EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The words Phil Simms used – “absolute guarantee” – may have been a bit strong, but the former Giants quarterback is exactly right. Despite what happened on Sunday, despite a generally down season, it remains very likely that Eli Manning will be the team’s starting quarterback in 2019.
That’s because Giants managements understands that even though Manning will turn 38 in a few weeks and has struggled at times this season, he remains their best option – and probably by far.
That’s why the Giants haven’t ruled out a Manning return, as SNY has been reporting for months, and while no decision has been made several team sources have indicated that scenario is increasingly likely. Giants coach Pat Shurmur is fond of Manning and what he brings to the team, a source said, and the front office isn’t likely to move on until they’ve identified his replacement.
Since no final decision has been made, and might not be made until several weeks after the season, nothing is certain and the Giants do have plenty of other options. None of them, besides keeping Manning, are very good, though.
Here they all are, in the order that they would make the most sense – even though only one really makes sense at all:
1.Keep Eli Manning as the 2019 starter
For most of the season he struggled behind a terrible offensive line. Then for five games the line played better and so did he. Now people are down on him again after one bad game in a rainstorm without Odell Beckham Jr. and with the line struggling again? Wow. If people could see through their desire to discard him they’d see that with protection he remains a Top 15 quarterback. He’s putting up near-career numbers in most categories too. He’s not what he was in 2011, but the Giants can win if they put him behind even a decent offensive line. The big hitch in this plan, though, is his cap number. It’s $23.2 million in 2019. The Giants can cut him and clear $17 million of that off the books, which is big, but then they’d need a quarterback. Don’t be shocked when they solve that by giving Manning a short-term contract extension that lowers his 2019 cap number. With no other good option that is still the smartest thing the Giants can do.
2.Draft a QB in the first round
Sure, if they can get in range for Oregon’s Justin Herbert, or if they decide they love Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins or Missouri’s Drew Lock, they absolutely should draft a quarterback. But why rush Manning out of town even if they do? First, wouldn’t they want their next franchise quarterback to learn from Manning? And second, teams don’t usually win with rookie quarterbacks. It’s not crazy to let Manning try and make one last run – in front of a rebuilt offensive line – while his replacement develops behind him. If the Giants fall apart again, they can make the switch midseason. If Manning leads them to a playoff berth, all the better. The future doesn’t have to come right away even if his heir is here.
3.Sign Teddy Bridgewater
He’s the most attractive player on a terrible free agent market for quarterbacks – a market that’s always terrible because teams don’t let the good ones go. That means Bridgewater could cost a small fortune, if he even hits free agency (he might re-sign with the Saints). The 26-year-old also comes with a huge risk. He’s attempted three passes in an NFL game since 2015, before he suffered a devastating knee injury. Yes, he looked good in preseason for the Jets, but it was preseason and mostly against second and third-teamers. Is anyone really sure that over a full season his knee would hold up?
4.Trade for or sign Nick Foles
His availability will depend on whether the Eagles pick up his 2019 option. Either way, he’ll be 30 and expensive. And here’s the thing about Nick Foles. He had a brilliant 2013 season with the Eagles and an incredible Super Bowl run last year. But other than that, what has he done besides play incredibly average football, at best? If the Giants are guaranteed to get Super Bowl Foles, then yeah, this would be great. It’s much more likely, though, that they’ll get Journeyman Nick. What’s the point of that?
5.Trade for Joe Flacco
He is probably available because he’s lost his job to rookie Lamar Jackson – which probably should be a warning sign for interested teams. He’s younger than Manning (33) but he’s signed for three more years with salary cap numbers of $26.5 million, $28.25 million and $24.25 million. So he’s more expensive than Manning, and not nearly as good. Check the numbers: His decline has been even starker, and his ceiling was never as high. The Giants would be spending more for less. Even if he’s cut and available as a bargain in free agency, this is a downgrade and doesn’t solve their long-term problem at all.
6.Sign a journeyman like Josh McCown
Or, if you prefer, try Tyrod Taylor or Sam Bradford or Trevor Siemian or Ryan Fitzpatrick. They’re all essentially the same and would be a placeholder for a year until Manning’s heir is ready. If they go that route, why wouldn’t they just make Manning the placeholder instead of wasting a year behind a quarterback half as good as he is?
7.Turn everything over to Kyle Lauletta
Sure. What sold everyone on Lauletta: His 0 for 5, one interception debut, or his arrest for refusing to comply with police orders after a traffic violation? It should seem pretty clear by now that, regardless of his potential, he’s not ready to take over for Manning anytime soon.