Giants: Who could be on the trading block ahead of training camp?

New York Giants, Leonard Williams
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) is caught by New York Giants defensive end Leonard Williams (99) during the second quarter at Nissan Stadium Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. Nfl New York Giants At Tennessee Titans

The New York Giants will need to polish their roster ahead of the 2023 season, trimming the fat and bringing their total down to 53 men. While the majority of outgoing players will be released, there is always an outside chance that the team pulls off a trade.

Bleacher Report recently suggested the “Giants’ Top Trade Candidates Ahead of 2023 Training Camp,” listing Leonard Williams, Saquon Barkley, and Sterling Shepard as trade candidates.

While all three players are unlikely to be moved, the possibility does exist; and it may exist for an additional, darkhorse candidate on the defensive side of the ball, too.

With no extension in sight, should the Giants trade Leonard Williams?

Leonard Williams has been a prominent player in the Giants’ defense since the team acquired him via trade in 2019. The veteran defensive lineman’s contract expires after this season, however, leading some to speculate he could be on his way out of the Big Apple. Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox recently broke down the reasons why New York may want to trade Williams ahead of this season:

While Williams is still a very impactful player, he’ll turn 30 next offseason and saw his pass-rushing production dip in 2022—from 6.5 sacks to 2.5. Williams is also scheduled to be a free agent in 2024, meaning the Giants could possibly lose him for nothing more than a compensatory pick next year.

Williams is also expensive, set to carry a cap hit of $32.3 million in 2023. While trading him would trigger a dead-cap charge of $2.2 million, it would also save $18 million off the 2023 salary cap.

That’s far from an insignificant amount, and it represents money with which general manager Joe Schoen could address any emerging needs. It’s also money the Giants could use to lock up Barkley on a long-term deal.

Keeping Williams for another year would make some sense if the Giants are all-in on the 2023 season, but moving him could be very beneficial for New York’s long-term plan.

Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox

Knox is smart to point out the compensatory pick that New York would receive if they allow Williams to walk next offseason. If the team were to decide to trade Williams, they would need to fetch a draft pick comparable in value to the potential comp pick they would receive.

The Giants have shown little interest in extending Williams this offseason. That could change next year if Williams has a strong 2023 campaign. But if Williams truly isn’t part of the Giants’ long-term plans, they would be wise to consider trading him while his value still holds.

Could the Saquon Barkley contract situation be resolved with a change of scenery?

The Giants want Saquon Barkley to be a “Giants for life.” Barkley has been adamant that he wants the same thing. Yet, no contract extension has been signed yet after the superstar running back was franchise tagged in February. There is reportedly some “optimism” in recent negotiations, but the idea of trading Barkley might not be as crazy as one thinks.

As Bleacher Report’s Knox writes, “Still, if a deal doesn’t appear imminent ahead of the July 17 deadline to extend franchise-tagged players, we can’t completely rule out the possibility” of a trade. “…Trading the 26-year-old would also ensure that New York gets something in return for a player who could depart next offseason anyway.”

The two sides are continuing to work toward a deal ahead of the July 17 deadline, and Barkley is likely to play on the tag if a deal doesn’t happen. But if no deal is made, New York could opt to ship Barkley out for draft picks, allowing him to get his payday elsewhere while they look toward the future with additional draft capital.

Xavier McKinney: The darkhorse trade candidate

A far less likely, and far more confusing name to suggest would be Xavier McKinney. But let me make the case for why this might happen (even though I don’t think it should):

McKinney, 24, has missed 18 games with injuries across his first three seasons. When on the field, McKinney is one of New York’s best players, totaling five interceptions as a sophomore in 2021. Because of this production, McKinney is going to get paid like one of the top defensive backs in the NFL next off-season.

Has McKinney truly earned that second contract? Is he reliable enough to lock him in on a long-term deal? Can the Giants even afford to allocate a likely $14 million+ per season to McKinney? Can they afford to sign both McKinney and elite LT Andrew Thomas?

These are all questions that the Giants need McKinney to answer this season. If they believe they already know the answers to these questions, New York could make an early decision on McKinney, trading him away and banking on some of their less-proven talents on the roster to step up.