It was around 11 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 30 when Brandon Parker noticed a call coming in from Leonard Williams. This was somewhat alarming, as Williams, in true Millennial fashion, almost always communicated with his agent via text.
Something had to be up.
“When I saw his number, my heart kind of dropped and I thought, ‘This better not be what I think it is,’ ” Parker said. “I better not be hearing from my client that he was traded before the team calls me. I was going to be upset with that.’’
That was not what Williams was calling about.
Williams told Parker he had just left the office of general manager Joe Schoen. Here was the deal: The Giants informed Williams that they had the framework of a trade in place that would send him clear across the country to Seattle. The compensation was better than they anticipated, and it was a move the team wanted to make. But only if Williams signed off on it.
“Normally I certainly wouldn’t speak on the record about a team, because that’s a mutual respect thing,’’ Parker told The Post. “Because I was so blown away, in a good way, how the Giants handled this situation, I actually want there to be good things said about this front office.’’
Little to nothing has gone right for the Giants this season, and they are 16.5-point underdogs for a game Sunday against the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium that feels like a fait accompli. The new front office that was toasted for last season’s unexpected success is now getting roasted for all the bad football inherent in a record of 2-7. That is the way it works in the big leagues.
Schoen and his staff cannot bail out all the onrushing water, but they can do everything possible to maintain a professional and classy operation even as the ship is sinking. With Williams, this was not a case of the team jettisoning a popular veteran. Williams was a participant in the process. He weighed staying with teammates and a franchise he had come to appreciate with the stark reality of this dismal season and the opportunity to relocate for a few months and dive into immediate playoff contention.
“I’ve been traded before, and it was very abruptly. I kind of had no say,’’ Williams said when he arrived in Seattle, alluding to the 2019 trade from the Jets to the Giants. “In this situation, my GM came to me, and he wasn’t shopping me around, but out of respect for me and where I’m at in my career, being a little older, he pretty much let me know that a few teams including Seattle that were on the winning side of the season and going to make a push this year.’’
This is not typical. Giving a player who did not have a no-trade clause in his contract a chance to veto a trade is not business as usual.
“It was a hard decision for Leonard,’’ Parker said. “It wasn’t, ‘I want to get out of here,’ and they certainly weren’t like, ‘We want to ship you out.’ It was more like, this would probably be best for both sides.
“There weren’t any tears shed, but there were close to some tears shed from people in that front office when they went to say goodbye to Leonard. That was real.’’
Nothing around the league happens in a vacuum, and once the slightest hint got out that Williams might be on the move, other teams called Schoen. His old team, the Bills, expressed interest. The 49ers came in late. It never got hot because those teams were not going to match the 2024 second-round pick the Seahawks had offered — the deal also included a 2025 fifth-round pick. If they had, it is likely the Giants would have given Williams the say-so on where he was to be dealt.
Parker is the son of the late Eugene Parker, one of the most influential football agents of his time. Brandon Parker had a relationship with Schoen from their time together with the Dolphins — Parker as a college intern and Schoen as a young scout.
The way it all went down resonated inside a Giants locker room, where so many players have to be wondering where they fit in the future as the season spirals downward.
“It shows respect from top down in this organization,’’ linebacker Bobby Okereke said. “That, ‘We listen to players.’ It’s just a healthy balance of love and business, because that’s what this league is. It just builds overall team trust and chemistry from the top down.’’
Not every player is a Leonard Williams, of course.
“It’s very unusual,’’ wide receiver Darius Slayton said. “I think this was showing Leo respect and treating him like the veteran and the important part of the team that he is, a pivotal player for us both on and off the field, and I think that was a great gesture by them. It was a classy move by [Schoen].’’
Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, having a big second season, said if he was told there was a trade on the table for him he would be looking to leave.
“If I’m a guy in that position, I’d rather be on a team where they’re trying to trade for me rather than trading me away,’’ Thibodeaux said. “It’s like being in a relationship. If your girlfriend is saying she likes someone else, what are you going to do? Still try to make her happy? No, you’re gonna understand it and try to move on.’’
Thibodeaux did acknowledge, “It was great for the back office to have respect for a player and give him that option. You can respect it. I hope I get that same respect one day when it’s my time.’’
The locker room was not a happy place the day Williams was traded away. Schoen had to know this would be an unpopular move.
“He was smart enough to know if he had done Leonard dirty and just kind of drop-kicked him to Seattle, it would hurt him in that locker room,’’ Parker said. “GMs and coaches can be naive and think that it’s all about them and they can handle things. You do that, you risk the chance of being fired in the middle of the night. You don’t believe that, ask [ex-Raiders coach and GM] Josh McDaniels and David Ziegler.’’
The door was left open for a possible return in 2024 for Williams, who is on an expiring contract. Maybe that will happen. No hard feelings can go a long way.