On balance, New York football has just as many active future Hall of Famers today as it did Tuesday morning. But it sure was eventful getting there. The Giants shipped one out of town for a song late Tuesday, and a few hours later the Jets brought in another at a downright reasonable price.
These aren’t merely Pro Bowlers — they’re some of the best players of their generation at their chosen positions, and the holes they’re leaving behind and stepping into will have enormous effects in East Rutherford.
GETTLEMAN THE GIF
When Gettleman took the reigns and selected Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick, I was one of the few who didn’t hate it.
Even though the team could have gone quarterback, in my mind there’s nothing wrong with getting LaDainian Tomlinson 2.0 for eight to ten years and trying to mine a quarterback later if possible.
But in addressing the pick, Gettleman, instead of extolling the virtues of Barkley, took the time to attack the entire field of football analytics.
“It is a crock,” Gettleman fired back. “I think it is someone who had decided to get into the analytics of it and did all these running backs and went through whatever…” miming his fingers typing furiously at an imaginary keyboard, attempting to mock analytics.
Gettleman made it clear that his defensible move to draft Barkley was underpinned by outdated logic. Bad process, good result. Tuesday, that bad process rang up a different result.
Trading Odell Beckham so soon after signing him to the richest wide-receiver deal in history is a plainly terrible financial move. We don’t need to spend much brain power understanding that. But cap issues smooth out over time — the bigger issue is the talent walking out the door.
Five years in, Beckham is on a clear Hall of Fame trajectory. He’s a generational talent who has kept himself totally clean, unless you’re the sort of stiff who thinks wearing strange pants and sitting next to Lil Wayne is a crime.
OBJ has averaged 92.8 receiving yards per game in his career, the second-highest five-year average to start a career going all the way back to the 1970 merger per Pro Football Reference. More than Randy Moss, who averaged 84.3 yards per game over his first five years, and more than Jerry Rice, who averaged 83.7 yards per over his first five campaigns.
And since his rookie year in 2014, Odell has outpaced most of his contemporaries as well. He’s averaged more yards per game than DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans and A.J. Green. In fact only Julio Jones (103.8) and Antonio Brown (100.6) have averaged more yards per game than Beckham (92.8).
The Giants are also losing a guy that is a master tactician and a player that can create for himself.
According to Next Gen Stats, when lined up as an out wide receiver (as opposed to an inside slot man), Odell has averaged 2.8 yards of separation from his nearest defender since 2016. Among qualified outside wide receivers, that’s the best in the league. Davante Adams is fifth on this list, Antonio Brown sixth and Michael Thomas ninth.
Yahoo’s Matt Harmon specializes in charting wide receivers. He watches hundreds of snaps on individual wideouts and marks down the coverage they faced, the route they ran and how successful they were regardless of whether the ball is thrown their way. This guy knows receivers. So I asked him how OBJ has graded out. Surprising no one, Odell was and has been damn near unguardable.
Odell’s success rate versus man or press coverage never fell below the 98th percentile and last year, a perceived down year, he still scorched opposing defensive backs downfield as he scored an outrageously high 71.7 percent success rate on the nine route. You know those routes where you tell the receiver, just run downfield and catch it? He beat coverage 71.7 percent of the time. League average is around 54 percent.
“There are very few true coverage dictators at the wide receiver position but Odell Beckham is clearly one of them,” Harmon said. “There is no cost too high for an elite player like this.”
If I’m spending an exorbitant amount of time spelling out how special of a talent Odell is, it’s because trading him for spare parts, even really good spare parts, is mind boggling. And to do it while decimating your salary cap all in one swift, terrible, move? I mean, the fact that Gettleman was able to out-heel-turn Aunt Becky is actually really impressive.
The Jets’ front office played this perfectly.
They read the market on running backs and made a strong offer to Le’Veon Bell, but didn’t hamstring the team with a silly, market-changing deal, finding a sweet spot between Todd Gurley and David Johnson.
Gurley signed a four-year extension with $45 million guaranteed that averages $15 million per year. Johnson, a three-year deal with $30 million in guarantees that averages $13 million per.
Bell ultimately agreed to a four-year pact that gives him $35 million in guarantees with an average annual salary of $13.1 million.
At this point you know how versatile Lev is. A quick, powerful runner on the ground, Bell is an even greater asset as a pass catcher. A true modern day running back, when I called Saquon the 2018 version of Tomlinson earlier, just keep in mind, I blessed Bell with the same moniker back in 2016.
And talk about special, Bell over his first 62 games is averaging 129.0 scrimmage yards per game, that is the best per game mark in NFL history. Jim Brown is second with 125.5 scrimmage yards per game, Barry Sanders fifth (118.8). Bell hasn’t yet hit the decline phase that drops that number for many backs — Brown and Sanders both notably retired early and skipped that phase as well — but that’s the level of production we’re talking about. He’s up there with the greats.
So if Bell compares favorably to Jim Freaking Brown, how insanely productive has he been compared to his current running back peers? His 6,737 scrimmage yards since 2014 is the most in the NFL … and the man hasn’t played in an entire year! Todd Gurley, great as he’s been for two consecutive years, is third on the list racking up 6,430 scrimmage yards. Melvin Gordon, ninth, with 5,205 yards.
Even if there is some degradation of skill and explosiveness from the 27-year-old Bell over the life of the contract, he could still come down quite a ways and give New York 100-yard games on the regular.
To sign this level of playmaker for an extremely reasonable price was a huge feather in Maccagnan cap and potentially sets up the Jets for a possible postseason berth, something that hasn’t happened since 2010.
James Koh writes the national football column. He’s probably wrong, but you never know. Follow him on Twitter @JamesDKoh.