Four months ago, when the Giants decided that defensive back
Jason Sehorn no longer fit into their plans, they cut him and
took an $8 million hit on their 2003 salary cap. Club officials
knew that if they waited until June to release Sehorn, they could
spread the cap hit over two seasons. But times have changed since
the early days of unfettered free agency, which was introduced to
the NFL in 1993. Whereas early June used to kick off the second
phase of shopping in the free-agent market--when talented
salary-heavy players would be unloaded to dilute the cap
hit--teams today are doing a much better job of managing the cap,
and the market isn't flooded with starter-caliber players. As of
Thursday 25 of the 32 teams were at least $2 million under the
$75 million cap.
"Yes, we could have put it off," Giants general manager Ernie
Accorsi says of the Sehorn move, "and we would have had more to
spend in June. But what would I have spent it on? It used to be
you could go out after June 1 and get a pretty good right tackle
or a linebacker to fill your needs, but not now."
In recent summers teams have signed such desirable players as
Jerry Rice, Vinny Testaverde, Donnell Woolford, Bryan Cox, Keenan
McCardell, Brian Mitchell and George Koonce. As of Sunday,
however, the best the market had to offer was a quarterback who
has been shaky in the clutch, former Bronco Brian Griese, and an
underachieving wideout, former 49er J.J. Stokes.