The NFL trade deadline is fast approaching, coming up on October 30 at 4 p.m., but the New York Giants have wasted no time in getting started disassembling a team that has put together a 1-6 record thus far and ranks at or near the bottom in most every major NFL category.
This Giants team — which in remaining committed to quarterback Eli Manning; in spending more than $100 million on premium free agents such as left tackle Nate Solder ($10 million 2018 cap hit), linebacker Kareem Martin ($$3,516,666 2018 cap hit) and guard Patrick Omameh ($2.5 million 2018 cap hit); and in dishing out a multiyear contract to receiver Odell Beckham Jr. that carries a $5.459 million cap hit this year — was supposedly built to make a run.
However, the years and years of bad drafts and personnel decisions made by former general manager Jerry Reese have left the team built on a foundation of sand that has steadily crumbled under the weight of heavy expectations. The Giants have recorded one winning season since 2013 — their 10-6 mark in 2016 — and have fallen into a downward spiral that has seen them go 4-19 since their wild-card playoff loss to the Packers in January 2017.
Goodbye New Jersey…I gave everything I had. Y’all be good https://t.co/7yeR5hsgTn
— Damon Harrison Sr. (@snacks) October 24, 2018
Enter Dave Gettleman, the Giants’ 67-year old general manager, who was hired to clean up the mess that has turned the Giants into a laughing stock in the NFL. Gettleman, who joined the optimism that has been parlayed by head coach Pat Shurmur about the Giants being a competitive team, has also been interjecting realism into what loomed ahead for the franchise, noting as far back as the draft in April how roster building was a year-round process that wouldn’t likely be completed in one offseason.
That leads us to the current state of the Giants — what they have done and what they might still plan to do not just by the trade deadline but beyond. There are questions among the Giants fans who agree that something had to be done, but some of whom aren’t sure what exactly is behind the thinking of the moves made.
Let’s break it all down.
Why Trade Players Now?
The first is to open cap space. Before the Apple and Harrison transactions were recorded by the NFLPA, the Giants, per the public cap report, had $1,710,956 of cap space remaining — and it’s unclear if that total reflected the injury settlement given to linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong, who last week landed on injured reserve with a concussion.
That amount is not only not enough to carry over into 2019, when the Giants will have a lot of holes to address (not to mention some potential contract extensions to negotiate), it is probably barely enough to get them through the remaining 10 games of the 2018 season to cover emergency signings to replace injured players and practice squad moves.
The Giants, per Spotrac, have the second-highest dead money hit in the NFL this year at $38,243,794 (made up of 41 players, by the way), with only Buffalo’s $57.741 million dead money hit topping them. Jason Pierre-Paul ($15 million), Harrison ($5.041 million), Ereck Flowers ($4.579 million), Apple ($3.057 million) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ($2 million) are currently the biggest cap eaters in terms of the dead money total.
Let’s start with the 2018 savings on Apple, whose 2018 base salary is $1,827,484 and whose prorated signing bonus comes to $2,304,952 per year (four years).
The Giants have already paid Apple for seven games at a weekly rate of $107,499.05. That comes to $752,493 of his base salary having been paid out. Add that total with the prorated signing bonus, and that comes to a payout of $3,057,445 spent on Apple.
Deduct that total from Apple’s original cap hit ($4,884,929) and the Giants savings on their 2018 cap comes to $1,827,484.
Harrison’s 2018 cap savings is a little bit bigger. His 2018 base salary of $7.75 million included $2.5 million in guaranteed money, which has already been paid out this year. His prorated signing bonus comes to $1.6 million per year and he was due a base salary of $7.75 million, of which approximately $3.191 million has already been paid.
That means the Giants will save approximately $4.56 million this year on the transaction, which should give the Giants a little more breathing room on their cap space for this year
The second and perhaps equally important reason is that the trades have yielded draft picks that will come in handy should Gettleman and the Giants want to move up in next year’s draft.
Prior to any trade activity in 2018, the Giants had their own first, second, fourth, fifth, and sixth in next year’s draft and were potentially looking at not getting any compensatory draft picks given their free agency activity.
Their third-round pick was spent in the supplemental draft to acquire cornerback Sam Beal and they sent a seventh-round pick to Denver for punter Riley Dixon.
Thanks to the trades made, the Giants acquired, for 2019, two extra seventh-round picks (from the Alec Ogletree trade with the Rams and the Brett Jones trade with the Vikings); the extra fourth-round pick from the Saints (for Apple), and the extra fifth-round pick from the Lions (for Harrison).
With the extra draft picks, Gettleman now has more ammunition to move around in the 2019 draft as he sees fit. Likewise, the Giants can convert those picks into prospects who not only can contribute right away but also will cost far less than the players the Giants moved on from.
Why Apple and Harrison?
Any time a team moves on from a player, it’s usually the result of a either their production not matching the contract.
So let’s take a look at the production of each and if the Giants were truly getting the best value, starting with Apple.
First, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2016 draft has yet to make it through a full 16-game season due to injuries and his one-game suspension last year.
In his two-plus years with the Giants as a starter, he has 102 tackles, zero sacks and just one interception—the interception coming in his rookie season. Per Pro Football Focus, he’s also allowed 11 touchdowns over that period and recorded just 13 passes defensed for a career NFL rating of 104.4—not exactly the type of production one might expect from such a premium draft pick.
What about Harrison, arguably one of if not the best run stoppers in the NFL? There are a few factors that likely worked against him, starting with the fact that next month, he turns 30, but none bigger than the coaching staffs primarily using him as a two-down player instead of an every-down player.
According to Pro Football Reference, Harrison’s 2018 snaps have declined through the season, as follows:
- Week 1: 45 (71 percent)
- Week 2: 34 (64 percent)
- Week 3: 35 (51 percent)
- Week 4: 37 (53 percent)
- Week 5: 38 (54 percent)
- Week 6: 30 (42 percent)
- Week 7: 30 (46 percent)
With the Giants having drafted B.J. Hill to ultimately take over that role, and with R.J. McIntosh, another draft pick, waiting in the wings as he works his way back from an injury, it’s easy to see why Harrison was moved at the price the Giants got for him.
Who Might Be Next?
With the exceptions of very few players, such Nate Solder, Saquon Barkley, and Odell Beckham Jr., it sounds as though no one is truly “safe” from either being on the block or potentially being a cap casualty next offseason.
Whether there are more moves made before next week’s trade deadline–and there very well could be–or additional bloated contracts that are purged in the coming months–more moves are definitely coming.
Here’s a look at a few whose contracts could be altered or removed from 2019.
CB Janoris Jenkins
The Giants are already thin at cornerback after moving on from Apple, but with the season pretty much lost, if the Giants can get a draft pick for the 29-year-old Jenkins, they’d be foolish not to.
Another #Giants player who may be on the move this week is CB Janoris Jenkins. The 29-year-old has $3.77M left in 2018, then caps of $11.25M in each of 2019 & 2020.
— Spotrac (@spotrac) October 24, 2018
Per Pro Football Focus, Jenkins not only has the worst NFL rating (127.5) among the Giants defensive secondary, he’s also surrendered six touchdowns, by far the most on the team.
Jenkins, who has struggled in part due to injury last year and factors unknown this year to regain his 2016 Pro Bowl form, currently has a $10 million cap hit which includes a $6.4 million base salary, a number that was reduced in September 2018 when Jenkins agreed to lower his 2018 base salary by $4.5 million.
If the Giants are able to trade him, they’d take a $4 million dead money cap hit next year (the balance of his prorated signing bonus) while arriving at a $10.15 million savings (his 2019 base salary) on the cap.
QB Eli Manning
As much as fans would like for the team to move on from Manning and get something in return, don’t count on it.
First, he has a no-trade clause in his contract, and has said on numerous occasions—most recently in his weekly radio spot with WFAN’s Mike Francesa—that he’s not imagining a scenario where he finishes his career anywhere else.
“This organization is the only team I’ve ever played for and the only thing I know. I love the New York Giants. It’s hard to imagine being with another organization,” he said.
The most likely scenario for Manning’s future is that he retires after this year, a scenario which, if he resists, could force the Giants hand in cutting him.
Either way, if Manning isn’t on the 2019 roster, the Giants would save on his base salary ($11.5 million) and, if they make the cut before the third day of the 2019 league year, a $5 million roster bonus and a $500,000 workout bonus for a total of $17 million.
The remaining part of his prorated signing bonus ($6.2 million) would hit the team’s dead-money ledger.
LB Olivier Vernon
Vernon is only 28 years old and, when healthy, he provides the Giants with their best source of a pass rush.
The problem is that a high ankle sprain has cost him nine games over the last two seasons, a factor which, while not his fault, have some wondering if his production and salary are no longer in alignment.
The truth is when a team has to overspend on a mulligan for a failed draft pick, as the Giants had to do with Vernon, a mulligan for drafted failures such as Damontre Moore and Owa Odighizuwa, you’re never going to get a true return on your investment.
A more likely scenario for Vernon is a potential restructure in 2019. He’s due to count for $19.5 million against the 2019 cap, currently the third-highest figure behind Manning ($23.2 million) and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. ($21 million).
His base salary is $15.25 million, none of which is guaranteed, so if the Giants really needed to recoup some money from that deal given his two-year injury battles, that could be an option assuming Vernon would be willing to help out the team financially.
The problem is that as of now, Vernon has leverage on his side, injury and all. In two games played, he already has a sack, a tackle for a loss and two quarterback hits, his presence also drawing double team blocks that have freed opportunities for the rest of his teammates to make plays, as was the case on two of the Giants three sacks Monday night against the Falcons.
Realistically speaking, it would be a surprise if the Giants move on from Vernon. They might not have to if they end up getting more cap space from Manning’s and Jenkins’ deals next year.
G Patrick Omameh
Hard to believe, but Omameh, who recently lost his starting right guard job, is currently set to be the eighth highest cap hit on the team in 2019.
With Gettleman likely to redo the right side of the offensive line, it’s probably a safe bet that Omameh, who is signed through 2020, won’t be around next year.
His removal from the roster would yield a $3.15 million savings after the dead money and guaranteed money he’s owed are all factored in.
RB Jonathan Stewart
Stewart was signed as an unrestricted free agent supposedly because he had something left in his football tank. However, it turned out what he had left in his tank was nothing but air, though he still offered some value as a mentor to Saquon Barkley.
Still, the contract the Giants gave Stewart was ridiculous. While a player can’t be blamed for injuries, to devote $3.925 million to a No. 2 running back was not the best use of financial resources.
If the Giants move on from Stewart, who has a $400,000 roster bonus, in 2019, they will save $2.875 million on the transaction.
LB Kareem Martin
Martin is set to count for $5.516 million against next year, but also carries a $1 million roster bonus in 2019. By moving on from him, the Giants stand to save $2.183,334 of savings after the dead money is factored in.
Would the Giants move on from Martin? It might be more realistic that initially though, especially if they plan to give youngster Lorenzo Carter more snaps as the bookend to Olivier Vernon.