New York Giants Free Agency Primer

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The next time an NFL team has a roster in need of no changes will be the first time. And indeed, for a New York Giants team coming off a 6-10 record, they still have a lot they need to accomplish as they continue rebuilding the team into the vision head coach Joe Judge has determined.

What can we expect from the Giants in free agency? Let’s run down what you need to know. (All salary cap information is from Over the Cap, unless otherwise noted.)

How much cap space do the Giants have to spend?

This is a tricky question to answer at this time because first, the 2021 NFL salary cap hasn’t been finalized (though we do know it’s going to be at least $180 million).

Second, the Giants haven’t trimmed those contracts that are no longer worth carrying from their roster, nor have they (at least to the public’s knowledge) reworked any contracts of those players in the team’s plans or of those who need new contracts.

But here is what we do know as of this writing. The NFLPA public salary cap report has the Giants with $4,801,375 in funds left over from the 2020 cap, which will roll over into 2021.

However, Over the Cap has the Giants with just $906,453 in space as of February 20. This is likely due to the Giants having to pay four players performance escalator payments that wiped out whatever space they initially had to start.


Which players are likely to be cap casualties?

Sadly, every year, players lose their jobs when they no longer fit into a team’s plans, which will be no different this year. But it’s a necessity, especially in an off-season where the COVID-19 pandemic heavily impacted the cap.

Among those players who are more than likely to be jettisoned are receiver Golden Tate ($6,147,061 savings), linebacker David Mayo ($2.3 million savings), tight end Levine Toilolo ($2.95 million savings), receiver Cody Core (up to a $2 million savings, depending on his injury settlement), cornerback Sam Beal ($588,883 savings) and fullback Eli Penny ($990,000 savings).  

The Giants must also decide what to do with their top two highest-paid offensive linemen, Nate Solder and Kevin Zeitler. Solder is due to count for $16.5 million against the cap.

Still, if he’s planning to retire, he could help the Giants out in a big way by agreeing to lower his base salary to just over $1 million, which would give the Giants an instant $8.8 million of space.

The Giants could then designate him as a post-June 1 transaction, which would lessen the dead money cap hit. (See this article for more information on how that would work.)

Zeitler is another tricky decision. He is in the last year of his contract, so technically, the Giants could rip off the bandage, eat the dead money, and be done with it. Or they could convert some of his $12 million base salary into a signing bonus, add two more years to the deal, and then spread the restructured money over the now-three years remaining. 

Will they be using the franchise tag this year?

The expectation is the Giants will use the non-exclusive franchise tag on defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Once the tag, which, since this is his second straight tag, will be worth 120% of what Williams got last year ($16 million), has been used, the Giants won’t be able to re-assign the tag again this year even if they sign Williams before the start of free agency.  

What are the Giants’ off-season needs?

At the end of last year, general manager Dave Gettleman spoke of the team needing playmakers on offense. So wide receiver figures to be a significant need, as does perhaps tight end, where Evan Engram continues to struggle with turning the corner.

Finding an edge rusher would be nice, as would getting more depth at cornerback. And running back is one of the team’s sneaky needs as Saquon Barkley is the only running back under contract on this roster with any prior NFL experience.  

What about the draft?

The Giants currently have six draft picks this year, including the extra sixth-round pick they acquired in the edge Markus Golden trade with the Cardinals. The Giants owe the Jets their fifth-round pick, which will complete the Leonard Williams transaction.

All that aside, expect the Giants to add another receiver via a deep receiver draft class (yes, even if they sign a veteran in free agency), interior defensive line depth, more help at cornerback, a running back, and possibly an inside linebacker.

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