Giants focus on the future with Leonard Williams trade

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants didn't hold a full-scale sale at the trade deadline. They traded Leonard Williams and his 1.5 sacks some 24 hours beforehand and then stood pat with nine games remaining.

It may not have been completely by choice. If there were a quality offer for cornerback Adoree' Jackson, he would probably be on another team too.

But there wasn't. And here we are with the Giants set to face the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, moving forward without one of their better defensive players in Williams, who is a free agent after this season that likely wasn't going to be re-signed.

They now have an extra second-round pick in 2024 and fifth-round pick in 2025 from the Seattle Seahawks. A quality haul considering the Washington Commanders got a third-round pick for Chase Young.

In a way, the Giants (2-6) admitted what those outside 1925 Giants Drive already knew: They aren't a playoff team and needed to prioritize the future.

That's not an easy thing to justify to your locker room.

"You tell them how it went down; [General manager] Joe [Schoen] wasn't actively shopping anyone," coach Brian Daboll said. "Obviously, he fields calls as a general manager, so we have confidence in the guys that we have and let's go out there and have a good week."

It's the second straight year that Schoen made a trade without "shopping" anyone. Last year, it was wide receiver Kadarius Toney.

In this case, Williams was a player Seattle inquired about last year as well, a source told ESPN. The Giants weren't willing to part with him for just anything. It needed to be a strong offer.

The Seahawks acquiesced, in large part because the Giants were willing to eat almost the full $10 million that Williams was still owed. Schoen, who has been realistic about the roster he inherited since he arrived, needed to strike while there were others willing to pay with valuable draft capital.

"I probably was naïve to it. Or to anything. I just don't think like that," said defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, who was Williams' closest friend on the team. "I didn't see why. I still don't understand why. It is what it is."

This is what Daboll now has to deal with. Keeping this team together in what almost certainly will be a lost year. It's not what this group was expecting after last year's playoff appearance and first-round win.

Trading Williams was one thing. Trading star running back Saquon Barkley would have been another, even if he's also set to become a free agent at the end of the season. He's the face of the franchise and moving him at the deadline would have been the equivalent of Schoen waving a white flag.

That would have been a tough sell to owner John Mara, who considers the product he puts out there for the paying consumer.

So now the Giants trudge forward against an easier schedule -- only one of their next six opponents has a winning record -- with what they anticipate will include a healthier roster. Quarterback Daniel Jones is returning this week from a neck injury. Left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring) and right tackle Evan Neal (ankle) are trending in the right direction for Sunday against the Raiders, too. Thomas hasn't played since trying to chase down a blocked field goal in Week 1 against Dallas.

It should all help, and there is a reasonable chance the Giants win some games as a result.

"I think we're all focused on doing what we can to help make plays, score points, and do what we can to put the team in position to win games," Jones said. "That's what we're focused on as a group, and we're excited to do it."

That is really what the rest of this season is about once again. Finding out if Jones and the rest of this team is really moving in the right direction or if last year was a blip on the radar. The defense has been playing well, but can they get the offensive line back to being average while Jones plays at (or above) the level he showed last season?

These are key questions. If not, the Giants will have a high pick in the draft. At that point, quarterback would need to be considered. Currently, the Giants are projected to finish with the third-worst record in the NFL, according to ESPN Analytics.

If that's the case, the extra draft capital could be the difference in helping them move up to get the quarterback they desire or supplement a roster that clearly needs work. Either way, it's more valuable at 2-6 than having Williams around to try to scratch out an extra win or two.