How can the New York Giants manage to retain James Bradberry?

New York Giants, James Bradberry
New York Giants cornerback James Bradberry in acton at Giants training camp on Sept 1, 2020. (Photo Credit: NY Giants)

The New York Giants have taken an extremely patient approach with cornerback James Bradberry this off-season. Bradberry is scheduled to earn $21.86 million for the 2022 season, a number the Giants simply can’t afford, given their salary constraints.

With that being the case, general manager Joe Schoen tried every possible method to unload Bradberry for draft capital, but he simply hasn’t been able to get a team to bite. Bradberry is considered a No. 1 corner in the NFL, but teams would rather roll with players on their roster then consume a significant salary hit.

Schoen featured on WFAN on Wednesday, breaking down the situation and the communication with Bradberry’s representatives.

“Yeah, we’re working through that right now,” Schoen said on Wednesday. “His agents have been great; we’ve been in constant communication. I’ve talked to James–it’s been very professional throughout the whole process. We should have some resolution hopefully by the end of the week.”

The Giants’ GM indicated that they would likely have a solution by the end of the week. If he elects to cut Bradberry, the Giants would only save $10.1 million, just enough to sign their rookie class. They already have $5.5 million available. However, they would be missing out on an additional $1.6 million and draft capital if they are unable to trade him.

“I thought there would be more interest that there were some teams that showed interest pre-draft,” Schoen said. “We had a couple of different times when there was compensation in place, and the contract never worked out.”

Clearly, the market for a team needing a top corner is not big, otherwise, Bradberry would be easily moved. However, since the Giants clearly don’t want to outright cut him, is there a chance they find a way to retain him?

Looking at the Giants’ current salary situation, they desperately need the money to sign their rookie class, and there are a few ways to open up enough funds to keep James on the roster.

1.) Restructure the contract of Leonard Williams

Williams is set to earn $27.3 million this year with a dead-money hit of $35.6 million. In 2023, the Giants have the luxury of moving on from Williams and saving $18 million, but if they see him as a long-term solution on defense, they could simply restructure his contract and open up money for the short term.

Schoen has already indicated that kicking the can down the road is not something he’s looking to do, so restructuring Williams seems like a long shot.

2.) Restructure Bradberry’s contract

There are two different ways Bug Blue could restructure the contract of Bradberry to open up more salary-cap space.

The first option is to completely rewrite his deal and extend him. That would mean tearing up his current contract and spreading the money out over the next three seasons or so, but it doesn’t seem as if the Giants view him as a scheme fit in Wink Martindale’s heavy man-coverage scheme.

The other option would be to add voidable years to Bradberry’s deal, paying him a bit of money down the line even when he’s off the roster. This is what the Giants did with Nate Solder, lowering his cap hit in the short term but still paying $4 million for the 2022 season as a result. Thanks to Dave Gettleman’s genius, he’s already tacked on a void year to 2023 for Bradberry to open up funds last year, making this situation even more complex.

Dan Duggan of The Athletic detailed a great way for the Giants to open up a bit of room if they want to keep James:

Bradberry has a $13.4 million base salary in the final year of his contract. When Bradberry’s contract was restructured last October, a void year was added in 2023 to spread out the cap charges. The Giants could reduce Bradberry’s $13.4 million salary to the $1.1 million minimum with a restructure. The $12.3 million difference would be converted into a bonus that can be spread equally over 2022 and 2023.

The result would be $6.2 million in cap savings this year, while increasing Bradberry’s 2023 cap hit to $7.5 million. Bradberry would still become a free agent after this season, which would leave the $7.5 million as dead money on the 2023 cap.

The obvious benefit of this method is keeping Bradberry, but you’re also taking up $7.5M in cap space for next season without having the player. If the Giants are truly looking to rebuild, they’re better off rolling with a younger option at CB like Aaron Robinson and saving the money for the future. The team isn’t in a position to win big right now, so why strap yourself down the road?

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