The NFL’s 2022 league year begins at 4:00 pm EDT on March 16th. That’s also the deadline for clubs to be at or under the 2022 salary cap of $208.2M. That’s also the start of free agency. The Giants are in the bottom five of all NFL teams with cap space. GM Joe Schoen has already stated he believes the Giants need to shed approximately $40M in current 2022 salaries just to prepare for the new league year.
While $40M is the goal for Joe Schoen, he needs to shed between $11M-13M before the league year starts. The salary cap trimming can be in the form of player trades, roster cuts, or restructured contracts. The main challenge is the team’s previous GM, Dave Gettleman, spent the 2021 season restructuring several contracts and handing out large contracts that may make trades of some players prohibitive. But, Joe Schoen took this job with a full understanding of what he was walking into. He knows the Giants have some “tough decisions” to make. Joe has also said he’s not a fan of restructuring contracts. So look for trades of players for draft picks.
With Schoen’s staff and Head Coach Brian Daboll’s staff in place, the Giants have spent the last few weeks evaluating the existing players on the current roster. This week, a contingent of the front office and coaches will be in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine, getting first-hand looks at the 2022 draft prospects. But, this is also a time to meet with other teams and gauge interest in trades for Giants and the expected value (draft picks) they can bring. Rest assured the phones have already been busy. But nothing beats face-to-face meetings to get the deals ironed out. Trades cannot be made official until the new league year begins.
Where do the Giants get $40M in cap relief? There are some easy answers via player cuts:
- Kyle Rudolph saves $5M
- Devontae Booker saves $2M
- Riley Dixon saves $3M
- Darius Slayton saves $2.5M
The only player above that I’d love to stay is Booker. He was the Giants’ best RB in 2021. He runs north-south.
It gets tougher after that with players that could be part of the Giants’ future, but have good trade value. Who are good trade candidates?
- Saquon Barkley trade would save $7M
- Blake Martinez trade would save $8.5M
- Julian Love trade would save $2.5M
- Kaden Smith trade would save $2.5M
I don’t want to lose Blake Martinez. Blake is a tackling machine and a true leader of the Giants defense. He’s coming off a season-ending injury. I love Saquon, but moving him just makes too much sense. I’ve been a Kaden Smith fan since he came to the Giants, and with Evan Engram hitting the free-agent market, Smith remains the only starting TE on the team. And I haven’t put James Bradberry on this list, mainly because new Defensive Coordinator, Wink Martindale’s pressure schemes rely on solid cover cornerbacks.
OK, that gets us to $33M (approximately). Now, let’s look at injured players that may not make it back for the 2022 season. These players can be either outright releases or have contracts restructured to minimums for 2022 and add another year for 2023. This list includes:
- Sterling Shepard with savings of up to $4.5M
- Nick Gates with savings of up to $2M
So there is my exercise in getting the Giants salary cap down by about $40M with minimal restructuring of any existing contracts. Do I believe these are sure-fire actions the Giants will take? No, but I believe in GM Joe Schoen. Some are obvious, some will be surprises, and some will break my heart.