Giants GM Dave Gettleman got rid of an over-priced pass rusher he was likely about to cut and managed to get a starting guard in return, while clearing at least a little bit of salary cap space and moving back about 20 places with one of his picks on Day 3 of the NFL Draft.
It's hard not to view that as a steal for the Giants and a big win for a general manager that has been battered by the fan base lately.
The Giants still have plenty of problems, of course, and sometimes plugging one hole just creates a leak in the other. But in general, Gettleman accomplished several objectives. Olivier Vernon was the team's top pass rusher and had seven sacks in 11 games last season, but he also missed nine games with injuries over the last two years and has never quite lived up to his five-year, $85 million contract.
According to a source, the Giants were shopping him and were pondering cutting him if they couldn't find a taker, to clear $11.5 million in salary cap space off their books.
Instead, they cleared that and, in return, received guard Kevin Zeitler, a durable, 29-year-old who has been a starter for his entire seven-year career with the Browns and Bengals, and who at $10 million will cost $1.5 million less than Vernon did against the cap. The Giants did surrender one of their fourth-round picks (No. 132) in return for Cleveland's fifth-round pick (No. 155). But that part of the swap can be summed up in two words: So what?
The big win aside, though, the trade does change things a little bit for the Giants as they head into the offseason. Here's a look at some of the ways it does:
How will the Giants replace Vernon in their pass rush?
Even with Vernon, their pass rush was just atrocious last season. Kareem Martin, the linebacker on the other end, was a non-factor. Rookie Lorenzo Carter showed some flashes, but it's hard to imagine him stepping into a full-time starting role. He was nowhere near Vernon's level, neither as a run-stopper nor a pass rusher.
The good news for the Giants is the free-agent market is loaded with edge rushers. The bad news? They cost a fortune. If the Giants had cut Vernon, they could've spent his $11.5 million on his replacement. Now they don't really have the cap room to shop on any of the top two tiers.
Is the smart play now to take a pass rusher in the draft at No. 6 instead of a quarterback?
Maybe. That was something Gettleman was going to have to ponder anyway, since Vernon clearly wasn't going to be around long. Now the need is even more stark. Yes, Gettleman's "dream" is to find a quarterback of the future, and Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins could be sitting there for him at 6. But the quality of pass rushers that might be available -- Michigan's Rashan Gary, Clemson's Clelin Ferrell, Mississippi State's Montez Sweat -- could be really tempting. Their choices only increase if Oklahoma's Kyler Murray and Haskins both end up going in the top five.
With Zeitler the new starting right guard, do the Giants still want Jamon Brown?
When the Giants claimed the 25-year-old Brown off waivers last season and plugged him in at right guard, it seemed to instantly transform their line. Suddenly it was adequate and the line improved. They made it clear they value Brown, and Brown made it clear he wanted to stay in New York. Now? His value certainly decreases, and without a starting job he might look to go somewhere else.
With Landon Collins and Vernon gone, don't they have to totally rebuild the defense?
Well, yeah. At least in terms of playmakers. Gettleman has made it pretty clear he doesn't really care who the Giants' safeties are, so don't expect a big push at that position. It sounds like he's keeping CB Janoris Jenkins and is excited about the debut of last year's supplemental draft pick, CB Sam Beal.
But they could still use another corner, and they definitely need help at outside linebacker, and it wouldn't be shocking to see them go after a big nose tackle to replace Damon Harrison. Where are they going to get that money? Good question. It's a good thing they still have 10 picks in the upcoming draft.