On March 11, the new league year, including free agency and the trading period, will get under way.
Should the New York Giants trade down in the first round of the draft?
Thus far, I’ve looked at possibilities for the New York Giants regarding free agency and the draft. There's plenty of additional analysis to come on each area over the next several weeks.
One discussion, though, that I haven’t examined just yet is what trades, if any, the New York Giants should contemplate making.
Before I get into what I think might be the most realistic trade possibility for the Giants if they’re feeling the itch to wheel and deal, let’s look at where things currently stand with the team.
Following a 7-9 season and two straight years of missing the playoffs, in which the Giants have gone a combined 16-16, there are a lot of roster needs, including offensive line, tight end, running back, receiver, defensive end and cornerback.
Why are the Giants so roster-needy all of a sudden?
First, in response to a poor 2013 cap situation that was exacerbated when general manager Jerry Reese cut linebacker Michael Boley, running back Ahmad Bradshaw and defensive tackle Chris Canty, resulting in $5.6 million of dead money, the Giants were left with very little money with which to fill out their roster with longer term deals on higher quality depth.
Instead, they shelled out roughly a dozen one-year minimum qualifying offers (MQOs) that consisted of the minimum base salary and no more than $65,000 in bonus money.
Given the salary cap accounting rules, veterans with more than four years of experience who receive a MQO count at the same rate as a second-year player's minimum base salary plus the $65,000 bonus money. So in 2013, every eligible veteran who received a MQO counted for $620,000 against the cap.
However, that strategy had drawbacks. First, there are players such as kicker Josh Brown, who had a solid season, who now might cost more than just another one-year deal to retain.
Second, those one-year deals are also a major reason why the Giants are looking at having to fill more than two dozen openings, according to Pro Football Focus' free-agency tracker.
Another reason why the Giants are in the situation they are today is because CEO John Mara’s concerns about the offensive line came to fruition when the team was left with no choice but to hope for the best regarding center David Baas and Chris Snee—two 30-something players with large cap figures who were rehabbing from surgeries.
The Salary Cap
On first glance, the estimated $10.2 million in cap space that Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports projects the Giants as having sounds like a lot.
However, I’ll again refer you to not only the two dozen-plus players that will have to be replaced, but, from within that group, the potential "big money" free agents such as linebacker Jon Beason and defensive tackle Linval Joseph.
I believe that the Giants will clear more cap room—I still think safety Antrel Rolle is going to be extended, which will lower his $9.25 million cap figure for 2014, they will part ways with Baas and Snee and they will save $1.775 million and $6.8 million respectively.
The problem with Baas and Snee is that, unless the Giants were to designate one or both as post-June 1 cap transactions—of the two. Baas makes more sense to receive this designation. They will incur a combined dead money hit of $10.95 million just on those two transactions alone—not good considering that they already have $2.778 million in dead money on the books.
To put the dead money into perspective, assuming the Baas and Snee moves are made, if the 2014 salary cap is $126.3 million, they’d be looking at having an estimated $13.7 million tied up in players who are no longer on the roster.
As things stand as of this moment, the Giants will have six draft picks this year to address some of their needs. (Remember, they traded a seventh round pick last year to the Carolina Panthers for linebacker Jon Beason).
It’s possible that the Giants could be awarded a compensatory draft pick, but even if that were to happen, that puts them right back at seven picks, which is still probably enough for them to address their needs.
What about free agency? It all depends on what they do with their salary cap, of course, but my gut feeling is that they once again sign a number of veterans to MQOs.
The Trade that Reese Should Be Exploring
If I’m the New York Giants, I strongly consider trading down in this draft to pick up more picks, especially if I share NFL Draft analyst Mike Mayock’s opinion, per NFL Communications, that this draft class is the “deepest and best draft class” he’s seen in the last 10 years.
I had one GM tell me the other day that having a top 20 pick this year is very similar to having a Top‑10 pick last year. So I think there's more depth. I think there are certain positions that are stacked this year and you can get a quality player through three or four rounds.
Building through the draft is not only cost-effective, it also allows you to groom players specifically for your existing systems.
Certainly, an argument can be made that if the Giants are relying solely on the draft, their chances of getting back into the postseason tournament might not be initially favorable because of the learning curve involved for all the young faces.
However, by failing to stock serviceable depth the last two seasons, the Giants appear to have put themselves into a significant financial and talent bind that, if they don't break out of, is going to make things extra challenging for the coaching staff.
Patricia Traina is the senior editor for Inside Football. Salary cap data is from Over the Cap, unless otherwise noted. All quotes and other information obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter, @Patricia_Traina.