EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- This is the business portion of the annual NFL proceedings. The New York Giants, like everybody else, have to make some financial decisions in the next few weeks in order to prepare their books for the upcoming new league year. That means potentially cutting some players or restructuring their contracts.
The Giants have already addressed running back Jonathan Stewart and outside linebacker Connor Barwin. The team did not pick up the option in Stewart's contract, and Barwin was released. Those two moves gave the Giants an additional $4.7 million against the salary cap.
There could be more coming, although not too many, considering there are only 20 holdovers remaining from the 2017 roster before general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur took over. These are the big decisions they face this offseason.
Janoris Jenkins, cornerback
The financials: Jenkins is set to count $14.75 million against the salary cap this year. The Giants owe him $11.25 million for 2019 if he's on the roster and can save $7.5 million against the cap if he's released.
Other factors: It would be hard to imagine the team allowing Jenkins to walk. He's the only bona fide starting cornerback under contract on the Giants' roster and is coming off a fairly strong season. The Giants also moved some of his 2018 money into the final two years of his deal, indicating they viewed him as part of their future at the time of the move last summer, barring any unforeseen incidents. There weren't any last season. But Jenkins' $11.25 million for 2019 ties him as the NFL's fourth-highest paid cornerback for this year. So he's not cheap. That puts him somewhat in jeopardy.
Eli Manning, quarterback
The financials: Manning is set to count $23.2 million against the salary cap this year in the final year of his contract. The Giants can save $17 million against the cap if he's released.
Other factors: The Giants would save a nice chunk of change if they allowed Manning to walk and replaced him with a cheaper veteran and a high draft pick. They also would probably get a quarterback who can do better than rank 25th in QBR, which Manning did this past season. But the Giants seem to be leaning toward another year with Manning as the starter after the offense showed some promise in the second half of the season. They finished sixth in offensive points per game (24.75) over the final eight weeks. Manning's salary of $17 million this season currently places him 15th among active quarterbacks. That's not an outrageous sum, although it could benefit the team if his salary and cap number were reduced this season. That remains a possibility even if it hasn't been discussed yet.
Olivier Vernon, outside linebacker
The financials: Vernon is set to count $19.5 million against the salary cap this year. The Giants owe him $15.5 million for 2019 if he's on the roster and can save $11.5 million against the cap if he's released.
Other factors: Vernon is coming off a rough season. He missed five games, played through ankle and shoulder injuries and was questioned publicly by his coach. That didn't go over well behind closed doors. Still, Vernon is the Giants' best pass-rusher by a wide margin. I made the argument entering the season that he was the most important player on the team considering the drop-off behind him on the depth chart. That showed when he was sidelined for the first five games with a high ankle sprain. He still finished with more than twice as many quarterback hits as any other player on the Giants' roster last year, despite missing significant time and taking several games to get back near full strength. His 7.0 sacks also led the team. Vernon is expensive at $15.5 million this season, but he doesn't have any more guaranteed money remaining in his contract. That makes him worth a one-year flier for the Giants or another team. He could have value on the trade market, should the Giants elect to go that route.
The wild card
Rhett Ellison, tight end: He is set to count $5.75 million against the cap this year. The Giants can create $3.25 million in cap space if released. Though Ellison is a valuable complement to Evan Engram because of his blocking, it's a move they might contemplate if they're desperate to free up money. They're expected to be in the range of $30 million under the cap at the start of free agency without any more moves.