by Paul Wanecski
The New York Giants have fallen on hard times. They have been unable to sustain a consistent ground attack due to injuries, some being career-ending. Along with substantial injury issues, they have not drafted exceptionally well. The offensive line, which several seasons ago was seen as the strength of the team has all but completely evaporated. The question is what piece of this broken puzzle do you pick up first?
To put it simply, the New York Giants are struggling with the salary cap. With only $15.9 million available, they will struggle to make comparable offers to free agent players that could fill immediate holes in the roster. Along with that, they have to look to extend several players without sacrificing cap space in future years. Under Tom Coughlin, the Giants have always had that typical “old-school” mentality, establishing a punishing run game to open up passing options. With the 9th overall selection in this year’s NFL draft, they will have a chance to re-build an offensive line and hopefully breathe some life back into the franchise.
Quarterback Eli Manning at the start of the 2010 season received a head-scratcher of a contract extension. His offensive production was never eye-popping but his teams managed to be effective. With 2015 marking the last year of that extension, Eli is set to make $19.75 million against the cap. This number could be alleviated by transferring some of his base salary into a signing bonus across multiple years. While it doesn’t solve a long term problem, it does free up immediate cap space. It would be hard to imagine, given the market for QBs that his salary would be anywhere under $20 million per season.
Expect RB Peyton Hillis to be cut, saving almost $1 million
Center JD Walton also could be a cap causality, as the Giants expect to move the offensive line around pretty significantly. This saves $3 million.
ILB Jon Beason or Jameel McClain could be released; either would save about $3 million.
CB Prince Amukamara signing a 2-3 year extension restructuring his base salary this year can spread his $6.9 million cap figure out a bit.
Jason Pierre-Paul (12.5 sacks in 2014, 9 in final 5 games) was able to turn it up at the end of last year, raising his value. While he is noted for inconsistent play throughout his career, the Giants have to make a determination as to if they are going to bring him back into the fold, or, if they could even afford him. The outlook is not positive right now. Allowing him to test the free agent waters may not be a bad idea but they would need to free up some cap room to counter any offer made to JPP.
The Giants are looking for that old-school mauler right tackle that they have been lacking. They are looking to move resident tackle Justin Pugh into the guard spot. At the number 9 selection in the draft, they will probably have a few options. Andrus Peat (Stanford) is 6’7” 316 lbs. While he shows the strength that you look for, he has some drawbacks. He is able to get to the second level well, show patience and a huge wingspan, all things that may offset the scouting reports that he has a bit of technical flaws to clean up.
T Rob Havenstein (Wisconsin) is a Day 3 project, may be where the team goes if they are unable to secure one of the two-three top tackles in the draft. Watch out, this kid could be a great value late in the draft.
Inside linebacker needs to be addressed but a few good options exist in free agency.
Plenty of options abound in the current free agent pool, but don’t expect all these players to be available; most are top resigning targets within the teams they played last year.
ILB Rey Maualuga (Cincinnati) has a pretty off-putting injury history. He has been in Marvin Lewis’ system his entire career but transitioning roles for the Giants may be a good fit. He is a gamble they may be willing to take.
ILB Brandon Spikes (Buffalo) displayed his ability to be a monster run stuffer with the Bills but his dreams of using Buffalo to show the league that he was a 3 down middle linebacker were not realized. He was not given many opportunities to show his pass coverage ability which will hurt his open market value.
ILB Mason Foster (Tampa Bay) should be priority #1 for the Bucs. He was the pulse of a defense that fell apart when he missed time due to injury. He shouldn’t be available but if he is, expect the Giants to try and bring him north.
ILB Rolando McClain (Dallas) played well enough to be discussed, but not well enough to be depended on. If he is signed away from Dallas, expect the Giants to use a 3rd or 4th round pick to handcuff the inside linebacker position for 2015. Any deal he signs will not be a long one.
ILB David Harris (Jets) is another player who shouldn’t become available, but with the regime change in New York, he may just have to switch jerseys from Jets green and while to Giants white and blue.
Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale