Between New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning's career-high interception and sack totals (27 and 39, respectively), a rushing attack that ranked 30th in the NFL in yards per attempt (3.5), a fickle starting lineup and an utter offensive ineptitude in general, most Giants fans anticipated a change by the end of the 2013 season.
By the time Giants co-owner and CEO John Mara publicly declared the offense "broken," it was evident Kevin Gilbride's incumbency as New York's offensive coordinator was coming to an end. Gilbride, 62, retired three days after Mara's criticism of his offensive platoon hit print. Sources told the New York Post that Gilbride would have been handed a pink slip had he not retreated from the play-calling post he'd held since 2007.
To replace the man who twice called New York's offense to victory over Bill Belichick's New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, the Giants hired Ben McAdoo, who last coached Aaron Rodgers and the Packers quarterbacks in Green Bay. NJ.com describes New York's new offensive coordinator as "a fast-rising, young, innovative offensive mind." In McAdoo, the Giants landed "one of the hottest names in NFL circles," according to NBC's Pro Football Talk.
It is now on the Giants' front office to equip McAdoo with the tools to succeed. New York's offensive personnel was just as much to blame as Gilbride for last season's painful lack of production, as 2013 featured the franchise's lowest point total (294) since the Jim Fassel era. Some fresh talent on the offensive side of the ball would do New York some good as it transitions from a Gilbride to a McAdoo approach to putting up points.
|NY Giants' season point totals (2003-2013)|
|2003||243||Jim Fassel (also HC)|
General manager Jerry Reese has the final say in all of New York's personnel decisions, but McAdoo should have a heavy influence on all talent additions on offense this offseason. Reese has several seasons of experience working with Gilbride, acquiring the best-fitting players to suit his specific system; this is the first offseason in which Reese is tasked with fleshing out an offensive cast for McAdoo, who may implement a West Coast feel in the Big Apple.
To ensure success, New York must maximize its salary-cap space. The Giants' 2014 cap space is estimated to be just over $12.5 million by Over The Cap, putting Big Blue in the middle of the pack in terms of offseason spending money. They are in far better shape than the Dallas Cowboys, who are projected to be $24.6 million in the hole, but they are not as well off as the Oakland Raiders, who have a whopping $60.7 million to blow.
The Giants can get closer to Oakland's figure—but likely not approach it—by making a few pivotal decisions when it comes to their current personnel. Some moves will be tougher to make than others, but when faced with a major rebuilding project, even if it's only on the offensive side of the ball, it is best not to cut any corners.
That means several players are at risk of becoming cap casualties. Allowing the contracts of cornerback Corey Webster and tight end Brandon Myers to automatically void was a logical start. Right guard Chris Snee is almost certainly a goner after he underwent two separate hip surgeries in 2013. There's no way the Giants can justify paying the once-dominant guard his full $11.3 million cap figure in 2014; cutting him would save the team $6.8 million.
Some of New York's tougher decisions regard the inflated contracts of center David Baas and defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka.
Baas has not been the center they expected when they signed him off the open market in 2011. Although they won a Super Bowl in Baas' first season snapping to Manning, the former San Francisco 49er has lacked consistency in both his performance and his durability. After watching Baas play in just three games during the 2013 season, the Giants can cut him and save another $1.8 million.
Kiwanuka finally got a chance to play his natural pass-rushing position in 2013, but his impact was rarely felt with just six sacks and only 25 tackles. The former first-round pick (2006; 32nd overall) has been with the Giants through two Super Bowl seasons, often playing wherever the team needs him. An additional $1.8 million, however, will be saved if the Giants deem Kiwanuka expendable, too.
|NY Giants' highest cap figures in 2014|
|PLYR||DEAD $||CAP FIG.|
|Eli Manning||7 M||20.4 M|
|Chris Snee||4.5 M||11.3 M|
|Antrel Rolle||2 M||9.25 M|
|David Baas||6.45 M||8.23 M|
|Victor Cruz||13.1 M||7.42 M|
|Will Beatty||15.5 M||7.4 M|
|Mathias Kiwanuka||5.25 M||7.05 M|
The dead money will be tough to swallow, though. Even if Snee, Baas and Kiwanuka are cut, they will be owed a combined $16.2 million. The savings, as minor they may seem, vindicate this surmountable expense—even though these cuts would leave the offensive line without a proven anchor at center and the defense without an athlete of considerable versatility.
The Giants can further their cap space by extending the contracts of Eli Manning and safety Antrel Rolle. Manning, the team's undeniable MVP, and Rolle, a 2013 second-team All-Pro, own two of the Giants' three highest cap figures for 2014. Through extensions, New York can spread out some of that money over the next few seasons.
In an late-December interview with the New York Daily News, Mara did not then support the idea of contract extensions:
I don't think we need to do it. It's certainly something we're going to talk about, though. It depends on how aggressive we want to be in free agency.
The CEO warned of the dangers of an over-aggressive approach on the open market. But this year is different with McAdoo primed to lead a new-look offensive charge. Perhaps Manning, who still has two years left on his current contract, does not need to be extended just yet, but Rolle sees an extension as his "ultimate goal." It's a suitable third option that beats either paying Rolle his full $9.25 million cap figure or cutting the talented defensive back.
By freeing up this money, Reese can compete for all the talent McAdoo may need for his new offense. New York may be able to land a premier offensive lineman, like Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Brandon Albert or Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack. Coveted skill position players—such as Houston Texans running back Ben Tate, as well as tight end Jermichael Finley and wide receiver James Jones, both of the Green Bay Packers, will become realistic options.
Reese should exhaust all options to make sure McAdoo has every player he needs. The trying financial decisions New York must make will yield a much more efficient offense in 2014—one that can maybe lift Manning back to Super Bowl MVP levels.
Should the Giants need any encouragement, they can look back to the 2011 offseason. That July, New York parted ways with two of its most reliable and longest-tenured O-linemen, center Shaun O'Hara and guard Rich Seubert. Neither O'Hara nor Seubert went on to play for another team, and the Giants used the leftover funds to craft an unlikely Super Bowl-winning squad.
New York's path to another NFL title first takes the Giants through a series of arduous cap-related decisions, but it leads to a potentially prolific offensive platoon under new coordinator McAdoo.