The idea that the Giants should or might trade Odell Beckham Jr. starts with a simple premise - that they're somehow better without him. He's a distraction. He wasn't the same player after his injury. He's always hurt. The Giants' offense got better last season with him on the sideline.
All of those things would be good reasons for the Giants to consider a deal. Except they're not true. And neither is the overall premise.
The Giants just aren't better without Beckham. In fact, they'll be much worse if they trade him away.
It's a stretch to think the Giants would want to trade him anyway, just six months after signing him to a massive, five-year, $90 million contract. They made him the highest-paid receiver in football that day because they believed he was the best receiver in football. Whatever worries they had about his character, his distractions or his health, they had to decide they were OK with all that before they gave him $65 million guaranteed.
And look how he rewarded them. He had 77 catches for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns -- a terrific season by any standards. But considering he spent the offseason rehabbing from surgery to repair a fractured ankle, and then missed four games at the end of the season with a dangerous hematoma in his quad, his numbers were remarkable. Even Beckham admitted that he never quite felt like his old, explosive self, yet he still was on pace for 102 catches, 1,402 yards and eight touchdowns before he got hurt.
Those numbers would've made him one of the top 10 receivers in the NFL again - maybe even in the top five.
But sure, in the final four games while Beckham was out, the Giants scored 35 or more points twice - something they had only done once in the previous 46 games. And they did have a slight uptick in scoring from 22.25 points per game with him to 25.5 points per game without him (and the latter includes a game where they were shut out).
To pin that on Beckham, though, ignores everything else - like the improved play by the offensive line and Eli Manning late in the season. So maybe the question shouldn't be: Were the Giants better off without their No. 1 receiver?
It should be: How much better would they have been if Beckham had been on the field?
Just watch and it's easy to see. All those stats he puts up are done with usually three defenders around him - two corners and almost always a safety shading to his side. There are few receivers in the NFL who get that kind of treatment. In theory, it should open up all sorts of possibilities for receiver Sterling Shepard, tight end Evan Engram, and even Saquon Barkley out of the backfield.
Ask any defensive coordinator from 2014-17 and they'd say the only player they truly worried about on the Giants' offense was Beckham. Now they have to split their attention between Beckham and Barkley.
That's one heck of a 1-2 punch. How does it make any sense to throw one of them away?
Oh right, he's a problem. And yes, he absolutely can be. His infamous ESPN interview last season when he said "I don't know" to the question of whether the Giants had a quarterback problem was really inexcusable, and it caused a season's worth of headaches - especially when he repeatedly refused to answer for a while whether he believed in Eli Manning.
And don't forget the drug-pizza video from last offseason, which angered so many in the Giants' organization it led them to listen to offers in the first place.
But a few things about that: For one, the Giants obviously got over the video because they signed him to that massive contract eight months after it came out. And after the ESPN interview, John Mara did say "I think he needs to do a little more playing and a little less talking," but that one interview hardly seemed like a fire-able (or tradeable) offense.
The truth behind any of his "character" issues is that his teammates love him for his generosity and work ethic. Manning has even stood by him. Of course, as a good team leader, he stands by everyone. But those who know the Giants quarterback insist the Manning-Beckham relationship isn't nearly as bad as many perceive.
During games, there's no real Jeremy Shockey-like distraction. Beckham may rant and rave and wave his arms at times like a typical diva receiver, but teammates say he often takes blame for plays gone wrong, and quickly switches back into a positive, "Let's go" mode. They all, publicly and privately, insist he's a good teammate.
So what exactly is the problem?
Whatever it is, it's certainly not troublesome enough to make it worth dumping what might be an irreplaceable talent. The Giants aren't getting Julio Jones or Jarvis Landry back in a Beckham deal. At most, they'll get draft picks and a little bit of cap room, which they'd have to turn around and use in their effort to replace Beckham. Shepard hasn't shown he's capable of being a No. 1 receiver, so if the Giants trade Beckham, that becomes their No. 1 need.
After all, for those who think Manning is a mess these days, take away his No. 1 receiver for a full season and see what happens (or just look at what happened in 2017 when Beckham barely played, the Giants went 3-13, and Manning briefly lost his job to Geno Smith).
Or if and when the Giants move on from Manning, wouldn't the next quarterback love to have a receiver like Beckham to throw to, especially if he's young and making his first NFL starts?
But go ahead, make the argument that the Giants are better off without Beckham. There certainly are many ways to twist those facts. But the reality is that Beckham is a Top 5 receiver, and maybe a Top 5 talent in the NFL - especially if and when he's fully healthy. He's only 26 years old. He's signed through 2023, that look like a bargain rate by then.
Any team - including the Giants -- would and should want to build around a player like that.