And yet, there’s still no definitive public decision about whether the two-time Super Bowl winner will return for his 16th season.
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Manning has one year remaining on his current deal at $16.2 million. At 38 years old, his future’s uncertain.
The Giants said they would embark on an evaluation process spearheaded by Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur that could lead to someone other than Manning being their starter in 2019. Gettleman said he was going to watch tape until his eyes bled.
“That’s what I do,” he said at the time. “So, my commitment is to make this team the best team it can be, and if that happens to have Eli playing quarterback, it does.”
All indications are it’s heading in that direction. Manning has been in the building working out since season’s end. Surely there has been some communication with Gettleman, and several people close to the quarterback have received no indication Manning’s time with the Giants is about to end.
The Giants are scouring the draft for his eventual successor, but the belief in league circles is that they saw enough in the second half of this past season to roll it back one more time.
The NFL scouting combine begins at the end of February. Free agency is less than a month away. The time for a decision on Manning is coming.
Where does everything stand?
The Giants are in a holding pattern after finishing their internal evaluations amid preparations for free agency and the draft. Gettleman said at the end of the season that it was too early to figure his ideal quarterback situation for 2019. He didn’t know “the field.”
Since that time: Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins declared for the draft. Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray committed fully to football earlier this week, and Case Keenum became likely to move on from the Denver Broncos on Wednesday.
“The field” is almost finalized. The final shoe to drop will be Nick Foles, another former Shurmur pupil. Philadelphia is trying to control that situation by dangling the idea of a franchise tag. That likely would preclude a move to the Giants, if they decided, surprisingly, to move in that direction.
In the meantime, there are strong indications the Giants appear intent on finding their franchise quarterback in the draft — whether it be this year or next — rather than via free agency. That increases the possibility Manning will return for another season alongside a high draft pick; New York holds the No. 6 selection in April.
The Giants haven’t commented publicly since Gettleman’s end-of-season news conference. Manning waits, although his agent, Tom Condon, didn’t sound all that concerned during Super Bowl week. He expected Manning to return for another season. There also haven’t been any discussions to date regarding changes to Manning’s contract.
When will there be a decision about Manning’s future?
A final verdict needs to be made by March 17, which is the fifth day of the new league year and when Manning is guaranteed a $5 million bonus if he’s on the Giants’ 90-man active roster. That would all but cement his status for 2019.
Of course, it’s likely a decision will be made before then. The Giants can’t afford to be so patient. Free agency begins March 13. Teams can begin negotiating with players March 11. If the Giants elect to dip into the free-agent waters, they’ll need to make Manning aware of their intentions. They aren’t about to leave the most accomplished quarterback in franchise history dangling while flirting with a potential replacement, especially not with their concerted effort to handle his case carefully after what unfolded with his benching during the 2017 season.
The more likely date to watch is Feb. 26. That is when the combine begins. The combine is where a lot of behind-the-scenes flirting takes place. It’s expected that the Manning decision will be made public before that week is over.
How much money are the Giants on the hook for?
Manning is scheduled to count $23.2 million against the salary cap in 2019. That ranks 11th among quarterbacks. It’s not exactly commensurate with his Total QBR of 51.3, where he was 25th among quarterbacks in 2018.
The deal calls for Manning to be paid $17 million this season. That includes an $11.5 million base salary, a $5 million roster bonus and a $500,000 workout bonus.
The cash value of $17 million places Manning tied for 15th among active quarterbacks this season. That’s a more than manageable number.
If they want to lower his number, the Giants have leverage. Manning’s value in an open market, where there aren’t a lot of suitors looking for a veteran starter, isn’t likely to be high.
What the Giants have done in the past with Victor Cruz, Shane Vereen, Dwayne Harris and others is to decrease their base salaries and allow the rest to be recouped with incentives. This also lowers their cap numbers. Going this route allows it to be termed a restructure rather than a straight pay cut.
Considering the Giants are expected to have almost $30 million in cap space this offseason (near the middle of the league, according to OverTheCap.com), it’s not mandatory to rework Manning’s contract. But it could be helpful.
What does Manning want?
All indications have been, and remain, that Manning wants to continue playing for the Giants. Remember, this is a player who negotiated a no-trade clause into his contract in 2015. Since then, his family and roots in New Jersey have only grown. Manning recently welcomed his first son, Charlie, to a family that includes three young girls, and their primary residence is in northern New Jersey. Manning’s family members and friends even tease about how he has become a Jersey guy.
Manning, born and raised in Louisiana, has made it known that he’s lukewarm about the possibility of playing elsewhere.
“It’s hard to imagine that,” Manning said in an interview after the season.
The second half of this past season — when Manning threw 13 of his 21 touchdown passes — reaffirmed his belief that he can still have success as a starter. There’s been no indication of retirement talk, according to those close to him or in the organization. Manning still enjoys playing and competing at the highest level, along with the joys of being one of the guys in the locker room.
Sit and wait as the Giants continue to peruse their draft options. The evaluation process is in full swing. That is where their concentration lies.
A decision on the quarterback is on the horizon, whether it is this year or next. But the Giants at least need to head into free agency and the draft with a solidified plan. That begins and ends this offseason with a decision that involves Manning and his successor. He’s likely to return, but nothing is finalized yet.