The New York Giants have traded Jeremy Shockey to the New Orleans Saints for a second- and a fifth-round pick in the 2009 draft. The deal is pending league approval and a physical exam.
I am pretty conflicted on this deal, but ultimately I am on board. First, the reasons why it makes sense:
1. Shockey was going to become a major distraction once training camp got fully underway. Shockey wanted out, he bullied Eli, and he was not going to be ok with Kevin Boss getting more and more playing time. This is probably reason enough to have traded him. From what I can tell, Shockey is the kind of guy who can be a major distraction in the locker room, and could easily undermine Eli's (now deserved) leadership position. And while the Giants certainly don't need to protect Eli from every loudmouth jerk on the team -- there will always be a few -- Shockey's discontent had grown beyond the garden variety.
2. Shockey is a little overrated. Calm down, calm down. Shockey was a very good tight end, and he is going to improve the Saints immediately (they were already a candidate for most improved NFL team this year, and this trade helps them immensely). But his flair for the dramatic (both on the field and off), and his insistence at running directly at the opposing team when they try to tackle him (not to mention a mild case of Jason Sehorn syndrome from the press and the fans) earned him a reputation as one of the premier tight ends in the league that may not have been deserved. Shockey drops way too many passes, refuses to block, and gets way too many stupid taunting and personal fouls. He is also prone to injury; he never once played in all 16 regular season games in his six-year career with the Giants.
3. The Giants draft well. Giants GM Jerry Reese only has two drafts under his belt, but both have been very, very solid (in the first, Reese took five players who would make meaningful contributions in the Superbowl as rookies. That is extraordinary). With seven picks in the first five rounds of the 2009 draft (I am assuming - but don't know for sure - that they have all of their other picks), the Giants could be in a position to build a very solid team around Eli for many years to come.
4. Boss arguably fits the Giants offensive scheme better than Shockey. Boss is unproven (see below), yes, but has shown signs that he will fit in with Eli perfectly in the 2008 campaign. The Giants are a running team with several strong options for the pass (Burress, Toomer, the emerging Steve Smith, etc.). They don't really need a tight end who is going to catch 8-10 passes a game. Instead, they need a guy who can block for both the pass and the run, but who has good enough hands that the quarterback can rely on him as a mid- to deep threat when the need arises. Consider this: in the Giants final three games last year, Boss caught one pass in each game, each for more than 10 yards (the last, a 45-yd strike in the Superbowl, was the most memorable).
So are you convinced? Me too, except when I consider the following:
1. The Giants traded a Pro Bowl TE for two guys who cannot join the team for more than a year. This is risky business. I understand that the team didn't have a whole lot of choice here, but they sure did not get any proven players in return for a proven player. I know Jason Taylor wasn't a great fit for us, but with him going to the Redskins yesterday, I am a little surprised the Giants didn't find a way to cut a three-way deal with Miami and New Orleans (which is apparently what the Saints were trying to do), if for no other reason than to keep Washington from getting him. I guess the problem is that the Saints knew Shockey wanted out, and didn't have to offer the farm to get him. I just wonder whether, had the Giants balked at this deal, and then won their first two or three games of the season with meaningful contributions from Shockey, we wouldn't all be breathing collective sigh of relief for holding back. We'll see.
2. Boss is unproven. The Kevin Boss thing was very exciting last year. But the Kevin Maas thing was exciting a few years before that. I am not suggesting he can't be a serviceable tight end, but I think we need to resist the temptation to suggest that the Giants haven't lost anything here. This guy has played in 13 regular season games in his career, and was only thrown to in five of them. He has yet to catch his tenth career pass, or score his third career touchdown. I am excited about seeing what he can do every day, but it is risky to send a pro bowler to another team in favor of a somewhat unproven rookie.
To me the bottom line is that the Giants were low on options here. They had a star player who wanted out; they got what the could for him, and will roll the dice with a second-year player who could be a perfect fit, but could just as easily leave the team wishing they had put up with Shockey's antics for another year.