EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The New York Giants released veteran defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka on Tuesday in a move that clears about $4.8 million of space under the NFL salary cap.
The NFL Players Association estimates the new salary cap will rise to $143 million. Cutting Kiwanuka's contract, which had a year to run at $4.775 million, increased the Giants' cap space to nearly $23 million. A big chunk of the total will likely go to either signing unrestricted defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to a long-term deal or placing the nearly $15 million franchise tag on him.
Kiwanuka's release was expected since he's been injury-prone and ineffective the past few seasons. He took a pay cut last year from $4 million to $2.25 million to stay with the team, which finished 6-10.
The Giants' first-round pick in 2006 spent the final five games this past season on injured reserve with a knee injury, finishing with 28 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks. He played through numerous aches and pains in the three seasons since a severe neck injury limited him to three games in 2010.
He started games at both defensive end and linebacker over his nine-year career.
''Mathias has a true warrior mentality,'' Reese said in a statement released by the team. ''He has been the ultimate team player for this franchise, and was a true pro from Day One.''
The departure of Kiwanuka leaves quarterback Eli Manning and long-snapper Zak DeOssie as the remaining players of both Super Bowl teams in Tom Coughlin coaching era.
Kiwanuka was on injured reserve when the Giants beat the New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl. He played in all four games of the 2011 postseason, including the Super Bowl win over the Patriots.
''The thing that always impressed me about Kiwi is how serious he is about the game,'' Coughlin said. ''He was always prepared and always in outstanding condition and played very hard. And he had some nasty in him.
''I would have to back him off in practice and tell him we're not hitting the quarterback. He'd always agree, and then I'd have to remind him again the next play.''
Kiwanuka played in 120 games with 82 starts. He is ninth on the Giants' sack list with 38 1/2.