Duane Burleson/Associated Press
DT Linval Joseph will likely demand a large contract.
Managing the cap is always a tricky situation, but the Giants can avoid getting into financial trouble by not overpaying their own impending free agents.
The Giants ran into this problem last year, when left tackle Will Beatty reached free agency. With limited options on the open market for a replacement, New York offered Beatty a five-year contract worth $38.75 million. According to the New York Post, Beatty attributed a poor 2013 season to the pressure associated with signing such a massive deal.
The two soon-to-be free agents with the most pull to demand big contracts in March are wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and defensive tackle Linval Joseph.
On no other player's performance does the Giants' offense hinge than that of Nicks. When the 6'0", 210-pound receiver is healthy and on his game, a la New York's playoff run in January of 2012, the Giants offense is nearly unstoppable. Big Blue's withering offensive production since that run can easily be attributed to Nicks' waning effectiveness.
The desire to keep the gear that turns New York's offense is understandable, but the Giants should not be fooled into paying for past production. In his first three seasons, Nicks averaged 67 catches, 1,011 yards and eight touchdowns per year. The now 26-year-old receiver hasn't eclipsed 60 catches or 900 yards in either of the past two seasons.
After his touchdown total dipped to just three in 2012, Nicks was held without a score for all of 2013.
Nicks is clearly on the decline in New York, and the Giants need not break the bank for a former Super Bowl star. The Star-Ledger reports that an agreement being reached between Nicks and the Giants is "highly unlikely," as another team is much more likely to outbid New York for the pass-catcher's services.
Joseph is a different case, as his impact at defensive tackle has only ballooned since being drafted in 2010. In fact, the powerful defensive tackle has probably progressed beyond the Giants' price range.
The East Carolina University product is not a stat demon, as he has averaged only 33 tackles and three sacks as a starter over the last three years. He is, however, a nasty space-eater who often requires double-teams in the trenches.
And he's durable; Joseph has sat out only one game since 2011.
There will be several teams across the league with better salary-cap situations than the Giants this spring. It is likely that Joseph, being among the top D-line talent slated to become an unrestricted free agent, is lured away from New York to a franchise with a fatter wallet.
Other Giants approaching free agency who could plausibly command a richer deal elsewhere are defensive end Justin Tuck, cornerback Terrell Thomas and running back Andre Brown. While New York should be interested in retaining the services of each of these players, it must be done so at the right price.