By Ernie Palladino
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If the Giants’ season gets any worse — and with Minnesota and Adrian Peterson coming up Monday night there’s a fine chance it will — one can bet a few changes will be happening shortly after what is affectionately known as “baggie day.”
That’s the day all the players report for the final time, have a year-end meeting, and throw their personal sundries into the black garbage bags, there to be toted out to their high-end cars, SUVs and trucks.
The thing is, that’s then. The season is not there yet. It’s here, at 0-6, with 0-7 staring Tom Coughlin’s suddenly old, battered group in the face. And that means Coughlin is basically looking right now at the group of players who will either pull this team out of the NFC East cellar or doom it to its worst record of the Coughlin era.
This all brings us to the latest rumblings around the franchise, that of a potential trade involving Hakeem Nicks. The wide receiver is not signed past this year, and will probably ask for a mound of money once he hits free agency. So, the thought process goes, swap him for a veteran or high draft pick before the Oct. 29 trade deadline so at least you get something for him. Let some other team deal with a potential demand for $11 million a year.
As sensible as that sounds, it’s probably not going to happen. For one thing, Nicks hasn’t looked like the game-busting, 11-touchdown playmaker of 2010 since Game 2 of 2012, before he came up with knee and foot problems that left him a shell of himself the rest of that season.
This year, he is clearly behind Victor Cruz in the pass-catching category. He hasn’t found the end zone in six games, though his 25 catches have gone for a healthy 17.7-yard average. Still, he appears to have lost that breakaway speed that enticed the Giants to make him their first-round pick in 2009.
For another, why would the Giants want to do that? Whatever he brings — at this point a mid-round draft pick or a borderline veteran — won’t help what ails this team. They have a multitude of holes, starting with an offensive line that already has been shuffled more times than a blackjack deck in Las Vegas. The running backs situation is a mess, unless one believes that the little flashes Brandon Jacobs has shown are actually going to lead them somewhere.
And the defensive line has clearly lost a step. Justin Tuck, a true warrior who played through every injury he ever had, can’t run down the quarterback anymore and has half a sack to show for six games. Jason Pierre-Paul, once regarded as the next, great freak of nature, struggled last year with the added attention of the double-team and is now laboring under the apparent after-effects of back surgery. He has all of one sack.
The whole defense? Five sacks, four interceptions. It is simply not the old punishing defense.
Can trading off Nicks fill any of those holes? The way he’s playing, absolutely not. A team would be mad to give up a quality starter for him at this point. He’s a free man after 10 games, and that’s not counting the time he’ll have a limited role as he learns a new offense.
The Giants would be better off keeping him, anyway. Let him play the season, get what they can out of him, and try to re-sign him at a cheaper rate during free agency. Perhaps their patience will pay off next year if he returns to his fast, exciting, and productive old self.
The recent rumors of potential queries from Baltimore, Kansas City, Atlanta, Detroit, New England, and Green Bay, all of whom have taken injury hits to their pass-catching corps, are just a function of what happens around bad teams. If the Giants want to wind up as a truly horrible team — as if they’re far from that now — they’ll start trading away starters.
Chances are that won’t happen. General manager Jerry Reese might listen to offers for Nicks, but if he’s wise he’ll hold off.
One trade does not a remedy make, not for this team.
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