It was reported on Thursday that the NFL salary cap for the 2014 season would be $130 million, $4 million more than experts anticipated. Every team will reap the benefits of extra cash to spend in free agency, but what this change really does is buy each team with only moderate cap room one tough decision.
If a team’s plan requires $16 million in salary cap space, they now need to make one less move that frees up an extra $4 million. For the New York Giants, the tough decision that they are facing is whether or not to extend Eli Manning’s contract. By signing him to an extension, the Giants could free up salary cap space in the short term that would be credit back in the future. Manning is currently set to account for $20.4 million against the cap in 2014.
The Giants can use an extension to free up much more cap space than you would expect. Last offseason, the Baltimore Ravens signed Joe Flacco to a six-year, $120.6 million contract and his salary cap number was just $6.8 million, according to Overthecap.com. Flacco’s salary cap number jumps to $14.8 million in 2014 and never dips lower, showing the versatility and freedom that GMs have with contract structure.
How much do the Giants actually need? I guess that really all depends on the how much they want to accomplish in free agency and how much they want to invest in this crop of free agents. According to Overthecap.com, the Giants have $16 million in cap space, which is currently the 16th-most in the NFL. They can free up another $10.37 million in cap space by releasing Chris Snee ($6.8 M), David Baas ($1.77 M) and Mathias Kiwanuka($1.8 M). With over $26 million in cap space, restructuring Manning could increase their cap space by up to $13 million if they sign him to a deal structured similarly to Flacco’s.
If Jerry Reese can find several players at different positions of needs for what he believes to be a value, he will go ahead and do it. In 2005, as I wrote about here, Reese added Plaxico Burress, Antonio Pierce and Kareem Mackenzie in free agency. All three players were at positions of major needs, and all three players ended up being major contributors in four different championship seasons.
At the same time, the Giants may already have enough budgeted for the free agency moves Reese has planned. Signing several free agents to guaranteed money and extending Manning is a major risk. In a couple of seasons, if the majority of these players regress, they will have high cap numbers that follow them.
I would not be surprised if the Giants do extend Manning if the right circumstances unfold and they need a few extra million to sign a player. However, my prediction is that it doesn’t happen this offseason. Pushing back Manning’s salary cap hit has a chance to cause more problems down the road than the positives created right now.
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