The big move for the New York Giants came this offseason with the signing of Nate Solder. It was an earthquake acquisition, and it redefined the offensive line market when the $62 million deal came with an average salary of over $15 million per season.
It was a record-breaking haul for an offensive lineman. If it wasn’t guard Andrew Norwell -- whom the Giants tried to land first before he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars -- it was going to be Solder. The Giants weren’t about to whiff on a top-of-the-market offensive lineman. That was their plan, get a hog molly at all costs, like it or not. They were not going to be denied an expensive bodyguard for quarterback Eli Manning.
New general manager Dave Gettleman has also made some less sexy moves. There was the acquisition of running back Jonathan Stewart and the additions of outside linebacker Kareem Martin, guard Patrick Omameh and some other players to add roster depth.
The Giants might now be done making major moves, in part because of their financial situation. The plan was always one major signing with some second- and third-tier options around it.
The Giants were listed at $20,057,272 under the salary cap this weekend, per NFLPA records. That figure likely does not include Solder, Martin, defensive back Curtis Riley and defensive lineman Robert Thomas (an exclusive-rights free agent). Throw those deals into the mix and there isn’t a ton of available money left to spend.
Estimated available cap space: $6 million
Estimated amount needed for draft class: $5.6 million
As you can see, the Giants don’t appear to have much room left if they want to stay under this year’s $177.2 million salary cap. They would have to make some moves to make any additional significant signings work. For example, they can take the base salary of a player they expect to be part of the team for several more years (say, Olivier Vernon) and turn it into a signing bonus. That could free up $8.5 million in cap space this year and move some of the money to the cap in 2019-20, when the Giants don't have nearly as many commitments.
It’s among the possibilities. But, paraphrasing what a front-office personnel told me several years ago about managing the salary cap: People in the league don’t worry much about it. They know how to manipulate the cap and make it work without suffering any major repercussions down the line. They worry more about real money (cash spent) than the cap.
The Giants have easily attainable ways to create cap room, if they so desire.
Still possible ...
Brandon Marshall -- $5.5 million
Dwayne Harris -- $2.45 million
John Jerry -- $2.525
Total: $10.475 million
That’s enough for a few more quality players or one significant splash. So maybe the Giants aren’t completely hamstrung after all.
And maybe ...
The Giants might approach Manning about his $22.2 million cap hit if they are really tight on cap space, but a move that they believe can get them over the top is in their reach. Would he be willing to take a pay cut for the benefit of the team and potentially one more run a title toward the end of his career?
This would be an interesting scenario. Nobody wants to give up money when they don't have to. Manning doesn't have to. The Giants are about to pay out a $5 million roster bonus and aren't going to cut him.
The bigger question is would the Giants have the fortitude to even propose it after how everything went down last year with the benching? All we know at this point is it’s an option if they really get tight on money. Manning has the eighth-highest salary-cap number of any player this season. He is not the eighth-best player or quarterback in the league. He's 37 years old and will be 38 before the Super Bowl is played. The Giants might have just enough leverage to make a pay cut or shift around money for the benefit of Manning on the field and the team.