The biggest question this offseason for the New York Giants will be what to do with veteran quarterback Eli Manning. The Giants are in a bit of a pickle with their 38-year-old quarterback right now as he enters the final year of his current contract.
First off, let’s not let age be the determining factor here. The Giants certainly aren’t. Two quarterbacks older than Manning will be playing in the postseason (Tom Brady and Drew Brees) along with one of his contemporaries (Philip Rivers). Let’s not forget Eli’s other contemporary, Ben Roethlisberger, tossed for a league-high 5,129 yards this season.
Another factor has been Eli’s declining performance, which took a hit this season as Manning had one of the best statistical years of his Hall of Fame career. So, that argument is out the window as well.
The one factor that is dangling over them like the Sword of Damocles is Manning’s salary. The Giants can choose to keep him and pay dearly now or keep him and pay dearly later.
Their financial commitment to Manning has been enormous considering the return they’ve gotten (which is debatable in some circles). 2019 will be the last year year of a four-year, $84 million extension signed back in 2015. It requires the Giants to pay Manning a $11.5 million base salary, a $500K workout bonus plus a $5 million roster bonus due on St. Patrick’s Day.
Toss in the $6.2 signing bonus that was already paid out but deferred on the books, and Eli is carrying a whopping $23.2 million cap number this year. Too high for a team looking to fill a dozen roster holes this offseason.
They can also just cut him, but that comes with a lot of baggage as well. They will save $17 million towards the 2019 salary cap. They would only have to carry the $6.2 million signing bonus as a dead cap charge. But, they’d have no quarterback.
Keeping Manning past 2019 entails a lot of maneuvering that won’t save them much money unless he agrees to take a considerable reduction in salary.
Will he do that? Looking at the numbers, there’s not much wiggle room. He’d have to cut his base salary in half for it to make it worthwhile for the Giants, but then he’d be playing for about $11 million next year. He may not find that acceptable.
Joel Corry, a former sports agent and NFL contracts and salary cap expert, chimed in on a recent article in the New York Post regarding the Giants’ predicament with Manning. The article also outlined some the ways the Giants could keep Manning at a lesser rate, but they all contained financial strings that lingered on into future seasons.
“Why create some sort of cap charge in 2020 for him?” Corry said. “He’s not like Drew Brees, where there hasn’t been a drop-off and he’s still playing at the highest level. I wouldn’t really mess with it.
“The most sense is if you’re going to keep him, let him play it out and start finding a quarterback of the future. Just bite the bullet on the cap number. I know it’s high, but that makes the most sense if you want him around for one more year.”
With the salary cap expected to increase somewhere in the neighborhood of $187 million and $191.1 million next year, the Giants might just be better off listening to Corry and biting that bullet.
You know what they say in sports, “sometimes the best moves are the one you don’t make.”