"We've been back and forth trying to come to terms and they're doing the best they can to try and be fair under the situation," Beason said during an interview on 'The Opening Drive' with Giants play-by-play announcer Bob Papa and Ravens wide receiver (and former Panthers teammate) Steve Smith. "As a so-called agent, I'm trying to do the best I can to make sure that I get the opportunity to earn some of that money back."
That's too high for a guy who basically didn't play in 2014 and has played a total of 24 games in the past four seasons. Factor in a 2016 season in which Beason is scheduled to earn another $2.8 million in salary and $2.3 million in bonuses, and you can see why the Giants need to redo this deal. The best way to do it is to take the salary down as far as they can and convert a portion of the rest into incentives that Beason could reasonably meet if he stayed healthy. It sounds as though Beason understands this and is on board with the plan, which indicates something can be worked out.
If not, the Giants could cut Beason -- a move that would save them $2.858 million against this year's cap and maybe more, depending on whether the $900,000 guarantee offsets if he signs elsewhere -- and start Jameel McClain at middle linebacker in 2015. McClain filled in for Beason last year and was adequate, though the Giants did think they missed something without Beason's leadership and physical presence. If the Giants work something out with Beason, McClain and his $2.5 million salary could be on the chopping block. They'd save $3.1 million by releasing McClain.
By this time next week, or very shortly thereafter, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will sign a new free-agent contract that's likely to be larger than any non-quarterback deal in NFL history. The identity of the team whose logo will be on this contract's letterhead is unknown, and the speculation will only intensify over the weekend and into Tuesday, when free agency begins at 4 p.m. ET.
But I don't think it's realistic for the Giants or their fans to honestly think they can sign Suh, and that's because of their financial situation relative to the rest of the league. Put simply, there are too many other teams with far more cap room, a mandate to spend money, and a need for the kind of instant and dramatic upgrade Suh would offer. Especially with franchise player Jason Pierre-Paul now on the books for $14.813 million for 2015, I don't believe the Giants have the salary cap wherewithal to bring Suh into the fold.
Based on the conversations I've had on this topic with various people around the team and the league, I believe the Giants will be among the teams to call Suh's agent this weekend and express an interest in signing Suh. As of Saturday, teams can contact the agents for pending free agents and talk contract parameters, and the Giants would be foolish not to at least find out what the asking price will be. Players like this don't become free agents very often, and before conducting their other business the Giants will do their due diligence and find out how much budget stretching it would take to sign him.
But based on those same conversations, I don't think the Giants will get very far, and I believe they know it. Once Pierre-Paul signs his franchise tender, the Giants will have $13,795,930 in cap room. Take off what they'll need to sign their draft picks and that drops it down to about $10 million. You could conceivably fit the first year of a long-term Suh deal under that number if you structured it correctly, but then you couldn't do much of anything else. And while the Giants could add more cap room by restructuring or eliminating the contracts of guys like Jon Beason, Jameel McClain and Trumaine McBride, that would open up more holes on defense that would need to be filled.
The two other ways of creating large cap room are difficult. The Giants could extend the contract of quarterback Eli Manning and save as much as $11 million this year, but to this point talks on that front have been fruitless and the Giants appear inclined to let Manning play out the final year of his deal. The other option is to withdraw the franchise tender to Pierre-Paul and allow him to become an unrestricted free agent, then spend his money on a pursuit of Suh. But doing that leaves the Giants without a real pass-rushing threat at defensive end, and they'd have to spend big to patch that hole, too.
So in conclusion, while I expect the Giants to poke around on Suh -- and I expect said poking to generate more headlines, clicks and discussion -- I don't think it's realistic to think they actually can get him. Teams like Jacksonville, Oakland and the Jets have cap room in the $40-60 million range and will be able to offer far more than the Giants can offer even if they did do all of the dangerous salary-cap dancing they'd have to do to get into the game. If you're a Giants fan and you want to dream and wish and hope, well, that's your right as a fan. But I don't think this is something, in the end, that the Giants can actually do.
Ahead of the start of free agency, Insider is providing buyer's guides for all 32 teams: biggest need positions from Football Outsiders, top targets from KC Joyner and Matt Williamson and predictions on how everything will play out from our NFL Nation team reporters.
Included below are links to every team's article. This is the entry for the New York Giants.
Safety: New York gave up too many long runs in 2014, ranking next to last in second-level yards (yards earned by opposing running backs 5 to 10 yards past the line of scrimmage) and fourth worst in open-field yards (yards earned by opposing running backs more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage). The top three safeties -- Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps -- are all entering free agency.
Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) Will be joined by four other NFL Nation reporters throughout the show.
Michael Rothstein (Detroit Lions reporter) will take us behind the Lions' decision to avoid franchise-tagging defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and also give us an idea of where the prized lineman might end up.
Mike Reiss (New England Patriots reporter) will join to make sense of New England's decision to place the franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, instead of potentially doing so with free-agent defensive backs Darrelle Revis or Devin McCourty.
Todd Archer (Dallas Cowboys reporter) will give us an update on the Cowboys' apparent decision to let DeMarco Murray, 2014's rushing leader, test the open market.
Sticking with offense, Rob Demovsky (Green Bay Packers reporter) checks in to outline why the Packers may be content doing the same with receiver Randall Cobb, who reportedly was looking to stay in Green Bay for $12 million a year.
As always, viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.
CB Walter Thurmond: The Giants signed him to a one-year contract last offseason and didn't even get two whole games out of him before a Week 2 injury ended his season. They have spoken with Thurmond about a return, but so far talks have gone nowhere, and he is expected to hit the market and sign elsewhere.
S Stevie Brown: Those eight interceptions from 2012 still resonate, but in truth there's been little evidence since to indicate whether Brown really is a starting NFL safety. He missed all of 2013 with an ACL injury, struggled and got benched at the start of 2014, then returned to the lineup and played just okay down the stretch. In a thin safety market, we have heard some talk that other teams could be interested in taking a look at Brown. And assuming he and his agent have heard the same, I'd expect them to check that out next week. The Giants could be in for a major overhaul at safety.
LB Jacquian Williams: The concussion issues that ended Williams' season likely will scare off outside suitors, and the Giants are in the best position to evaluate where things stand on that front. Assuming Williams is recovered, the Giants like the idea of a starting linebacker corps of Williams, Devon Kennard and either Jon Beason or Jameel McClain.
LB Mark Herzlich: He feels like a Giant-for-life kind of guy to me, and I'm a bit surprised he hasn't re-signed already.
But Chris Snee's retirement and Geoff Schwartz's preseason toe injury created holes at both guard spots, and the Giants needed Richburg to play left guard and Walton to play center, which he did for all 16 of their games in 2014.
Richburg, journeyman Dallas Reynolds and Canadian import Brett Jones are the only centers on the roster right now. And while it's possible the Giants could look to add someone at that position and either keep Richburg at guard or make him compete for the starting spot, they drafted Richburg to be their center of the future, and he's likely ready to take over now.
Releasing Walton leaves the Giants with $28,608,930 in cap room, though $14.813 million of that will vanish as soon as defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul signs his franchise player tender. They will be on the lookout for offensive linemen in free agency and/or the draft as they work on getting tougher run-blockers this offseason. Walton did a good job helping establish and administer the new offense from his position, but he too often got overpowered in the run game, and they're looking for stronger players up front going forward. Schwartz's return should help solidify one of the guard spots, and they'll look either for another guard or a right tackle who would allow them to move Justin Pugh inside to play guard.
The move, which was expected, keeps Pierre-Paul from becoming a free agent when the market opens March 10 and allows the Giants and Pierre-Paul to continue their so-far-fruitless discussions on a long-term contract.
By receiving the non-exclusive tag, Pierre-Paul will be free to sign an offer sheet with another team but the Giants would receive two first-round picks from that team if they choose not to match.
A source close to the negotiations said the two sides would continue to talk about a long-term deal but that the Giants would be OK with letting Pierre-Paul play out the 2015 season on the $14.813 million franchise number and be eligible for free agency again next year. Per NFL rules, the sides have until July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal. After that time, Pierre-Paul is locked into a one-year contract for 2015.
Pierre-Paul, who just turned 26 on Jan. 1, had 12.5 sacks for the Giants in 2014, his first fully healthy season since his breakout campaign in 2011. He said several times during the season that he hoped to be back with the Giants, but he also was clearly looking forward to free agency and seeing whether he could land a contract in line with those of the league's top pass-rushers.
The Giants were still somewhat leery of the injury issues he had in 2012 and 2013, and they spoke to Pierre-Paul several times during the season about ways to maintain more consistent production as a pass-rusher. He finished the year very strong, with nine sacks in the Giants' final five games. But to this point, the team and Pierre-Paul have not seen eye-to-eye on his contract value, so the Giants made their move to keep him off the open market.
From what I have been told, Pierre-Paul is looking for a contract close to the top of the pass-rusher market. The deal Robert Quinn signed with the Rams last year averages about $14.2 million per year and came with about $15.6 million in guarantees. That's probably a good guideline as to where Pierre-Paul sees himself, and at this point the Giants aren't ready to commit to Pierre-Paul at that level. There are still legitimate health concerns, as Pierre-Paul's 2012 and 2013 seasons were severely affected by injuries. And while Pierre-Paul played all 16 games in 2014 and finished eighth in the league with 12.5 sacks, the Giants privately and publicly expressed concerns about the consistency of his production in the pass rush. Nine of his sacks came in the season's final five games.
So, assuming they can't get him to sign a long-term deal at their preferred price, letting him play one year on the franchise number isn't a bad way to go. It gives him a chance to put another year between himself and his health issues, and to demonstrate the week-to-week consistency they're asking from him. And at his very young age, a long-term contract signed this time next year would still include several prime seasons.
Also, they can afford to do this. The Giants have about $25 million in cap room right now, and this move would obviously eat up a large chunk of it. But they have the ability to increase their cap room with adjustments to the contracts of players such as Eli Manning, J.D. Walton, Jon Beason and Jameel McClain. They could save $3 million by releasing Walton, $2.858 million by releasing Beason and $3.1 million by releasing McClain, and they could save up to about $11 million if they extended Manning's contract beyond 2015.
It sounds crazy to say this about a team that's 13-19 over the past two seasons and has missed the playoffs three years in a row, but the Giants don't have a lot of big spending to do this offseason. The positions at which they need free-agent help aren't very costly ones. They need a right tackle or guard, a safety or two, a couple of rotation players at defensive end and defensive tackle, maybe one or two 4-3 outside linebackers and a change-of-pace running back. Tagging Pierre-Paul will use a lot of cap room, but he's by far the biggest-ticket item on their shopping list. They can absorb it.
The stickier question is how Pierre-Paul will take it. Sometimes, a player who has been looking ahead to his first big free-agent payday gets annoyed or upset about being franchised instead of signing the long-term deal of which he's been dreaming. Often, that player is annoyed enough to skip offseason workouts. Even the mandatory minicamp would not be mandatory for Pierre-Paul if he waited until after it ended to sign his franchise tender. So the biggest risk the Giants are running if they franchise Pierre-Paul is upsetting him.
But there's little-to-no risk of Pierre-Paul holding out into the regular season. Like almost everyone else who's ever been franchised, he'll eventually make his peace with the fact that this is the collectively bargained situation under which he and his fellow NFL players must operate. While the system is obviously slanted heavily in favor of the teams and not the players, a $15 million salary is a pretty sweet consolation prize. And there are worse things than being a 27-year-old free agent with two (or possibly three) double-digit sack seasons on your resume.
So there you have it. A full rundown of the situation most likely to unfold before 4 p.m. ET. Fundamentally, the Giants want Pierre-Paul on their team in 2015, and this appears to be the best way to make sure that happens. It doesn't ruin the chances of his spending his whole career with the Giants. It just delays the decision on that for at least a few more months and maybe one more year.
@DanGrazianoESPN: To be accurate, the scheduled 2015 cap numbers for quarterback Eli Manning ($19.75 million) and cornerback Prince Amukamara ($6.898) million are the highest and fifth-highest on the team, respectively. (Victor Cruz, Will Beatty and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie still have cap numbers higher than Amukamara's, and Jon Beason isn't far behind him.) Manning's number would work out to 13.8 percent of a $143 million salary cap, and Amukamara's is 4.8 percent. So together, they represent 18.6 percent of the cap.
Let's take Amukamara first. He's on that one-year deal as a fifth-year option player from the first round of the 2011 draft. Of those 32 first-round picks, 21 had their 2015 options picked up and only four -- J.J. Watt, Robert Quinn, Tyron Smith, and Patrick Peterson -- have signed long-term deals. I spoke with several general managers at the combine who have players in this category, and in general they don't seem in a hurry to alter these contracts. I spoke to Giants GM Jerry Reese specifically about Amukamara, and he said the $6.898 million is a perfectly fine salary for a starting cornerback. He likes Amukamara, but like other GMs with fifth-year option players, he doesn't see the need to act and award an extension just to get cap relief this year. Amukamara is coming off a season-ending injury, and it's reasonable for the Giants to let him play out this year and see how healthy he is at the end of it. They can always extend him during or after the season, and if it comes to it, they could franchise him next year and keep him off the market for another year. Basically, this fifth-year option is like an extra franchise tag, and teams are employing it as such. I don't expect any movement on Amukamara's contract in 2015.
And honestly, Manning's situation is kind of similar. They're obviously comfortable paying Manning a significant portion of their salary-cap allotment, as they have been doing it for years. With the cap going up, a $17 million salary for a franchise quarterback who never misses a game isn't a bad price. And if it came to it, they could always sign or franchise Manning next year. It's not as though they would be getting any kind of discount if they signed him now. An extension for Manning could save the Giants as much as $11 million against this year's cap, and for that reason they might decide they need to do it. But with about $25 million in projected cap room as of now and no big-money necessities outside of Jason Pierre-Paul, they might not have to do it.
@DanGrazianoESPN: Well, I think if you have a chance to take an original gangster at No. 9, you can't pass that up. I believe it was Gil Brandt who once said of the draft, "I ain't no superhero, I ain't no Marvel comic, but when it comes to picking in the top 10, I'm atomic." I think it was Gil. Might have been Ernie Accorsi. Need to go look that up.
However, if by "OG" you meant "offensive guard," then yeah, I think that gives you pause. I think if you're picking in the top 10, you need to find a franchise cornerstone piece at one of those critical positions we talk about -- quarterback, wide receiver, left tackle, pass-rusher, or cornerback. There are exceptions, sure, but that's a good guideline. And if a guy like Iowa's Brandon Scherff, who is the popular mock draft pick of the moment for the Giants, projects as a guard, you do have to step back and ask yourself whether picking a guard at No. 9 overall is really the best thing for your franchise long-term. If you feel like you're getting a guy who can play guard right away and then develop into your franchise left tackle down the road, that's one thing. But if the guy projects as a 10-year starting guard in the NFL? Nice thing to have, but I'm not sure you need to spend your top 10 pick on that. Just my opinion.
The Giants are in an odd place here. They desperately need to address the offensive line as a present and long-range future need, but there doesn't seem to be the kind of impact, building-block lineman in this year's draft that would justify using a pick as high as their No. 9 overall on him. So either they would need to trade down (unlikely, since they don't tend to operate like that) or shore up the line with a young free agent or two and spend this pick on a high-impact defender.
@DanGrazianoESPN: I think Reggie Bush is the kind of back for which the Giants are looking -- a home-run-hitter type with some receiving ability out of the backfield who would complement the power runners they already have in Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. But as of Friday afternoon, I was told the Giants were not among the teams showing interest in Bush, and they very well might not. Bush's 30th birthday is Monday, and if you remember the Giants' free-agent spree from last year you might remember that the only free agent they signed who was over 30 was kicker Josh Brown. Bush has the skill set for which the Giants are looking, but when they look for free agents, they look for guys who are younger than he is. So my guess is they will look elsewhere for their change-of-pace back, unless Bush's market doesn't develop and they are still looking a month or so from now.
@DanGrazianoESPN: No, I do not, because I think Jordan Cameron is going to be relatively expensive and I think we've seen very clearly that the Giants don't like to spend money on tight end. I also think they are still very high on Larry Donnell as a present-day producer and high-ceiling prospect, and that they consider Donnell their starter at the position. They believe another strong offseason will help him take another step, and they expect him to emerge as one of the better players in the league at his position. I do not think tight end is on the Giants' shopping list this offseason, except the blocking kind, on which they will surely stock up ahead of training camp as usual..
Thanks for all of the questions, and enjoy the rest of your Saturday.
The way we figured the Giants' cap space was as follows:
- Project a salary cap of $143 million.
- Add the $151,000 in cap room the Giants are allowed to carry forward from last year (the second-lowest such figure in the league).
- Subtract the current top 51 scheduled salaries on the roster for 2015, which amounts to $111,012,877.
- Subtract the total "dead money" owed for the contracts of guys like David Baas, Mathias Kiwanuka, David Wilson, etc. That comes to $6,809,193.
That gets us to a projection of $25,328,930 in cap room, which is the 15th-highest total in the league.
How should the Giants spend this? Well, the short answer is on defense.
Of that $111,012,877 in top-51 salaries, $63,662,978 is committed to offensive players. That's 57.3 percent of their current projected cap spend. Another 5.6 percent ($6.21 million) is scheduled for special teamers, which means only 37.1 percent of the Giants' money right now for 2015 is scheduled to be spent on their defense.
Where do the Giants spend less than other teams? Well, we have that, too:
- Defensive end? Yes, but not for long. As of now, the Giants have less money committed to the defensive end position ($4,330,688) than any other team in the league. But if they franchise Pierre-Paul for $15 million, they'd jump to No. 8 in the league at that position. So that's not really where they're lagging.
- Defensive tackle? Yes. They have only $5,078,392 committed right now at defensive tackle, which is the 19th-most in the league and well below the league average of $8,200,344. Of the 13 teams behind them, only seven run 4-3 defenses (and therefore start two defensive tackles) as the Giants do. Now, they're getting great production there from a very young and very cheap ($1.099 million cap number) Johnathan Hankins. And they just cut Cullen Jenkins' cap number down to a little more than $2 million. But there is room to add to the defensive tackle rotation if they want to do it. If they can't bring back Mike Patterson, they could go out and sign someone more expensive there. (Though, no, probably not as expensive as Ndamukong Suh.)
- Linebacker? About average. They have $13,392,806 committed at linebacker, which is a little bit below the league average of $15,188,549. That counts a huge $6.692 million cap number for Jon Beason, which is likely to be adjusted significantly, and a $3.4 million number for Jameel McClain. The Giants don't like to spend on linebacker, so I'd expect this to be a place where they cut, rather than add, salary.
- Safety? Very much so. The Giants have only $1,190,193 committed right now at safety, where Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe are the only players currently under contract for 2015. Only Indianapolis and Washington have less money committed at safety. The Giants clearly have room to spend here and probably will.
- Cornerback? Heck, no. Only four teams -- the Patriots, Cowboys, Cardinals and Dolphins -- have more 2015 cap money committed to cornerbacks than the Giants' $18.678 million. The league average cap spend on cornerbacks right now for 2015 is $12,533,115. The Giants have made this position a priority with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara as $7 million-or-so-per-year starters, and you shouldn't be surprised to see them spend on this position again, whether it's by bringing back guys like Walter Thurmond and Zack Bowman or finding strong replacements for them on the market. The Giants believe this is position is one that is worthy of their major resources.
So what do we take from this? The Giants need to beef up at safety and on the defensive line. Even if they re-sign Pierre-Paul or franchise him, there's room in their budget for another pass-rusher to replace the faded and just-released Kiwanuka. Even if they want to give Berhe or Taylor a starting safety spot, they can play at the top of the market for their other starting safety.