New York Giants general manager Joe Schoen enters his second offseason on the job with a much different set of numbers but the same austere approach.
The difference between this season and last, though? The Giants will have to figure out how to pay impending free-agent quarterback Daniel Jones and star running back Saquon Barkley.
Last Monday, at his year-end media session, Schoen cut off reporters’ and fans’ speculation with a quick reminder about the salary cap, which the Giants will have approximately $44 million in availability this year.
“Everybody is going to step back, take the emotion out of it, evaluate the roster and then we’ve got to operate under the salary cap. How are you going to divvy up? How are we going to create the roster? What are the priority positions, and how are we going to move forward? We would like to have Saquon back if it works out,” he said.
The main focus will be Jones, who could gobble up $32 million of that space all by himself if the Giants are forced to use the franchise tag on him. They are hoping things don’t come down to that, aiming to sign Jones to a longer term deal that will be more palatable cap-wise.
They don’t have a ton of options to open up more cap space as Schoen has been trimming the fat off his bloated roster religiously over the past year.
Here are some players the Giants could possibly part ways with and some others whose contracts may seek to restructure.
The worst contract in team history still looms large over the building and, unfortunately, no matter how the Giants attack this, it won’t be pretty.
It’s not likely that they can get Kenny Golladay to take a pay cut without extending him, so an outright release is the best option. Since he’s not in their plans, there’s really no other option.
Golladay is on the books for $21.4 million this year and next year. They can save nearly $7 million by cutting him but will have to eat $6.8 million in dead cap next year and $3.4 million in 2025.
The 29-year-old Leonard Williams wants to stay with the Giants and intimated to reporters last week that he’d be willing to take a pay cut to do so.
That’s good news for the Giants as his $32.2 million cap hit this year is a killer for a team that is technically in a rebuild. The Giants have already paid Williams a king’s ransom thanks to gross mismanagement and if he’s willing to work with them, they must explore this option.
Schoen was surprised that Williams spoke publicly about his intentions.
“We haven’t discussed that yet. I like his quote; I just saw that before I came down here that he would be interested in taking a pay cut. You guys did a good job on that, whoever asked him that. He didn’t mention that in the exit interview with us,” he said.
Williams had a down season this year, playing in just 12 games due to a nagging neck issue. Since logging in 11.5 sacks and 30 QB hits in 2020, Williams has had nine sacks and 26 QB hits in the past two seasons combined.
Let’s be clear: Saquon Barkley would not be a cap casualty in the usual sense.
The Giants had a great year running the football and Barkley led the way with 1,312 yards and 10 touchdowns. They ranked sixth in the NFL with an average of 146.3 yards per game.
Barkley was on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract earning $7.2 million last season. He will command more this year and beyond.
The bottom line is the Giants may have to take a pass here.
In a league that is seeing more and more teams going to a running back by ‘committee’ approach (including Buffalo, where Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll came from) they may see Barkley as a luxury at $10-12 million per year. And he reportedly wants even more than that.
Fans will be angry but don’t say Schoen didn’t warn you.
The Giants already have depth issues at the cornerback position so cutting Adoree’ Jackson is not ideal in any form or facet. But in looking over their roster and trying to find ways to save money, options are limited.
Jackson is on the books for just under $19.1 million in 2023. A post-June 1 release would save the Giants roughly $11.6 million against the cap and leave them with a $7.488 dead cap hit in 2023 and a $2.988 dead cap hit in 2024.
The space would be nice but the combined dead cap hit isn’t really worth it, especially when it creates an additional need.
So while cutting Jackson will likely be discussed, a better approach may be a re-worked contract.
This is another scenario where the Giants could save a little money but create a new need in the process.
Graham Gano will account for a cap hit of $5.55 million in 2023, which is among the highest on the team. Cutting him would save the Giants $3.75 million but leave them with a dead cap hit of $1.8 million in 2023 and $877K in 2024.
Considering Gano is automatic, why mess with it? Giants likely keep him around.
The majority of the Giants’ other large contracts belong to players they drafted the last four seasons. It’s difficult to rework these deals as they will all call for extensions and guaranteed money clauses.
The Giants are likely to do something with Dexter Lawrence, who is on the books at $12.4 million — his fifth-year option salary. They can tear that up and sign him to an extension and hopefully lower his cap hit some, but after a Pro Bowl season, they won’t be recouping much cap space by doing this.
The rest of the contracts can be whittled down by nook or crook but, as stated, not without committing long-term to players they may not want to do that with.