6 Cuts That Could Create Serious Cap Space for the New York Giants
If you want to strike fear in the heart of any NFL general manager, all you have to do is whisper two little words into their ears.
Other than injuries, nothing seems to create more angst for the NFL team architects than the annual spending budget that's part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Theoretically, the NFL salary cap shouldn’t be that difficult to manage, and it's simply a matter of basic math functions.
The problems occur when players outplay their contracts or, as is more often the case, see their skills start to decline as their annual cap figures rise.
In 2013, the New York Giants found themselves in a bad state of affairs regarding their salary cap—per the most recent NFLPA public cap report, they have just $17,447 of cap space in what’s left of the current league year.
The bad news is that they don’t appear to be in much better shape for the 2014 league year, which starts on March 11.
Per Over the Cap, the Giants have $116,718,676 committed toward their Top 51 total (in the offseason, only the 51 highest contracts count toward a team’s salary cap).
According to USA TODAY, the projected 2014 cap is expected to be approximately $126.3 million.
If that is indeed the magic number teams will have to work with, the Giants will have approximately $9.581 million in cap space to re-sign players like linebacker Jon Beason and defensive tackle Linval Joseph, as well as address the numerous glaring holes in their roster along the offensive line.
If the Giants hope to address their roster's holes. they’re going to have to clear more space.
Obviously, one way to do so would be to address the contracts of quarterback Eli Manning and safety Antrel Rolle, both of who currently count for a whopping $29.65 million, or 23.4 percent of the projected 2014 cap.
However, team CEO John Mara told reporters at the end of the season that he didn't think the team needed to go that route.
“It’s certainly something we’re going to talk about," Mara said via Tom Rock of Newsday. "It depends on how aggressive we want to be in free agency."
If the Giants stand pat with those two contracts, they'll instead have to trim some fat off their 2014 salary cap. In this slideshow, we'll look at six players who could be cap casualties that could result in an additional $14 million of cap space becoming available.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistical information is from Pro Football Focus (subscription required); all salary cap information is from Over the Cap; and all quotes and other information obtained firsthand unless otherwise sources.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter, @Patricia_Traina, for the latest on the New York Giants.
Cap Savings: $3.25 million, Dead Money: $1.125 million
There is no way the Giants can justify paying tight end Brandon Myers a $4 million base salary in 2014, even if he does return to the team (which is unlikely as of the time of publication).
In his first season with the Giants, the 6'5", 250-pound Myers, who seems best suited for a pure West Coast offensive scheme, was like a fish out of water.
He caught 47 of 71 passes thrown his way (62 percent) for 522 yards and four touchdowns, at times looking far from being the athletic receiver that he was with the Oakland Raiders, for whom he caught a career-high 79 passes for 806 yards and four touchdowns in 2012.
As a blocker, Myers was an even bigger disappointment. Per Pro Football Focus, he finished with a -0.3 grade in pass blocking, as he simply wasn't physical enough at the point of attack.
When it was all said and done, Myers (-7.1) finished as PFF's 16th (out of 20) best tight ends among those who took at least 75 percent of their team's snaps on offense.
The final three years of his deal were set to void shortly after the Super Bowl, and may have already been voided per Rotoworld.
Cap Savings: $6.8 million, Dead Money: $4.5 million
When you have a player like guard Chris Snee, who has not only been a solid performer, but also a model example in the locker room and among the league, he should have every right to end his career on his terms.
Given the competitor that Snee is, it’s probably safe to say that the thought of ending his career on injured reserve is not how he wants to wrap up a tenure that has seen the two-time Super Bowl champion earn four Pro Bowl berths and three All-Pro mentions.
Snee, who in 2013 was voted to be a Giants co-captain on offense for the first time in his 10-year career and who inherited one of the “corner offices” in the Giants locker room, is at a crossroad.
In 2013, the one-time iron man who stubbornly refused to miss games or practices had two surgeries, one on each hip, which were designed to improve his ability to move. He also told reporters that he had one of his elbows scoped.
Snee told Paul Schwartz of the New York Post early last month that he was interested in resuming his career “if his body holds up” and if the Giants wanted him.
More recently, Conor Orr of the Newark Star-Ledger reported that a decision from Snee whether to continue his career could be coming soon.
Heard Chris Snee feeling great, moving well. No football activity yet, but #giants should get update on his intentions during combine.
— Conor Orr (@ConorTOrr) February 5, 2014
As to what the Giants should do if Snee does want to return, the most logical move would be to make a clean break.
Snee’s body has taken a pounding through the years, and there just comes a time when a club needs to protect a player from himself.
More importantly, with a new offensive system being installed, now would be a perfect time for the future at right guard, whoever that might be, to get an opportunity to step in and grow in the new offense, something that can’t happen if Snee returns.
If the Giants are truly committed to getting younger across the offensive line, and if they are going to cease with hanging onto players one year too long, it’s time to induct Snee into the team’s "Ring of Honor" and move on.
Cap Savings: $1.775 million, Dead Money: $6.45 million
When the Giants signed center David Baas as an unrestricted free agent in 2011, there was hope that he would evolve into a Pro Bowl center.
The problem with Baas is that he hasn’t been able to make it through a season without appearing on the injury report multiple times .
Although in 2012 he didn’t miss any games, his body took such a beating that he underwent numerous offseason surgeries that, according to a report in the Newark Star-Ledger, might have been in response to hand, elbow, ankle, hip and shoulder injuries that landed Baas on the team’s injury report several times that season.
In 2013, Baas missed the regular-season opener with a knee injury. He came back for Weeks 2 and 3, missed three more games with a neck issue, and then returned only to suffer the season-ending knee injury on the opening drive of the team’s Monday night game against the Vikings.
With Baas set to be 33 by September, his injury history has put a severe dent in his reliability to be there every week.
While I initially thought the Giants might try to get at least one more year out of him while they look to groom his successor, I now think that if the Giants can’t pick up another center either in free agency or the draft, they will move Justin Pugh, whose versatility should enable him to play anywhere along the offensive line, to the center.
Of course that would mean potentially drafting a right tackle to replace him. Given that the Giants are drafting 12th and that several teams ahead of them are in greater need of drafting a franchise quarterback, it would not be a stretch to think that a solid offensive tackle could fall to the Giants if they decide to go this route.
Cap Savings: $1.8 million, Dead Money: $5.25 million
Another contract that seems a bit steep for the Giants to carry given the performance of the player is defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka’s.
Scheduled to count for $7.05 million against the cap, a number that includes a $4.375 million base salary, the Giants might not have any choice but to continue carrying Kiwanuka on their roster, especially if Justin Tuck doesn’t re-sign with the team.
However, Kiwanuka’s contract, which has two more years to go, probably needs to be adjusted if he is retained. Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Kiwanuka ranked dead last among 4-3 defensive ends who took at least 75 percent of their team’s snaps on defense.
It’s possible that Kiwanuka will be open to restructuring. He's typically been selfless when it comes to doing what's best for the team.
If the Giants wanted to hang onto him—again, I think they will until a decision is made regarding Tuck’s status—they could probably cut Kiwanuka's base salary and convert that money into an upfront payment, 50 percent of which would hit this year’s cap and the other half hitting next year’s cap.
Cap Savings: $1 million, Dead Money: $1.25 million
Had Cornerback Corey Webster, who has now played through two consecutive injury-filled seasons, not agreed to take a $3 million pay cut last year, we wouldn’t be discussing him now. As reported by Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, the Giants were prepared to cut Webster in 2013.
Webster, who will be 32 in March, did indeed take a $3 million pay cut which lowered his 2013 cap figure to $5.095 million.
Considering he only played in four games last season and landed on season-ending injured reserve, it turned out to be a bad investment for the Giants.
That’s why 2014, the final year of Webster’s contract and a year that was added on to help the team spread out a $3 million upfront payment will, without question, be voided.
Cap Savings: $1.933 million, Dead Money: $1.333 million
In an ideal scenario, the Giants might want their starting defensive tackles to consist of Linval Joseph and Johnathan Hankins.
That probably won’t happen if Joseph received a blockbuster offer from another team. However, if a miracle were to happen and the market were to turn out to be lukewarm for Joseph's services to where the Giants could afford to bring him back, veteran Cullen Jenkins would likely be the odd man out.
Jenkins, to his credit, played well last year, his first a Giant. While he didn’t post gaudy statistics, he often drew the double-team blocks, a thankless task considering he had very little to show for it on the stat sheet.
Cap-wise, Jenkins would be entering the second of a three-year contract in 2014, a deal which averages $2.66 million per season, per OTC.
If Jenkins, who was the 15th best defensive tackle among those who played at least 60 percent of their team’s defensive snaps per Pro Football Focus (subscription required) were to be part of a salary cap purge, the Giants would save $1.933 million on the transaction.