In a trio of fell swoops that took place in less than 24 hours, beginning on the one-year anniversary of their Super Bowl XLVI victory over the New England Patriots, the New York Giants have cleared nearly $14 million in cap space by releasing three starters from that unforgettable game.
With the possibility remaining that the G-men hand walking papers to up to a handful of additional veterans, it's apparent that the only NFL team with two Super Bowl titles in the last seven years is overhauling the roster
It's not a rebuild. Nobody rebuilds in the NFL these days. Or at least nobody uses that dirty word. In this case, though, let's call it a mini-rebuild.
So long as Eli Manning is the quarterback and Jason Pierre-Paul is setting the tone on defense, the Giants should continue to be competitive. In years past, they've been able to "recharge," if you will, by invading the free-agent market and combining those signings with quality draft picks. That's why Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin have had a contending team for nearly a decade now.
But this year is a bit unique because the Giants' financial situation means the focus will almost inevitably have to remain on this year's draft and several of the drafts that preceded it. When they "retooled" in 2009, they signed Chris Canty, Michael Boley and Rocky Bernard in a 48-hour time period. The first two names listed were cut this week, indicating the Giants won't be spending in a similar fashion again this spring.
The Giants were never heavy-hitters on the free-agent market anyway. They've added a starter via free agency in each of the last three years (Antrel Rolle in 2010, David Baas in 2011 and Martellus Bennett in 2012) but that's it.
Don't expect anything beyond that in 2013.
By releasing Canty, Boley and Ahmad Bradshaw, they've freed up approximately $14 million in cap space, moving them out of the red and with a surplus of approximately $9 million. That money will and should be used to re-sign young left tackle Will Beatty and to wrap up key young cogs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, as well as to pay draft picks and other contributors with expiring contracts in the six-figure range.
We keep hearing that more cuts are likely to come, which is surely both painful and pleasant for Giants fans who hate to see heroes walk but know it's right for the long-term health of their franchise.
Next up should be Corey Webster, who was one of the league's least efficient cornerbacks in 2012 and currently has the Giants on the hook for over $7 million in 2013. Beyond that, they'd be smart to continue the mini-rebuild by waving goodbye to Justin Tuck and David Diehl, both of whom are no longer effective and aren't worth their salaries or their roster spots. Let the overpriced and over-aged Osi Umenyiora and the overrated Chase Blackburn walk as free agents and you'll define proactivity for the better.
Everyone I've mentioned was a starter in that recent Super Bowl. Will such an overhaul make it tough on the Giants in 2013? Absolutely. But this has to be about Big Blue believing in their philosophy and having faith in their draft picks. Guys like David Wilson, Jacquian Williams, Marvin Austin, Jayron Hosley, Adrian Tracy and James Brewer might have to step it up, but that has to be the expectation anyway.
If the Giants release only one more player, who should it be?
Manning is 32 and has lots of gas left in the tank. Pierre-Paul is only getting started at the age of 24. No one else has to be a star. The key is to continue to churn out productive players at reasonable prices, which is what the Giants believe they've done. That's why they're rebuilding the support system that surrounds Manning and JPP.
This team has been competitive and has avoided finishing with a losing record for eight consecutive years. They will not enter 2013 as a favorite, especially consider what's taking place right now, but that wasn't the case in either of the two seasons in which they shocked the world during that eight-year span.
Their chances will drop for the time being, but they'll still have a shot. And they'll be better off now in 2014 and beyond, primed to make one last run in the Eli era.