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Updating New York Giants' Salary-Cap Situation After 1st Wave of Free Agency

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Updating New York Giants' Salary-Cap Situation After 1st Wave of Free Agency
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
What does Eli Manning have to do with the Giants salary-cap situation?

You would think that the New York Giants' salary-cap situation would be a mess after signing a whopping 20 players in free agency. However, Big Blue is actually in good shape, and not just for this upcoming season.

Let’s take a look at the current status of the Giants financials with free agency all but complete. In addition, we’ll evaluate how New York’s spending splurge affected its spending power for the 2015 offseason and which top player on the team could be a surprising cap casualty if they disappoint in 2014.

 

2014: Not Much More to Spend Here

Connor Hughes of SB Nation provides a succinct but accurate assessment of the Giants' salary cap situation as of March 19, which was before the signing of guard John Jerry.

the New York Giants now sit $4.57 million under the cap, according to updated numbers from the NFLPA…The Giants will get an additional $5 million in space on June 2, when the cut of David Baas becomes official, but that money is expected to be used to pay New York's 2014 rookie draft class.

Jerry’s cap hit for 2014 is $635,000, but per the NFL’s “Top 51” rule, which stipulates that only the 51 highest salaries count towards a team’s cap in the offseason, he actually only decreases the Giants cap space $65,000. This is because his cap hit bumps out Dallas Reynolds’ $570,000 cap hit from the top 51 salaries, per Spotrac.com.

Therefore, the Giants still have over $4.5 million in cap room, which would appear to suggest that they could afford to add another quality player or two.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, since the way the cap is calculated changes after the start of the season, among other reasons.

As the blog New York Giants Salary Cap Central correctly points out, everyone on the 53-man roster, plus practice squad players, count towards the cap once the regular season commences.

The same blog states that the last two players on the roster are likely to be rookies making the league minimum. Based on this logic, they would consume $840,000, with the 2014 minimum salary for rookies set at $420,000.

As for the practice squad, the minimum per week that one of these players can make this upcoming season is $6,300. With eight players on this unit and 17 weeks in the regular season, another $856,800 would be consumed.

Even under this salary cap calculation, the Giants would still have around $2.8 million to spend, not including any money left over from the Baas cut.

However, the same blog post on New York Giants Salary Cap Central rationalizes a few valid uses for this money during the season.

The Giants will need to make about $1 million in room for injury settlements as well that inevitably occur in training camp as well as players who go on IR (hopefully not too many).The Giants will also need to clear some "fudge money" too later on this offseason; this is 1 to 2 million dollars left over in cap space which the Giants can use in case of an emergency.

So all of the aforementioned math and rules are a fancy way of saying that the Giants likely won’t be adding any veterans of note to the roster between now and Week 1 of the regular season.

 

2015: Wait, They Have Even More Money to Spend Next Offseason?

To Jerry Reese’s credit, despite dishing out over $115 million in new contracts during the last two-plus weeks, the Giants can be major players in free agency again next year.

According to OvertheCap.com, New York only has $108.04 million tied up in 45 players for 2015. Under the current $133 million salary cap, this would give them nearly $25 million in cap space.

N.Y. Giants Top 10 Cap Hits in 2015
Player Position Dead $ Cap Hit
Eli Manning QB $2.25 M $19.75 M
Victor Cruz WR $5.7 M $8.125 M
William Beatty OT $7.5 M $8.05 M
Mathias Kiwanuka DE $2.625 M $7.45 M
Jon Beason LB $3.833 M $7.292 M
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie CB $9.25 M $7.25 M
Geoff Schwartz OG $2.4 M $4.975 M
J.D. Walton C 625 K $3.125 M
Steve Weatherford P $1.75 M $3.075 M
Cullen Jenkins DT 666 K $2.917 M

OvertheCap.com

The even better news for Big Blue is that the salary cap could break $140 million in 2015, per Adam Schefter of ESPN, via his Twitter account.

So it is conceivable that they could have nearly $35 million to spend in free agency next season, if Schefter’s source turns out to be correct.

We’re not done, though. The aging Mathias Kiwanuka, who just turned 31 on March 8, is a potential cap casualty next offseason, since he carries a $7.45 million cap hit, but he would only produce $2.625 million in dead money if cut. That is an additional $4.825 million that can be added to the Giants' wallet.

However, this potential savings is nothing compared to the Giants doing the unthinkable.

 

Cut Eli Manning? You Must Be Crazy

The idea that the two-time Super Bowl MVP could be a cap casualty next offseason seems absurd. When you start putting the facts together, and take one unfortunate leap of faith, it becomes at least a possibility.

Manning is coming off the worst full season of his 10-year NFL career (I’m excluding his awful nine-game rookie season). It seems probable that he will bounce back this year, mainly due to all the improvements the Giants made to the offense in free agency—and likely will make in May’s draft.

If Eli Manning has a bad 2014 season, how will the Giants handle his contractual situation in 2015?

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But in the remote chance he doesn’t, New York will have a 34-year-old quarterback on its hands coming off consecutive poor seasons.

And it will have an enticing option to part ways because Manning would save the Giants a whopping $17.5 million against the cap if he is cut.

While New York remains committed to Manning, it was odd that it didn’t extend his contract prior to free agency, when, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com, it could have opened up in the neighborhood of an additional $11 million in cap space.

If you’re sold on your quarterback for the next five years, extending him to gain that level of spending flexibility is a no-brainer. The Giants, though, appear to be in a wait-and-see mode when it comes to their signal-caller.

That will almost certainly change if Manning plays well in 2014. On the other hand, if his struggles continue, Big Blue may have a tough decision to make next winter.

 

*Contract information provided by Spotrac.com and OvertheCap.com. Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.

*If you want more, follow Tamer's tweets, like his Facebook page or visit his website, tamerchamma.com.

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