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Giants Salary Cap Situation Gives Them Options for 2022

The Giants are looking at a potential salary cap squeeze in 2022, but the way they set up 2021 gives them some options to weather a potential storm.

Following an uncharacteristically large off-season spending spree, New York Giants assistant general manager and salary-cap manager Kevin Abrams admitted that things could be a little tight for the club during the 2022 off-season when it comes to free agency and veteran contracts.

That sentiment results from some uncertainty as to what the 2022 salary-cap figure will be. Earlier this off-season, the NFL and NFLPA tentatively agreed to a $208.2 million salary cap ceiling for 2022. Still, with more and more teams announcing plans to re-open their stadiums to full capacity seating thanks to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, there is growing optimism that next year's cap will come pretty close to that number.

That being said, the Giants, who, in a three-year projection done by Over the Cap analyst Brad Spielberger for Pro Football Focus, rank 13th overall in terms of their three-year cap health.

Noted Spielberger:

Even with a massive spending spree this offseason on the likes of interior defender Leonard Williams, wide receiver Kenny Golladay, and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, among others, the Giants’ excellent draft trade with the Chicago Bears sets them up nicely in the future. The Giants now have flexibility depending on the progression, or lack thereof, of quarterback Daniel Jones.

The trick for the Giants will be getting through 2022. According to Over the Cap's projected team salary cap space for 2022, the Giants, based on that $208.2 million cap ceiling, have just $1,748,533 in total cap space and are one of six teams in the red (-$366,467) in terms of functional cap space, needed to fit their projected Top-51 players under the cap.

The reason for this squeeze is that the Giants, in trying to fit in all their big-ticket free-agent signings, created low first-year cap numbers on contracts given to receiver Kenny Golladay, defensive lineman Leonard Williams, and cornerback Adoree' Jackson--all deals whose Year 2 cap numbers will rise significantly in 2022.

They also had to restructure the 2021 cap figures of linebacker Blake Martinez and cornerback James Bradberry to create space.

But at some point, the bill comes due, and that point is next year. Fortunately for the Giants, the way they set up 2021 leaves them with several options regarding several of their high-priced cap figures so that the club doesn't end up having to struggle too much next year.

Let's take a very early look at some scenarios.

Early Projected Cap Cuts

As is the case every year, there will be cap cuts to make room. Usually, a candidate for a cap cut must meet one of two criteria (preferably both). The first is he shouldn't have any more guaranteed money left on his contract (guaranteed money still counts in the dead-money column even if the player is removed from the roster).

And second, ideally, there must be a replacement for him on the roster.

A player who fits both of these criteria is receiver Sterling Shepard, who in 2022 will count for over $10 million against the 2022 cap. The Giants, remember, drafted their future slot receiver in Kadarius Toney this year.

Removing Shepard, one of the longest-tenured members of the team, from the roster would save $6.5 million in space.

Extensions

The Giants, in trying to create cap space in 2021 for free-agent deals, did something that normally isn't recommended but which, depending on the direction they pursue, can work out for them in a positive way.

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The Giants y restructured the contracts of inside linebacker Blake Martinez and cornerback James Bradberry, who initially signed shorter-term free-agent agreements set to run for three years.

If Bradberry, who in 2022 is due to count for a whopping $20.5 million thanks to the restructure, continues to play at a high level, would anyone be stunned if the Giants look to give him an extension that lowers that $20.5 million by as much as half?

Bradberry, remember, does not have any guaranteed money currently slated in 2022, so that gives the Giants all kinds of flexibility in how they potentially structure the extension's effect on the cap.

As is the case with all contracts, a reason why those new deals usually have a low first-year figure is that the player is receiving his signing bonus (the chunk of his first-year's cash payment) upfront.

If we look at what the Giants would stand to gain in cap space if they were to cut Bradberry after this season (unlikely), they'd be looking at a $13.5 million savings. So any cap savings the Giants might be looking to get via a contract extension would likely need to come as close as possible to that figure.

Same deal for Martinez, who is due to count for $14.025 million against the 2022 cap. If Martinez is still playing to a high enough level, the Giants could look at a modest contract extension for him that lowers his 2022 number, using the $8.022 million cap savings as a target figure.


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What About Saquon Barkley?

Any potential plans to re-do running back Saquon Barkley's contract after the 2020 season were scrapped due to his torn ACL. But the Giants, in protecting themselves, did exercise the fifth-year option on Barkley's contract, a number that will pay him $7.217 million in 2022.

That number isn't bad all things considering. First, it's a reduction from the $10.025 million cap number Barkley has in 2021, a year in which while there is optimism he'll get back to the player he was pre-injury, it is still something of a risk.

Second, that 2022 figure is no-frills, meaning there are no performance incentives, signing bonuses, or other figures that can potentially inflate it.

While the Giants do have the option of reworking Barkley's contract next off-season, they might be better off leaving him to play on that fifth-year option as they could always franchise Barkley after his rookie deal expires if they can't reach a new deal.

The Draft

The Giants are set to have ten draft picks next year, five in rounds 1-2 and five in Rounds 4-7. The picks include their original seven, a first and a fourth from the Bears, and a third-rounder from the Dolphins.

That's a lot of potential talent expected to come in on very cap-friendly deals for the Giants next season while still providing the team with the necessary help at those positions where they're likely to need some additional reinforcement.


Be sure to keep it locked on Giants Country!