EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The outrage was bound to happen anyway, but it really got loud Tuesday afternoon when word leaked out of the trade between the New England Patriots and the Cleveland Browns. After all, if the Browns can land an emerging young linebacker like Jamie Collins for the low, low price of a third- or fourth-round pick, why can't the Giants do something like that?
Or even better: Why can't the Giants do anything at all?
The answer is that of course they could have made a trade of some sort before the deadline on Tuesday, and there were very likely a few opportunities they could have pursued.
But they were absolutely right to pass them all up and stick with the roster they have.
That's not the most satisfying of answers considering the Giants are only 4-3 and haven't looked much like a true contender. They have a lack of depth all over their roster, injury issues at several positions and some obvious flaws at positions like tight end and along the offensive line.
But the Giants are also a team in transition - something they know, whether they want to admit it publicly or not. They are in a bit of a rebuilding mode - or reloading, as coach Ben McAdoo prefers - after years of bad drafting and three straight losing seasons. Yes, in the NFL, sometimes all it takes is to find a way to sneak into the playoffs and then, who knows what could happen? Realistically, though, the last thing the Giants needed to do right now was to give up any part of their future in the longshot hope of grasping a one-season, golden straw.
Or, to put it another way: one linebacker, one tackle, one tight end wasn't going to be enough to magically turn them into the team to beat in the NFC. Besides, there's really no reason they shouldn't be able to make a run at the playoffs with what they have.
"Yeah, I'm very confident in the team, in the locker room and the coaching staff," McAdoo said. "You always explore options out there, but you value draft picks as well."
What could the Giants have done that would've made everyone happy anyway? Remember, when a player is traded midseason there's usually a pretty good reason why he's available. The last good midseason trade the Giants made was when they landed linebacker Jon Beason for a seventh-round pick back in 2013. He was terrific that season too, so the Giants' gamble on an injury-prone player who had barely played the two previous years paid off - at least until they signed him to a three-year, $17 million deal the next offseason and he barely played for them again.
That deal still made sense, though. It was worth the late pick to take a flier on a big question mark. But would it have been worth a third- or a fourth-round pick? No. Just like it wouldn't have been worth dealing a third- or a fourth-rounder to bring in a player like Collins who wants big money when he becomes a free agent in March.
Forget Collins, though, because the Giants likely weren't going to pursue a linebacker. They like their linebackers, especially the addition of Keenan Robinson, and they're generally pleased with the results of their $200 million defensive upgrade. If they were going to pursue help, it surely would've been an offensive lineman or maybe a tight end. And it doesn't sound like any tight ends were available who were markedly better than what the Giants already have.
There were linemen, though, and this is the source of many fans' angst considering how shaky the Giants' offensive line has looked at times. The Giants could've gone after Cleveland's Joe Thomas, who is 31, has two more years left on his contract and a manageable cap number the next two seasons ($10 million each). Or there was San Francisco's Joe Staley, 32, with three more years left and an $11.15 million cap number in 2017.
Both were financially reasonable, could've been around for another few years, and would've been an upgrade at left tackle over second-year pro Ereck Flowers, who then could've moved to the right side. Assuming they were available - and there's reason to believe neither really was - why shouldn't the Giants have pursued them?
Because the cost almost certainly would've been a second-round pick, at least, and that's valuable for a team like the Giants. Second-round players are supposed to be instant starters. Think about the Giants' last four second-rounders - receiver Sterling Shepard, safety Landon Collins, center Weston Richburg and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins. Would you have given up any of them for Staley or Thomas? For anyone?
They are all young, low-cost players - two of whom are playing at a Pro Bowl level, and all of whom could be there some day. And assuming the Giants don't screw it up, figure their 2017 second-rounder will fit the same mold.
Give that up for a tackle with a few good years left, at an age where NFL bodies begin to break down?
That makes no sense for a team rebuilding - or reloading - with a chance to be a true contender in the next couple of years.
And again, that inaction doesn't rule out a run this season. At 4-3, the Giants are currently in playoff position. Yes, they're two games behind the Dallas Cowboys in the standings, but as good as Dak Prescott has been in Dallas, who knows how their second half with a rookie quarterback will go? The Giants probably only need to go 5-4 the rest of the way to secure a playoff berth. A 6-3 record will lock it in.
From there, the Giants are just one hot streak and a little luck with injuries away from … who knows? In 2011 they were only 9-7 and badly flawed, yet they still managed to make a Super Bowl run. So one trade wasn't going to dramatically improve their chances this season.
But one bad trade certainly could've hurt them in the years to come.