There will be a lot of defining moments this offseason that determine whether or not the New York Giants team makes an improvement going into the 2019 season, and one of them will be Eli Manning and the quarterback situation. We’ve talked plenty about potential draft picks and free agents at quarterback, but what about the player that the Giants already have at the position?
Eli Manning has the largest cap hit for 2019, coming in above even Odell Beckham Jr., and that will have an impact on putting together a winning team for this season. This year is the last one on Manning’s current contract but will cost the Giants $23M, and it’s impossible to just write that number off or say that it’s deserved based on last season’s play alone.
Even if you’re a big fan of Manning who believes that he deserves to be overpaid because of past contributions to the team, it’s hard to make an objective argument that the Giants aren’t overpaying based on those contributions in the first place. The real question here isn’t whether or not Manning is making a bit too much money next season, but whether or not the Giants are going to act on it. Another question is whether or not they can act on it.
The fact of the matter is that the Giants have little leverage here. They can hardly threaten Manning with a pay cut because Manning himself is more popular than the team’s current front office, and getting rid of such a player would be a disaster for Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur. There was plenty of backlash when Manning was benched for Geno Smith under Ben McAdoo. If Manning was off the team entirely, either because of a trade or because of being cut, that backlash would be many times worse.
Furthermore, the Giants don’t have someone to replace Manning with. This isn’t a good year for finding a free agent quarterback, and the draft is still a big question mark. While some quarterbacks look like they could be future successors, there’s no player right now that looks ready to step in as a day one starter and take over for a franchise legend. Attempting to fit a rookie quarterback into that role could result in the Giants having a much worse season than the 2018 one.
The Giants lack the leverage to force Manning to take a pay cut. If Manning says no, they have no way to back up a threat without shooting themselves in the foot. If they want Manning to take less money, they’ll have to convince him of that. It’s easier said than done, but it’s also not impossible. While most average people would be unhappy to take less money at their job, it’s important to realize that NFL quarterback is a different beast entirely.
Giving the front office more money to work with can help in getting wins, and many players are competitive enough to prioritize those wins over making as much money as they can. Especially when the player in question has already had plenty of years to play for full price. Whether or not Manning takes a pay cut is something that Manning rather than the team will have to decide, and it’s hard to say whether it will happen or not at this point.
But the important thing to note? The Giants have no real way of forcing it. Rather than making an ultimatum like some teams may be able to, they’ll have to just wait and see and hope that Manning is open to taking less money. Because right now, the leverage is decidedly not with the organization.