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The New York Giants: Looking Forward to 2012 64

 

Coach Coughlin was all smiles after the Super Bowl.

The New York Giants made history being the only 9-7 team to win a Super Bowl. Led by an amazing season by their franchise quarterback Eli Manning, the Giants overachieved this season in many ways, rising to the occasion when it mattered most. It is now one week following the Super Bowl, and anyone who knows anything about Tom Coughlin knows it’s back to business for the hard-nosed coach.  Now with a Super Bowl ring on their fingers, the Giants will start looking towards the 2012 season to figure out how they can become the first team to repeat since the 2004-2005 New England Patriots.  Here’s a look at some of the issues facing the Giants with their salary cap, free agency, and potential draft needs.

First addressing players still under contract, the Giants are sitting right at the projected $124M salary cap. That should not be an insurmountable obstacle for general manager Jerry Reese.  Other teams, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, were projected way over the cap and have already begun reworking contracts to make maneuvering room for the 2012 off-season.  Looking at the Giants top salary hits for 2012, there are some players the Giants should be able to renegotiate with (top 11 to include Osi Umeyiora):

PLAYER

BASE SALARY

BONUSES

SALARY CAP HIT

Eli Manning

$10.8M

$4.4M

$15.2M

Antrel Rolle

$6.8M

$2.3M

$9.1M

Chris Snee

$5.2M

$2.6M

$7.8M

Chris Canty

$6.0M

$1.7M

$7.7M

Justin Tuck

$3.7M

$3.8M

$7.5M

Brandon Jacobs

$6.3M

$650K

$6.9M

Corey Webster

$6.5M

$300K

$6.8M

Michael Boley

$4.0M

$1.7M

$5.7M

Mathias Kiwanuka

$4.0M

$1.6M

$5.6M

David Baas

$3.0M

$2.0M

$5.0M

Osi Umenyiora

$4.0M

$600K

$4.6M

Rolle's lipservice off the field often out talks his play on the field.

Jumping right off the page before even getting to the table below, is Antrel Rolle’s contract. As any astute Giants fan knows, as many times as he makes plays, he gives up plays too (see Vernon Davis in the NFC Championship). When the Giants wooed him away from Arizona, they paid him like the best safety in the league, even though with the Cardinals he was not even the best safety on the team. Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked Rolle 85th out of a possible 86 safeties, and Rolle was 4th worst in opponent’s completion percentage. He allowed catches 75 percent of the time in his coverage area.  Rolle is the #1 candidate for clearing cap space for the Giants this year.  If he will not renegotiate his contract, look for him to hit the open market.

The table below details how PFF graded out each player in their position and then displays where that player ranks in terms of salary cap hits for their positions. For example, PFF graded Manning as the 6th best quarterback in 2011 and for 2012, he is the 3rd highest paid quarterback in terms of his salary cap hit.  The number of players in each position ranking varies due to number of players that met the required criteria by PFF to be graded, i.e., there were 77 offensive guards, but only 38 quarterbacks:

PLAYER

PFF POSITION RANK

SALARY CAP RANK

Eli Manning

6th

3rd

Antrel Rolle

85th

4th

Chris Snee

58th

2nd

Chris Canty

25th

13th

Justin Tuck

49th

10th(T)

Brandon Jacobs

34th

7th

Corey Webster

22nd

13th

Michael Boley

19th

21st

Mathias Kiwanuka

7th

24th

David Baas

57th

8th

Osi Umenyiora

34th

17th

(Sources: www.profootballfocus.com and www.spotrac.com)
Does Umeyiora want more money or just a contract extension?

There are several players who either should be open to renegotiating their contracts. In addition to Rolle, Snee, Jacobs, and Baas should be the prime targets for creating salary cap relief.  Jacobs, who is an unrestricted free agent in 2013, should be open to a pay cut if it comes with a contract extension. Umenyiora, for all the media surrounding his desire for a new contract, is actually being paid more than his value as it relates to players at his position. However, if Umenyiora is willing to not demand a raise or even take a pay cut, there is no reason for the Giants not to bring back a locker room leader.  Outside of those players, the Giants are getting relative value for their investments. They could create more room in 2012 by offering contract extensions to Webster and Boley (UFAs in 2014). Also, Hakeem Nicks, due $2.2M, and Victor Cruz, due $405K, have both clearly out performed their contracts and should be priorities for Reese to extend.  Nicks will likely be looking for at least $7M while Cruz should be in the ballpark of $4M.

As for free agents, one noteworthy name is Mario Manningham. By no means should the Giants think about breaking the bank for this receiver. In fact, Reese should let him test the market and determine his value. The Giants should not offer Manningham much more than the veteran minimum at best. At inside linebacker, it’s reasonable to assume Reese likely makes an offer to Jonathan Goff who had a solid 2010 season, barring any medical concerns surrounding his ACL injury last September. At cornerback, the Giants have four on their roster outside of Terrell Thomas, and it is quite likely the Giants may look to free agency and the draft to add depth their cornerback corps before resigning Thomas. Look for them to let aging Kareem McKenzie, oft-injured Aaron Ross, and Rocky Bernard walk in free agency.

Manning's performance in the NFC Championship showed great heart, but highlighted a need for the Giants to address the offensive line.

Looking to the draft and free agency, the top needs to address will be the offensive line to protect their franchise quarterback, who showed great heart in the NFC Championship game despite constant pressure and hits. Although the Giants were not the worst in quarterback protection, there is room for improvement. Tight end, which was already a concern, became critical when the top two tight ends on their roster (Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum) suffered knee injuries in the Super Bowl. In an era where top offenses are getting wide receiver production from the tight end position, the Giants will target this area early in the draft as the free agency class is rather thin. Injured and aging John Carlson is forecasted as the top tight end in free agency, with Jermichael Finley (GB) and Fred Davis (WAS) likely facing the franchise tag with their respective teams. The Giants also have a need at nose tackle and although they probably won’t be able to sign the top free agent in Sione Piouha (NYJ), there are plenty of other prospects for them to consider. They could get a bargain for Aubrayo Franklin, who was a top free agent in 2011, but regressed last season with the New Orleans Saints.

Heading into the 2012 off-season the Giants, like any team, have their issues they will have to address, but are not in horrible shape for a Super Bowl champion. One of the major questions is how many of the free agent pieces will want to give the Giants a “hometown discount” and make another run. It is important to remember that the 2011 Super Bowl champs are widely looked at as an overachieving team and will need to get better heading into to 2012 to defend their title. The NFC East is a tough division: the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys will likely be better after their 2011 meltdowns, and the Washington Redskins swept the Giants. Outside the division, they are slated to play the Bengals, Saints, Packers, Steelers, Ravens, Falcons and 49ers.  The 2012 Giants might have the toughest schedule in the NFL, and that may be a bigger obstacle to their campaign to repeat than any challenge the off-season presents. So much will depend on the depth they are able to add through free agency and the draft, but given the reputation of the Giants franchise, this is not too tall of an order.

Yes, Rex Grossman was 2-0 versus the Giants in 2012, while Tom Brady was 0-2.
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