What Does Hanging on to Hakeem Nicks Mean for the New York Giants?
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The 2013 deadline didn't live up to the hype—to the surprise of almost no one—as players speculated to be trade bait, like Tony Gonzalez, Jared Allen and Larry Fitzgerald, all stayed put. In fact, the only notable move made before the deadline was Philadelphia's dealing of defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga to New England, which also involved a swapping of late-round 2014 draft picks, via CBS Philly.
Nicks was one of the names tossed through the rumor mill.
In the final year of his rookie deal, and presumably on the hunt for a big contract, Nicks' trade potential rose with each loss New York rattled off. After New York's 38-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 3, some speculated Nicks would be dealt to the Detroit Lions in exchange for running back Mikel Leshoure and a third-round pick.
That rumor was obviously proven false. Still, up until the deadline, Nicks was considered one of the league's top trade prospects. The Giants, who already traded for linebacker Jon Beason in early October, chose not to make a second significant personnel exchange in less than a month.
What does Nicks mean to the Giants?
As we witnessed in 2012, the Giants offense runs through Hakeem Nicks.
When he was healthy and at the top of his game, quarterback Eli Manning's passing game was next to unstoppable. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2 of the '12 season, Nicks accounted for 199 of Manning's 510 yards while also scoring a touchdown in New York's 41-34 comeback victory.
Foot and knee injuries hampered the rest of Nicks' 2012 season. The Giants' No. 1 wide receiver averaged only 38 yards per game in the remaining 11 contests in which he played. With Nicks rendered ineffective, the Giants offense slumped and eventually collapsed in embarrassing late-season losses to the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens.
Having a big, dominant outside receiver like Nicks is essential for Manning and the rest of the Giants offense to thrive. In the 2011 Super Bowl season, Nicks caught fire late in the year as the Giants enjoyed what may have been the strongest offensive stretch of the Manning era. Nicks' consistent production during this stretch was no coincidence.
What would it have meant to trade Nicks?
After the 0-6 start, fans began eyeballing the Giants' projected 2014 draft position.
At the outset of the season, New York had a goal to become the first team to compete in the Super Bowl in its home stadium. Since then, the focus has shifted to the rebuilding period looming on the horizon.
With that came trade talk involving Nicks.
In theory, the Giants could have received a high- to mid-round pick in next year's draft by dealing away the 25-year-old receiver, thus avoiding the possibility of getting nothing if he decides to walk in free agency next spring. On Wednesday, offensive lineman David Diehl expressed his doubts about Nicks' return for the 2014 season, per Pro Football Talk.
Trading Nicks would have been the equivalent of waving the white flag. However, by packing in the already abysmal 2013 season a little early, New York could have gotten a head start and a much-needed boost in the impending rebuilding project.
What does it mean to keep Nicks?
It may have been a slow start for Nicks, who has yet to catch a touchdown through eight games, but he is still too valuable to lose in a trade. Although he has yet to replicate the level of play he reached in the 2011 playoffs, Nicks has been healthy for all eight games this year and is on pace to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving for the third time in four seasons.
Did the Giants make a mistake by not trading Hakeem Nicks?
By keeping Nicks on the roster, the Giants are holding out hope for the 2013 season. Even though they should be far out of contention in the NFC East, New York is only two games behind the division-leading Dallas Cowboys. Nicks provides his team its best chance to close that gap in the final eight games of the season.
Sure, Nicks has gone missing recently. He's also uncharacteristically dropped a few balls. Right now, he doesn't look like the offensive MVP, but, if Manning's passing game ever rediscovers its stride this season, Nicks is a player you'll want to have around—even if it sets the team back slightly for the future.
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