The Giants never once looked like a threat to make Super Bowl LIII and it’s hard to envision them right now as a threat to make Super Bowl LIV either. They have so much work to do just to become a winning team again. Right now even a playoff berth feels far away.
Their work towards the 2019 season has already begun, of course, and beginning on Monday they are free to start reshaping their roster. There will be some cuts and restructured contracts in the next few weeks, as the Giants get ready for the opening of NFL free agency on March 13.
Here are some of the biggest decisions they face:
Will they go with Eli Manning as their starting QB in 2019? This remains, as SNY has been reporting for months, the most likely scenario. The Giants are not expected to be looking for a replacement via trade or free agency. Much more likely, they’ll seek his heir in the draft. That leaves only one open question: Will they tinker with his contract to reduce his $23.2 million cap hit. There’s no guarantee they will and it’s tricky since it’s the last year of his contract. Whatever they do, they’ll probably due it before March 15 when his $5 million roster bonus is due.
Will they use the “franchise tag” on S Landon Collins? That’s possible. Collins seems to believe he’ll be back with the Giants, and by now they’ve surely talked about a long-term extension. Right now it looks like the tag for safeties will be about $11 million. With a long-term deal the Giants could lower that hit. They can use the tag between Feb. 19 and March 5 and they might, possibly as a placeholder if a deal is close.
Will they make LB Olivier Vernon a cap casualty? This sure seemed like a lock since his cap number is $19.5 million and cutting him clears $11.5 million in cap space. He has not lived up to his five-year, $85 million contract considering he’s had only 13 ½ sacks while missing nine games over the last two seasons. But here’s the question for the Giants: If they cut Vernon, where is their pass rush coming from? Maybe the draft. The top pass rushers in free agency will be way too expensive. Maybe a pay cut or restructured contract here makes a little more sense.
Will CB Janoris Jenkins be a cap casualty? He’s probably more likely to be a cap casualty, but the Giants face the same issue here as they do with Vernon. They traded away Eli Apple and they aren’t stocked with young cornerbacks, unless you count Sam Beal, their supplemental draft pick who missed his entire rookie season after shoulder surgery. Cutting Jenkins clears $7.75 million, but the Giants would have to turn around and spend that and more on a corner to replace him.
Will the Giants restructure LB Alec Ogletree’s contract again? They traded a lot to get him, so it’s hard to see them letting him go. But he does have a $6 million roster bonus due on March 15. His coverage was spotty at times, but his general play was good and the Giants were pleased with his leadership and a key defensive position. When they acquired him last year they restructured his deal and spread his 2018 roster bonus out over the remainder of his contract for some salary cap relief. They’ll likely do that again.
What minor pieces can they shed for some cap relief? LB Connor Barwin was officially released by the Giants on Monday, and RB Jonathan Stewart is likely gone, too. The Giants will save about $4 million combined there. Maybe LB Kareem Martin (a $2.8 million savings if they designate him a post-June 1 cut) or TE Rhett Ellison ($3.25 million). Both have supporters on the coaching staff, but their production could be easily replaced.
Will they try to re-sign RG Jamon Brown or go guard shopping? They need a lot of help on the offensive line and there isn’t a lot out there. The 25-year-old Brown was terrific at right guard in eight starts after the Giants claimed him off waivers from the Rams and he helped the Giants’ line go from awful to respectable in the second half of the season. He’s not exactly an all-pro guard, though, so the Giants will have to be careful of his price. If it’s right, they’ll likely try to bring him back rather than jump into a mediocre market.