Team co-owner and CEO John Mara has to rebuild his team.
The New York Giants are among all but two of the NFL's 32 teams to have entered the eight-month recharge known as the offseason; the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos still have to square off at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, for Super Bowl XLVIII in a couple weekends.
A mostly battered New York team remains from the letdown of its 2013 campaign, in which the Giants had the most games lost by starters due to injury, according to Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News. The squad will likely receive a facelift this offseason, but co-owner and team CEO John Mara, general manager Jerry Reese and the rest of the Giants' front office will need to be thrifty.
Financially, the Giants are currently not in great shape. According to this NFLPA public salary-cap report, the team only has $17,447.00 in cap room. Reese will need to be creative to maximize the team's funds and remain competitive in free agency this offseason.
This article will highlight the seven most cost-effective moves the Giants can make this offseason.
CB Corey Webster has likely played his last down as a Giant.
The Giants will be faced with several tough decisions during the 2014 offseason, but this will not be one of them: the Giants will void the final year of cornerback Corey Webster's contract. The 31-year-old is owed $2.25 million if he is retained through 2014. After a poor 2012 and injury-plagued 2013, the Giants can't justify paying Webster that money.
A much more difficult decision will be the one concerning defensive handyman Mathias Kiwanuka. The end-turned-linebacker-turned-end has a cap number of $7.05 million in 2014 (he is owed that same amount again in 2015), according to NJ.com. By cutting Kiwanuka before June 1, the Giants will suffer a $5.25 million cap hit and save $2 million toward free agency. If they cut him after June 1, his cap hit is reduced to $2.625 million in 2015, while the savings swell to $4.425 million.
Few question whether Webster is past his prime, but even fewer realize how Kiwanuka was never given the chance to thrive at one position while in the prime of his career.
Now 30 years old, the one-time first-round draft pick fell victim to his own exceptional versatility. Never a perfect fit at linebacker and rarely a full-time starter at defensive end, Kiwanuka was milked of his athleticism at the expense of potential stardom.
Webster and Kiwanuka were both members of New York's 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl-winning squads. In nine seasons with the Giants, Webster has recorded 20 interceptions and over 300 tackles; Kiwanuka, who joined the team one year after Webster, has racked up 36 sacks and 11 forced fumbles during his tenure with Big Blue.
The longtime Giants, however, may finally be on the way out with their effectiveness on the decline and other players on the Giants defense on the rise.
Several younger defenders, such as cornerback Jayron Hosley and defensive end Damontre Moore, are in position to fill the voids left behind by these former Super Bowl champions.
RG Chris Snee could retire after multiple hip injuries.
The Giants have shown—with the "departure" of former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and the firings of assistants Mike Pope (tight ends) and Jerald Ingram (running backs)—that they are not afraid to shake things up in 2014, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
That does not bode well for four-time Pro Bowler Chris Snee, who has anchored the Giants' O-line at right guard since 2004. For two different championship seasons, Snee was quarterback Eli Manning's most reliable protector. He played in just three games last season—that's one for each of the surgeries he's had in the last calendar year (hip, February 2013; hip and elbow, November 2013).
If he doesn't retire, the Giants will save almost $7 million by cutting Snee, according to NJ.com.
While the game is quickly wearing out Snee, the Giants may still be able to use his linemate, center David Baas. Like Snee, Baas is owed a large sum in 2014; the former San Francisco 49ers' cap number is $8.225 million. Unlike Snee, however, the Giants will save only $1.77 million by cutting Baas before the June 1 deadline—the dead money would be in excess of $6 million, according to the same NJ.com report.
The work on Baas has been just as extensive. After starting out last offseason with a general surgery, Baas sustained significant injuries to his elbow (required surgery), neck and twice to his left MCL. He played in just three games last season.
Betting on a healthy Baas for 2014 would be a considerable risk.
The Giants do not have a replacement center in the wings, though, so the team might be best off keeping Baas—and not Snee—through next season. If Baas is cut next year, the hit goes down to $3.226 million, and the savings boost to $5.249 million.
DT Linval Joseph may earn a big contract with another team.
Several significant contributors are slated to become free agents in the spring, and none may be harder to part with than defensive tackle Linval Joseph and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks—both starters in Super Bowl XLVI.
Joseph—were the Giants blessed with unlimited funds—would be quickly signed to a new deal. Since being drafted in 2010 (second round; 46th overall), the space-eating Joseph recorded over 100 tackles from within the middle of New York's defense. The league's eighth-ranked defensive platoon in 2013 was built primarily around the 328-pound defensive tackle's stout frame.
Nicks has been the team's top outside receiving threat during quarterback Eli Manning's most productive years. Since joining the squad as a first-round selection in 2009 (No. 29 overall), Nicks has hauled in over 300 receptions for more than 4,600 yards. None of his 27 career touchdown receptions occurred during the 2013 season, though.
Both Joseph and Nicks will likely draw richer offers than the Giants can—or are willing to—afford. Joseph has played his way into a contract suited for premier interior D-line talent, yet NJ.com reports that he may need to accept a hometown discount to return to New York in 2014.
Nicks' return is even more unlikely, as Ian Rappoport recently reported "multiple fines" from the 2013 season that were previously unreported.
Joseph has outgrown the Giants' wallet, and no amount of money is worth retaining the distraction Nicks has become.
S Antrel Rolle deserves a contract extension.
The Giants can create some valuable cap room by extending the contracts of their offensive and defensive captains, quarterback Eli Manning and safety Antrel Rolle.
Rolle called an extension his "ultimate goal," according to NJ.com. The All-Pro safety is under contract through the 2014 season, for which he is owed a $7 million salary. By spreading some of that money out over an extension, the Giants can retain long term their biggest defensive playmaker (98 tackles, six interceptions) while also clearing up some cap room for free agency.
Manning, whose $20.4 million cap number for 2014 is the team's largest, may also be extended. Although he is under contract through 2014 and 2015, Manning's massive salary, if untouched, will hamstring the Giants in free agency. In spite of the 27 interceptions he threw in 2013, Manning is still the Giants' unquestioned leader and starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. An extension makes sense.
Giants co-owner and team CEO John Mara claims the decisions to extend both Rolle and Manning will "depend on how aggressive we want to be in free agency," according to Newsday. Although Mara doesn't believe an aggressive approach is a suitable "long-term solution," the Giants need a change on offense—and quick.
Extending the contracts of Rolle and Manning would best facilitate that change.
DE Justin Tuck deserves to return.
As New York's playoff hopes dimmed with an 0-6 start, the Giants soon found themselves playing for mere pride—unfamiliar territory for several players who had grown accustomed to competing for Super Bowls.
For the unrestricted free agents who thrived when times were toughest in 2013, a chance to return may be in store. The rest will be kicked to curb as the team's looming rebuilding project ensues.
Defensive end Justin Tuck—who came through with a resurgent, 11-sack 2013 season—is the most notable player on this bubble. Tuck, as well as linebacker Jon Beason, guard Kevin Boothe and a few others, performed well enough in 2013 to be retained through next season. The same cannot be said for tight end Brandon Myers, wide receiver Louis Murphy Jr. and several other disappointing players.
The futures of some players, like cornerback Trumaine McBride and tight end Bear Pascoe, are totally up in the air at this point. Although, as role players, McBride and Pascoe were valuable contributors, where they fit into New York's plans for the future is practically unknown.
The Giants will be a different-looking team next season, but the core of that team should still feature integral carryovers with fresh memories of head coach Tom Coughlin's most embarrassing year in charge of Big Blue.
RB Joique Bell could fit with the Giants.
The Giants don't need to restock the roster with high-profile free agents from across the league. They would, however, benefit drastically from signing at least one player to fill a pressing need.
Given the Giants' inopportune cap situation, any free agents they bring in will need to be of the bargain-priced variety.
If New York wants to shore up its offensive backfield, which features no sure thing in David Wilson and soon-to-be free agent Andre Brown, it could pursue running backs Ben Tate (Houston Texans) or Joique Bell (Detroit Lions). While Tate and Bell have only 13 starts between them in a combined seven accrued seasons, both possess promising potential as featured ball-carriers. And the price for either could be right.
The Giants now share a connection with several intriguing, scheduled-to-be Green Bay Packer free agents. This is thanks to former cheesehead Ben McAdoo, the newly hired Giants offensive coordinator, who last coached quarterbacks in Green Bay. Tight end Jermichael Finley (or Andrew Quarless), running back James Starks, wide receiver James Jones and center Evan Dietrich-Smith could each conceivably fill a vacancy in New York's offense.
There's no need to replicate the "Dream Team"—a bargain-priced free agent at a position of need will do.
OL Greg Robinson would make a great first-round selection.
The most cost effective way for the Giants to turn around their fortunes is to draft well.
Normally, the Giants are comfortable spending high draft picks on projects that require development to become pro-ready.
This year will be different, as the team is desperately in need of young prospects who can make an immediate impact. The fact that rookie Justin Pugh just completed a 16-game season as the starting right tackle should encourage New York's coaching staff to start whomever they select in the first round of the upcoming draft.
With that selection, the 12th overall, New York can acquire a young athlete and commit to a four-year deal worth less than $3 million a year, thanks to the rookie-wage scale. Consider Auburn offensive lineman Greg Robinson, a tough run-blocker, as a potential first-round selection. Robinson could start immediately for New York, but he would only garner a contract similar to San Diego's D.J. Fluker's (11th overall, 2013) four-year, $11.4 million deal.
If General Manager Jerry Reese and the Giants can hit it big on a few draft picks with starting potential, New York will have some young, relatively cheap talent to infuse into its new-look lineup in 2014.