Giants’ GM Joe Schoen makes brilliant Blake Martinez and Sterling Shepard moves

New York Giants, Austin Mack, Sterling Shepard
Dec 6, 2020; Seattle, Washington, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (87) catches a two-point conversion against the Seattle Seahawks during the third quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret the New York Giants desperately need to clear salary space if they want to make moves during free agency. After former general manager, Dave Gettleman went on a spending spree last off-season, the Giants will have to wait until 2023 to make any big deals, but they can plug spots and look for value gems on the market that can compete for starting jobs.

New general manager Joe Schoen indicated he needs about $40 million in salary space to make the proper moves this off-season, which will be a very difficult challenge to solve. He’s already released Kyle Rudolph, Devontae Booker, and Riley Dixon, clearing about $10 million in salary space, but his team still remains in negative territory.

However, once the new restructured contracts for Sterling Shepard and Blake Martinez are released, Schoen should have a bit of maneuverability, and with the decision for James Bradberry coming up this week, they could open up a nice chunk of money to sign their draft picks and make some low-key moves.

Schoen acted brilliantly with Shepard and Martinez, retaining both players by reducing their salary hits to a point of similar savings if they simply release the players.

If the Giants would’ve cut Shepard, they would’ve saved $4.5 million, counting $8 million against the cap in dead money. With Martinez, they would’ve saved $8.5 million, presenting a $5.5 million dead money hit. The expectation is that both players will take a salary reduction to a number below well below their dead-money hit, which should open up a bit more flexibility for the Giants while maintaining two leaders on the team. Martinez’s restructure will save the Giants $6 million, a nice addition to their salary situation while keeping the player.

Shepard’s deal was expected to be heavily incentive-laden with a max value of $5.25 million. Having been scheduled to make $8.5 million, that is a massive pay cut. Given Shepard’s inability to stay healthy throughout his career, there’s a solid chance he never even reaches the incentives in the first place, so this is an extremely healthy contract for the Giants to save a ton of money in the process.

The main brilliance from Schoen here is the retention of the players. He could’ve easily moved on and signed stopgap options or looked to the draft as a supplement, but having two experience leaders on both sides of the football who are well respected within the organization is a great holdover from the previous regime.

Despite Sterling’s inconsistent health, he is a playmaker when on the field and helps the offense run smoothly. Martinez is the MIKE linebacker on the defense and plays an essential part in stopping the run. Having torn his ACL against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3 last year, Martinez is expected to be ready for the start of the 2022 season, so saving the player and lowering his salary hit significantly was a win-win move.