Tight end Evan Engram, Giants could both benefit from trade

Tight end Evan Engram had the game on his fingertips Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. It slipped away. With it might have gone any remaining goodwill with New York Giants fans.

Not because of that singular moment. Engram and other players have dropped key passes before. More so because it's clear, for whatever reason, it has not worked so far with Engram in coordinator Jason Garrett's offense.

Something just isn't right with Engram this season, and it hasn't been from the opening kickoff in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Maybe it's the new scheme. Perhaps he's still not his normal self after foot surgery late last year. Or maybe New York and the losing have worn him down.

It's just that the one thing Engram has always done well when healthy -- be a dynamic playmaker -- has seemingly been sapped from his existence. It makes you wonder if it's best for everybody involved if the Giants trade Engram by the NFL's Nov. 3 deadline.

Engram, 26, is still young and relatively valuable. And if he's not a fit in what the new regime is doing, it's best to get something in return now before it's too late.

"Young, talented players always do [have trade value]," a personnel executive said of Engram.

The tight end has the remainder of this season left on his rookie contract and then a fifth-year option at a more than reasonable $6 million next year. That allows Engram to be more than a midseason rental for another team, which adds to his current value. The feeling around the league after speaking to insiders is Engram can likely bring a third- or fourth-round draft pick.

This would allow the Giants to start collecting trade capital. They've been operating with an eye on the future since Joe Judge became the head coach.

But the Giants view Engram as part of their future. He's a talented player and trading him would leave the Giants and quarterback Daniel Jones (already without injured starting running back Saquon Barkley) with even less firepower.

The Giants consider Engram their top playmaker. They want to get him the ball like they did in their 22-21 loss to the Eagles on Thursday (nine targets, two rushing attempts) and don't appear to want to move him at the trade deadline. Teams have called, but the Giants are not shopping Engram, according to a league source. It would seem unlikely, barring an offer that blows them away, that Engram is dealt, despite his struggles.

"In terms of Evan as a player, we have all the confidence in him possible," Judge said. "We're going to keep giving him the ball, keep making him the focal point of our offense, and we expect him to keep showing up. He did a lot of good things [Thursday] night."

Engram had six catches for 46 yards against the Eagles. It was one of his most productive games of the season.

His value is based primarily on talent -- not production -- because this season has been a mess. He has three dropped passes, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That tied him for the most among tight ends (alongside San Francisco's George Kittle and Baltimore's Mark Andrews) entering Sunday's games.

You can stomach the dropped passes if it comes with the production that Kittle and Andrews have brought to their respective teams. But Engram has 26 catches for 223 yards and his only touchdown has come as a runner, not as a pass-catcher.

Most of the routes he has run this season have been near the line of scrimmage, which doesn't maximize his speed. The key drop Thursday night was the first time this season the Giants officially targeted Engram more than 20 yards downfield. They've completed only two of seven passes to him more than 10 yards downfield. This has made it difficult to produce impactful plays.

Engram's struggles culminated with the crucial dropped pass deep down the left sideline with just over two minutes remaining on Thursday. It was the latest in a nightmare year -- he is averaging 31.9 receiving yards per game, 20 yards fewer than he did in his first three professional seasons.

"Yes, 100 percent, I got to make that [catch]," Engram admitted after the game. "It's just a sucky feeling. It really sucks right now."

It was admirable the way Engram made himself available and faced the music following the lowlight. He wouldn't have been the first player in a season impacted by the coronavirus pandemic to hide from the postgame Zoom news conferences. Instead, he openly accepted responsibility for the costly miscue.

Still, you have to wonder if he is worn down by his struggles. In previous years, it was mostly the injury questions that seemed to wear on his psyche. There were also the endless questions about his subpar blocking and the drops.

Judge elected to focus on the positives when asked about the key third-down drop. It almost seems to stress Engram's fragility, though Judge has been steadfast about his desire not to provide even an iota of public criticism. That's his approach with all his players.

"Everyone's got their own right style there. ... However another head coach wants to handle that, that's on them," Judge said.

The Giants are not going to call out Engram for his drops. Or even his missed blocks or poor routes. They believe in his talent, and they aren't going to give up on him just yet.

More likely than not, he will remain a Giant after the trade deadline passes. And be a key piece of their offense moving forward.