After spending over $200 million last year in NFL free agency - nearly all of it to revamp the defense - the New York Giants' war chest heading into this offseason is far from depleted. In fact, it is middle of the pack in the NFL and could potentially grow some more.
Following moves on Monday to release wide receiver Victor Cruz and running back Rashad Jennings, the Giants cleared nearly $10 million worth of cap space. While Cruz will still count for $1.9 million against the cap in 2017, the Giants' decision to cut ties with the fan favorite will save them $7.5 million this offseason.
Like Cruz, there’s still a cap hit for Jennings against the 2017 salary cap, to the tune of $562,500 but his release saves the Giants $2.5 million. Given a salary cap of $168 million, this gives the Giants roughly $30 million under the cap, a number that cap expert Jason Fitzgerald says is No. 17 in the NFL right now.
“At this point the Giants are pretty close to maximizing savings through cuts. They could release J.T. Thomas and save $3 million which would make sense todo, though its probably fair to speculate that if he didn’t get cut [on Monday] they may have a pay cut in the works,” Fitzgerald told Metro.He is the founder of Overthecap.com, a site that tracks the salary cap and contract situations for all 32 teams in the NFL.
“I personally don’t see the value in releasing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie but that would save $5 million. I don’t see him as a pay cut candidate since I think he could earn more if he was cut and re-entered free agency. Shane Vereen would save $3.75 million if cut but I’d think they are happy with him in his role if he is healthy. They could get some small savings by turning more base salary to incentives, but off just one injury I don’t think they would.
“They can create more space via extensions and restructures. Justin Pugh has a $8.8 million cap hit and that could easily be brought down by a few million [dollars] if extended. If they were in desperate need of cap space they could convert some of the base salary of any of the big three from last year: [Damon] Harrison, [Olivier] Vernon, and [Janoris] Jenkins to a signing bonus.”
The Giants will need to replace Cruz, who had some decent production last year with 39 catches and 586 receiving yards, and the NFL Draft is likely the best landing spot to find a replacement without a huge salary cap hit. The Giants also will need to invest heavily in their offensive line this year, either in the draft or via free agency.
Likely they will need to land at least one impact free agent on the line.
“Of [Harrison, Vernon and Jenkins] they could create around $6 million in cap space with Harrison which probably makes the most sense since his initial signing bonus was just $8 million,” Fitzgerald said. “Jenkins could open up around $9 million and with just a $10 million signing bonus to start with that’s somewhat possible. More likely they would do a partial conversion and open up $4 million or $5 million if needed.Vernon's initial signing bonus was too big to really consider it and if they were to open his contract up it probably signals the Giants are going to be too heavy in free agency which could hurt the team two and three years down the line.”