@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.
At the combine last week, I was there when Scherff had his news conference, and I posted these five things we learned about him that day. He was engaging and funny and appealing. I'm certain he makes a strong impression in interviews as well as on tape.
The question is whether an offensive lineman who doesn't project as a franchise left tackle is worth taking with a pick as high as the one the Giants hold this year. And I guarantee you, if the Giants are looking at Scherff as the draft gets closer, that's a question the Giants will be asking themselves. As obvious as a problem as their long-term neglect of the line has been for them, it's still very difficult for GM Jerry Reese and the Giants to change the way they've always done things -- especially when it comes to the value they assign to certain positions. Pugh is the only first-round offensive lineman they've drafted in the past 15 years, and that's not a coincidence. They believe they can find good value at those positions later in the draft.
So my reaction to Todd's latest mock is pretty much in line with my past reactions to the Scherff pick. I think it would be a very smart and useful pick for the Giants to make, but looking at the names of the next four players taken in this mock -- two wide receivers, a pass-rusher and a cornerback -- I find it hard to believe Reese would take a right tackle/guard at No. 9 instead of one of the more dynamic names that likely occupy similar locations on his draft board.
Hillis' contract was worth $945,000 against the cap this season. He joined the Giants in October 2013 after David Wilson suffered a season-ending neck injury. He played in the Giants' first nine games in 2014 before suffering a season-ending concussion. He rushed for 115 yards and caught 10 passes.
Hillis, a seven-year veteran, has also played for Denver, Cleveland and Kansas City.
The team officially listed the move as "failed physical" among the league's transactions, as Kiwanuka is still recovering from knee surgery.
Kiwanuka was scheduled to earn $4.825 million in salary and bonuses this year and count $7.45 million against the salary cap. Releasing him saves the Giants $4.825 million against this year's cap and leaves Kiwanuka free to sign with any team, even before free agency begins March 10.
Kiwanuka's production tailed off the last couple of years, but he was long seen as a valuable Giant. He was the No. 32 overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft -- the last one for which Ernie Accorsi was the Giants' general manager -- and switched between defensive end and linebacker depending on the team's year-to-year needs. He agreed to rework his contract several times, took a pay cut last year and devoted a great deal of his time on the practice field and in the locker room to helping the team's younger players.
"The thing that has always impressed me about Kiwi is how serious he is about the game," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said in the team's news release. "He was always prepared and always in outstanding condition and played very hard. And he had some nasty in him. I always felt like you could count on certain things from him: eight [or] nine sacks, harass the quarterback, and you could move him around, inside, outside. He is dependable, reliable and there is no question about his professionalism. His character and professionalism and serious approach to the game will be missed."
"It was nearly a third of my life that I was there in New York, and I did a lot of good things there," Umenyiora said. "As a team, we won some Super Bowls. I was able to go to a couple of Pro Bowls and be like an All-Pro player over there. Unless I'm able to do that somewhere else -- which I don't know how likely that is -- then it would only make sense, whenever it is that I retire.
"I'm not going to play another 10 years. I'm not going to play another three years. Whenever it is that I retire, I think it would only make sense for me to do that as a Giant."
Now, that could be as simple as the Giants putting out a news release announcing Umenyiora's retirement once he decides to do it. Or it could mean Umenyiora returning to play a final season for the team. The former possibility is obviously far more likely than the latter, but with Umenyiora looking for work it's worth at least asking the question of whether the latter is possible at all.
The Giants are going to bring Jason Pierre-Paul back as one of their starting defensive ends, either on a long-term deal or as their franchise player. But on the other side, things are murkier. Mathias Kiwanuka is likely on his way out. Robert Ayers is coming off a season-ending pectoral injury. Damontre Moore is still only 22 and working on his maturity issues. Kerry Wynn, Jordan Stanton and guys like that are unproven. The Giants are almost certain to be looking for some sort of cheap help at that other defensive end spot, even if it's just another rotational player or two. Umenyiora, at this point in his career, would surely come cheap.
He'd also be reunited in New York with Steve Spagnuolo, who was defensive coordinator early in Umenyiora's Giants career and is back for a second tour of duty. That makes a Giants return even more appealing for Umenyiora, who had 13 sacks in 2007 under Spagnuolo and never had that many in a season again (averaging 7.3 per season since and topping out at 11.5 in 2012).
Can we rule this out? Of course not. They brought gimpy, broken-down Mario Manningham to camp last year and gave him a chance to win a job. If Umenyiora can't find work elsewhere, wants to play and would take a veteran minimum, non-guaranteed deal, sure, I could see the Giants bringing him to camp. Yes, he had his feuds with GM Jerry Reese, but Reese is no grudge-holder, and as the Spagnuolo hire shows, the Giants aren't afraid to reach back into their past glory years in hopes of a present-day boost.
I'd put the chances of a Giants-Umenyiora reunion somewhere under 50 percent, but I don't think they're super close to zero. Far stranger things have happened, and it may be worth a shot at the tail end of free agency to see what an old friend has left.
Those facts, along with the state of the safety market in the 2015 offseason, indicate to me that Taylor or Berhe -- and possibly both -- will get a shot to start at safety for the Giants this coming season.
Answers aren't likely to come via the draft, either. Alabama's Landon Collins is the top safety available this year, and the consensus at the combine seemed to be that No. 9 was too early to take him. After Collins, the safety pool drops off into mid-round options who aren't likely to be any more NFL-ready in 2015 than Taylor and Berhe would be.
There are a couple of possible free-agent safety options, though the best one, Devin McCourty, isn't likely to leave New England and hit the market. So that leaves the Giants to decide how they feel about guys like Denver's Rahim Moore or Buffalo's Da'Norris Searcy. It's possible they could find Rolle's replacement in free agency, but even if they did, that would still leave open one starting spot for one of the young fifth-rounders.
"They’re going to get a chance to compete," Giants GM Jerry Reese said Saturday. "Cooper obviously has to stay healthy, but I think those guys are going to get a chance to compete for that position."
Taylor still has work to do to recover from the foot surgery that cost him the entire 2014 season. But he's making good progress and expects to be ready in time for camp. The Giants believe Taylor's uncommon size (6-foot-4, 228 pounds) makes him a high-ceiling prospect at safety if he ever gets the chance to play it regularly. Berhe (5-foot-10, 200 pounds) doesn't have the same kind of size, but the Giants like his instincts and aggressiveness and believe he could take a leap forward this season.
In the past, the Giants have shown a willingness to commit big resources (Rolle's contract, a first-round pick) on the safety position, so it's easy to imagine them doing that again. But it's tough to believe they're going to go out and bring in two new high-end, experienced starters, which means opportunity this summer for one or both of the young guys.
The New York Giants will use their franchise tag on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul if the two sides fail to reach a long-term deal by March 2, a team source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Monday.
With the salary cap expected to rise to close to $145 million, the Giants, who want Pierre-Paul back, have plenty of room to keep him on a one-year franchise tender salary that could be as much as $15 million.
Sources told Dan Graziano of ESPN.com on Friday that Pierre-Paul expects to be designated with the franchise tag.
Tagging Pierre-Paul wouldn't preclude a long-term deal, but it would keep him off the open market when free agency begins March 10.
The 26-year-old Pierre-Paul, who had 12.5 sacks last season, is likely to be disappointed with the franchise designation, as he has been looking forward to hitting the market and selling himself to teams as an elite pass-rusher worthy of a megadeal like the one that St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn signed that pays him $14.25 million per season.
The Giants, however, harbor concerns about injury and inconsistency and so far have been hesitant to commit long-term, top-of-the-market pass-rusher money to him.
The 2010 first-round pick has 42 career sacks, including 16.5 during the team's 2011 Super Bowl season.
"The goal is for him to be a Giant and play as a Giant forever and retire as a Giant," coach Tom Coughlin said Thursday. "How that works out is another issue."
ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and Dan Graziano of ESPN.com contributed to this report.
As for this season, if the Giants let Pierre-Paul leave, their options for fixing the pass rush in his absence would not be great. Kansas City is planning to franchise 2014 NFL sack leader Justin Houston if they can't get a long-term deal done with him. Baltimore's Pernell McPhee, who appeared to be an under-the-radar option at the start of the offseason, is drawing enough attention now that he's going to float up near or to the top of the market. If Pierre-Paul were to hit the market when it opened on March 10, either he or Buffalo's Jerry Hughes would be the best free-agent pass-rusher available. And with other teams joining the bidding, the Giants likely would find the price to keep Pierre-Paul more than they could stomach.
So they're right to take the one-year cap hit and reassess in a year. They know Pierre-Paul and like him, and if he thrives and stays healthy under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, as so many Giants pass-rushers before him did, they're likely to feel more comfortable next year giving him the commitment for which he's looking now.
After spending this past week at the combine, I now believe the salary cap for this year is going to come in at around $145 million per team. ESPN's current projections have the Giants with $22,617,930 in cap room if we assume a $145 million cap.
They're expected to release defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, a move that would save $4.825 million in cap space. It also seems likely that they'll release center J.D. Walton, which would save another $3 million in cap space. So those two moves right there would bring the total back up to $15.425 million with Pierre-Paul in the fold. Add another $2.858 million they could save if they cut middle linebacker Jon Beason (who's almost certainly going to have to take a pay cut at the very least if he wants to stay), and things loosen up pretty well for the Giants with the cap shooting up again this year.
You'll notice we haven't discussed an Eli Manning extension, which remains a smart and likely thing for the Giants to do this offseason. The Giants could save about $11 million more in cap room with a Manning extension, and combined with these other moves that would enable them to do basically anything they wanted to do in free agency. But if they get to the point where they don't need to do a Manning extension just for the cap room, they could decide to let Manning play out the final year of his deal and work on a new deal next year. It's not as though he's going to give them a discount at this point, and they'd still be able to keep him off the market next year with either a new deal at that point or the franchise tag.
Basically, the Giants are in pretty good shape in terms of cap room this offseason, especially when you figure their biggest needs outside of Pierre-Paul aren't at very expensive positions. They'll look for either a right tackle or a guard, a safety or two, a couple of 4-3 outside linebackers and a change-of-pace running back. None of those positions are huge-money free-agent positions, and the Giants should be able to franchise Pierre-Paul and still address their needs without too much financial trouble.
They're still looking for David Wilson's replacement: The Giants' 2012 first-round pick had to retire last summer because of neck injuries, and the Giants this offseason are on the lookout for a speedy, home-run hitter running back who can complement Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. "We've got some big bangers, and David was a fast, quick guy who could catch the ball out of the backfield," Reese said. "You lose a dynamic-type player, it stings a little bit. But it's football, and we'll try and replace that position."
The Giants are assuming nothing with regard to Victor Cruz: Reese continues to say the team hopes for a full recovery by Cruz from the severe knee injury that ended his 2014 season in Week 6. But he repeated Saturday that, until they see Cruz on the field and running the way he used to, they can't assume that recovery will happen. Receiver remains a position at which Reese would hate to be caught short, and if concerns about Cruz linger in April and May, the Giants could use an early pick on a wideout.
Landon Collins is obsessed with Sean Taylor: The Alabama star, who is the top safety in this year's draft and a possible first-round pick for the Giants, said he watched Taylor's game film before every game, wears No. 26 because Taylor wore it in college, roots for Washington because that was Taylor's NFL team and cried when he heard the news of Taylor's death in 2007.