Last week during his combine press conference with reporters, New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese admitted that he’s encouraged his team’s upcoming unrestricted free agents to test the market.
“We keep all our options open,” Reese said via Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News.
“I had talks with all those guys, and free agency being free agency, that means you go out and try to get as much money as you can. I’m always in favor for guys getting as much money as you can."
He also added, “If you can hold your water (in free agency), we think there’ll probably be some guys available in those second and third waves.”
Reese has always prescribed to being patient when it comes to adding to the roster, hoping to find bargain basement players willing to come in for at or close to the veteran minimum, so that’s not exactly a new approach.
Reese and the Giants have had their struggles with the cap—at the end of 2013, New York was left with a whopping $17,447 of cap space, the lowest in the league, per the NFLPA’s public cap report.
So it’s understandable if the Giants don’t want to jump right in to spend what Kevin Seifert of ESPN reports will be $18,288,183 of cap space (based on an estimated $132 million salary cap), certainly not before they know exactly how much money they’re going to have once the league makes the official cap figure known.
Until that figure is actually announced—per Seifert, the NFL should be doing so within the next week and a half—there is unlikely to be any movement on key free agents to be, such as linebacker Jon Beason, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, defensive end Justin Tuck, running back Andre Brown and receiver Hakeem Nicks.
While those players will apparently get a sense of their open market value, here is a look at some early cap-related decisions the Giants will have to make which will have an impact on their cap space.
The Rookie Pool
Before we look at any potential cap moves, the first thing we need to do is to deduct the estimated rookie pool money that will be used to sign the Giants' draft picks and undrafted free agents.
Per Over the Cap, the Giants’ first-year amount (total money needed for the six 2014 draft picks) is estimated to be $4,808,911. (Note: That number would be adjusted if the Giants trade up/down and/or are awarded compensatory picks.
Because the individual first-year salaries of each rookie pick is expected to bump lower cap charges out of the top 51, in reality, OTC estimates that the Giants need $2,288,911 million of cap space to fit in all the new rookie contracts under their Top 51 amount.
OTC has provided an estimate of how each individual draft pick stands to affect the cap.
If we deduct the new money that the Giants need from the projected $18,288,183 of cap space (again, based on a $132 million cap), that leaves the Giants with an estimated $15,999,272 for free agency.
Restricted Free Agent Tenders
The Giants have five restricted free agents: Linebackers Spencer Paysinger and Mark Herzlich, fullback Henry Hynoski, offensive lineman Jim Cordle, and running back Da’Rel Scott.
In response to an email inquiry, Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap estimates the right of first refusal (ROFR) tender for a restricted free agent be $1.42 million on a $132 million salary cap.
As I’ve noted in the past, Hynoski (shoulder) and Cordle (knee) are both coming off season-ending injuries.
Because of that, and because they have depth at each man’s respective position—fullback John Conner is signed through 2014 while center David Baas remains on the roster for the time being—it makes more financial sense to offer Hynoski and Cordle one-year contracts for the veteran minimum, which would be $645,000 for each man.
Regarding Herzlich and Paysinger, those two have the most realistic chance of receiving a ROFR tender.
Paysinger split time as a starter at weak-side linebacker last year and will probably battle it out with Jacquian Williams for the full-time role.
Herzlich settled in as a special teams demon after losing the starting middle linebacker job to Jon Beason. Because Beason isn’t under contract, the Giants would do well to protect themselves with depth just in case they don’t reach an agreement with Beason.
Remember, the ROFR tender is not guaranteed nor does it come with a signing bonus. If a player tendered at a ROFR doesn’t make the roster, the team receives a full cap credit, even if he signs his tender.
The Giants also have one exclusive right free agent, offensive lineman Dallas Reynolds.
According to NFL.com, Reynolds has been on an active NFL roster for just one season, that being 2012 when he was on the Philadelphia Eagles roster for 16 games. (To be eligible for an accrued season, a player must be on an active NFL roster for at least six games.)
Per the NFL minimum salary table at Steelers Depot, Reynolds would be eligible for a $495,000 base salary in 2014, though with the cap rising, it’s likely that all base salaries will be adjusted by approximately $20,000.
The following table shows different cost scenarios based on the number of RFAs tendered (based on an estimated ROFR of $1.42 million per RFA):
|Giants RFA/ERFA Tenders Affect on the Cap Space|
|4 ROFRs,1 ERFA||3 ROFRs, 1 ERFA||2 ROFRs, 1 ERFA||1 ROFRs, 1 ERFA|
|Est. Total Cost||$6.175 million||$4.755 million||$3.335 million||$1.915 million|
|Cap Space Available||$9.824 million||$11.244 million||$12.664 million||$14.084 million|
|Source: Over the Cap|
The RFA and ERFA tenders do count against the Giants’ 2014 salary cap regardless if the player has signed the tender.
Right now, I think the Giants' two biggest pending cap decisions involve offensive linemen Chris Snee and David Baas.
Let’s first look at Snee, whose $11.3 million figure is the second highest on the team, per Over the Cap.
Last week at the combine, both head coach Tom Coughlin and Reese confirmed that Snee was leaning toward playing one more year. Snee himself confirmed that by telling the New York Post that he’s feeling good and wants to play this coming season before hanging up his cleats.
“I don’t want my last memory to be a dismal performance in Carolina,” Snee said.
However, Snee told the Post that while his hips feel fine, it’s his right elbow that he’s been working to rehab.
“That’s really what I’m rehabbing now, trying to get the strength back in my arm because they had do some stuff with the nerve, move it back into place,’’ he said.
For his part, Snee understands that he will likely be asked to take a significant pay cut to his $6.75 million base salary.
That amount, by the way, is reduced by $450,000 thanks to a de-escalator clause in his contract that, per Spotrac, lowered his base salary from $7.2 million after he failed to participate in at least 50 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in 2013.
If Snee is to stay with the Giants, he’ll have accept even less, as it looks like the Giants’ best course of action if they’re going to keep him is to deploy a flat-out salary cut rather than attempt to convert some of the base salary into bonus money and tacking on a voidable year.
Whatever the solution, Snee told the Post that he’s not worried about it.
“At this point it’s not about money for me. I’m a Giant; I couldn’t imagine myself playing for any other organization.’’
Baas is a trickier situation. He’s coming off several surgeries from last year, the most recent of which was a significant knee injury. Reese was careful not to give false hope about Baas or Snee for that matter.
“I've talked to them, I believe they want to play,” Reese said via Conor Orr of the Star-Ledger. “But they've had significant injuries and right now I think they're on a good track to recovery. We'll see how it goes."
As previously noted, Baas is due to carry a $8.225 million cap figure in 2014, the second-to-last year of his contract. If he’s cut and not designated as a post-June 1 transaction, the team saves just $1.775 million.
If he’s cut and designated as a post-June 1 transaction, the Giants save $5 million in the process, savings they won’t recognize until June 2, but money that can nonetheless be spent on signing their draft class with money to spare.
What I think will happen with Baas is that the Giants will hold onto him for the time being and see how he recovers. Right now, there is no one on the roster to replace Baas so to toss him aside would be a risky move on the Giants’ part and out of character for them.
Does that mean that Baas is safe?
Not necessarily. If the Giants can pick up a veteran center on the cheap in free agency, then it makes sense to part ways with the 33-year-old, especially if there are concerns about the neck issue that’s popped up in two of his three seasons with the team.
If they end up drafting a young center, then it’s possible that they might consider rolling the dice on Baas making it deeper into the season than he did last year. It’s a gamble, but one that the Giant might be willing to take.