents, whether they're in-house guys or anyone else floating on the open market. Nicks might be too expensive for a team that will likely be reworking several key positions during the 2014 offseason. Can they rationalize handing him a contract as big as—or fatter than—the one they gave Cruz? If they can't, a trade makes sense.
Cons associated with trading Nicks
In theory, it's logical to get something for players rather than let them walk. But let's keep in mind that losing a player like Nicks in free agency would very likely net the Giants a mid-round compensatory draft pick in 2015. That's not as sweet as a third-rounder in May, but if they're still not sure about him and/or Randle, it might make more sense to wait.
I wouldn't blame the Giants for having reservations about Randle, despite the fact he's on pace for about 900 yards and eight touchdowns. If he were lighting it up, this might be a no-brainer, but he's had some problems. Through six games, six Manning interceptions have come on throws intended for Randle, according to ESPN.com's Dan Graziano. He's also dropped four passes on 41 targets. That gives him the seventh-highest drop rate in the NFL, per PFF.
Although Randle appears to be making progress, there's still some uncertainty there.
Considering that the fourth receiver on the roster, Jerrel Jernigan, has just 18 yards on three catches, it's easy to see why the Giants might not be willing to write Nicks off. The last thing they'd want to do now is make things harder on Manning than they've already been. If they ditch Nicks and Randle hits a wall, they'll be in big trouble.
The team hasn't ruled out bringing Nicks back for 2014, and the plan all along was to see how he played in 2013 after a 2012 season in which he was limited by injury and then decide whether (and at what cost) to make him a part of its future plays.
You might also have to consider the damage a Nicks trade could do in the locker room. Take, for example, what running back Brandon Jacobs had to say about a potential trade, according to the New York Daily News:
No question it would blow me away just to know that guys that we needed could be gone tomorrow. The business part of it is the business part of it and there's nothing we can do about it as players. But depending on the person it could be a dagger. It could go in both ways.
It'll hurt. I think it'll definitely hurt for us being in the vulnerable state we are now.
Yes, trading Nicks (or any veteran) would probably add insult to injury during the second half of this season. Still, I don't think that should factor in. Jacobs alluded to the fact that it's a business, and the Giants have to know to cut losses. Clinging to 2013 at the expense of 2014 and beyond is irrational.
However, don't be surprised if this old-school organization keeps the current level of morale in mind while navigating this predicament.
Conclusions and thoughts on the market
I suppose the key here is that very few people believe the Giants will pay Nicks in the offseason. But I actually think they would consider it. They paid Cruz because they knew they couldn't afford to take away one of Manning's primary weapons, but the same rule would apply to Nicks, regardless of what happens during the final 10 games of the year.
Remember, reports this past offseason indicated the Giants gave priority to Nicks over Cruz. Even if that's no longer the case, they might still believe he can be an elite No. 1 receiver, and it's hard to explain to Manning why you'd cut ties with a guy like that.
I understand why the Giants would want to allow Nicks and Randle to essentially audition for the spot opposite Cruz in 2014, but this deadline throws a wrench into how long they can afford to let those auditions drag on. Teams like the Patriots, Packers, Niners, Falcons, Ravens and Lions could use a receiver like him right now and in a big way.
If a bidding war drives up the price, the Giants might have to expedite the evaluation process in order to accept or decline an offer in two weeks' time.
Whether you like it or not, the most Giants thing to do here would be to turn down all trade offers, keep trying to win with Nicks in 2013 and refuse to pay him crazy money in free agency. That, to me, would be a shame. Because by the time we reach the deadline, we'll already be midway through a lost season. The Giants should know by then whether they're inclined to keep Nicks long-term or move on.
They know approximately what he'll cost as a free agent, so if they either can't make up their mind nine weeks from the end of the year or simply prefer to ride it out with him before waving goodbye, they'll be costing themselves a free draft pick.
If the debate really is Nicks or Randle, I don't have the answer. I'm torn. But I'm not Jerry Reese. It's his job to make these calls at moments like these. Technically, he has 11 weeks' worth of football left before having to decide, but delaying said decision beyond the Oct. 29 trade deadline could cost his team when the draft takes place six months later.
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