Evaluating the Giants’ salary cap health heading into 2023 season

brian daboll, new york giants
Oct 2, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll reacts as he coaches against the Chicago Bears during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants find themselves in a much healthier salary cap situation than just one year ago when General Manager Joe Schoen took the reins. It was always expected that the Giants would hit the reset button, clearing out bad contracts and dead money.

Regrettably, they will still be paying Kenny Golladay $14.7 million for the upcoming season, Sterling Shepard $4.24 million in a void year, and Kadarius Toney $3.6 million after being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. This amounts to $22.7 million in dead money remaining from poor acquisitions and roster construction.

The Giants have big extensions on the way:

Fortunately, the Giants have moved on from the majority of wasteful contracts, allowing them to focus on the future and extend some of their own key players. The primary names that stand out include Dexter Lawrence, Andrew Thomas, and Saquon Barkley.

Schoen has already signed Daniel Jones to a four-year, $160 million deal with $92 million guaranteed. Retaining their quarterback was a priority, given that the Giants had no alternative options and are optimistic about his growth moving forward. Jones will count for $21.75 million for the upcoming season, with $82 million in dead money. Front-loading the dead money is a wise move, allowing them to part ways if necessary after two years (of course, we hope that’s not necessary).

The Giants still have to rework Leonard Williams’ deal:

At present, Big Blue has a negative $150K salary space, although this figure is expected to increase after they restructure Leonard Williams’s contract. Williams is slated to count $32.26 million against the cap this year; however, he would likely consent to a restructuring or a significant pay cut, enabling him to remain with the team rather than being released outright.

If the Giants were to release him, they would save $12 million to allocate toward their draft class (they require approximately $2.5M to sign their rookies) and a potential free agent signing. Nonetheless, the defense would suffer a considerable decline without Williams patrolling the trenches.

There is a case to be made for extending Adoree Jackson, who, at 27 years old, is in the prime of his career. Jackson is set to count $19 million against the cap, and the team would save $6.6 million by releasing him outright. Although the Giants have no intentions of letting their CB1 leave, there is a case to be made for extending him to reduce that figure and free up some available funds.

The Giants have a substantial amount of money tied up in top players this season, and they also have significant extensions looming. Dexter Lawrence is on the fifth-year option at $12.4 million but is likely to earn over $20 million per season in free agency. Schoen has mentioned positive negotiations with Dexter’s agents and representatives, implying that they will reach a consensus soon.

The Giants recently picked up Andrew Thomas’s fifth-year option, giving them more time before they need to extend him. As he is entering his fourth year, the team has two years of control before an extension is required.

Ultimately, extending a left tackle like Thomas is an easy decision, particularly when the offensive line has experienced a considerable period of deficiency.

The future is bright for the Giants:

Looking forward to 2024, the Giants have $99 million in available salary space. Assuming Lawrence receives $13 million more than his 2023 figure, their available funds will decrease to around $86 million. If they extend Adoree Jackson, that number will drop further, but the team will also have about 45 rostered players (excluding 2024 draft selections).

Big Blue will continue to develop the back end of the roster with late-round draft picks and undrafted free agents, but a few targeted free-agent signings are also anticipated. The Giants have the core of the roster established for the next few seasons, so they would simply be replacing supplementary players at low costs.

The crucial decision revolves around Saquon Barkley, and since Schoen is not eager to offer a lucrative contract to a running back, that could ultimately clear $10 million from the books. Barkley has not yet signed his franchise tag at $10.1 million, but management has indicated that they might resume negotiations soon.

The Giants should establish a maximum amount they are willing to pay for Barkley’s services annually. As teams are rejecting free-agent running backs and opting to draft players on rookie contracts, the market has significantly contracted. Barkley’s extension comes at a challenging time, and given his injury history, he likely will not secure top dollar on the market.

Nevertheless, the Giants and his representatives could negotiate a reasonable contract for his services. However, if they are confident he will cash in as a free agent, they may wait out the 2023 season or have him sit to try to force the Giants’ hand.

Schoen recently drafted Eric Gray from Oklahoma, and while he does not possess the same elite athletic attributes as Saquon, he is a solid supplementary back with starting-level potential. At this point, unless Barkley is willing to agree to a fair deal, it is difficult to envision him remaining with the team beyond the 2023 season.

In conclusion, the Giants find themselves in a favorable salary position, given the abundance of players on short-term contracts and incentivized agreements. The majority of these players are replaceable.

The Giants continue to focus on rebuilding the team’s foundation through the draft, as this approach forms the basis of successful organizations.

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