The New York Giants had to tighten their belts considerably heading into the 2022 off season.
They bills they incurred to make their free agency additions in 2020 and 2021 all came due at the same time this year, and the Giants were suddenly in “Cap Hell.” The good news is that the bind is only going to last a season before expiring contracts and a rising salary cap give the Giants plenty of money for 2023 and beyond. But things were undeniably tight this year, to the point where the team had to part ways with good players just to pay their draft class.
And while the Giants are currently under the salary cap, they don’t have a whole lot of breathing room, nor much of a rainy day fund. Teams typically like to have at least $10 million in cap space — and preferably closer to $20 million — on hand for the coming season. While injured reserve rules have gotten less restrictive than they were a few years ago, replacing injured players can still get expensive for teams. Likewise, it’s also useful for teams to have the option of rolling a certain amount of their year-end cap space over into the next season.
The Giants currently have $6.22 million in cap space (per OverTheCap) the fourth-lowest amount of any team in the NFL. That will fluctuate some as we get to the final roster. Right now the NFL only counts the top 51 contracts on the roster against the cap, and it’s also expected that a few rookies will take veterans’ jobs and lower the cost of that position. But the final number should still be pretty close to $6.2 million
There are a couple relatively easy moves the Giants can make to free up a modest amount of cap space. The single biggest chunk of cap space the Giants can create without impacting their future cap is releasing WR Darius Slayton. That would free up $2.54 million in cap space and put the Giants at $8.74 million
That’s still not quite enough money to make the Giants completely comfortable, but it could be “good enough” for a relatively healthy season.
But what if Joe Schoen wanted to give himself maximum cap flexibility to potentially add pieces if players are surprisingly cut after training camp or to roll a meaningful chunk of cash over to 2023?
Ian Wharton, writing for Bleacher Report, suggests 32 trades for the NFL, four of which involved the Giants, and three of them could free up a substantial amount of cash for Schoen to work with.
We’ll start with his suggestion for the Giants’ themselves.
Giants receive: TE Nick Boyle, 2023 sixth-round pick
Ravens receive: WR Kenny Golladay
The New York Giants are the only team not considered a playoff contender among the five teams with the least cap space available. Stuck with several large contracts until next offseason, the Giants should be as concerned with dumping long-term money as acquiring new talent. Since the Giants can’t afford a major acquisition that fits their timeline, the best they can do is trade Kenny Golladay.
Golladay failed to click with quarterback Daniel Jones in 2021 after signing as a free agent from Detroit. Maybe his hip injury from 2020 lingered into 2021, but a lack of chemistry and consistency were concerning. He produced just 521 yards on 37 receptions.
Finding a new home for Golladay is complicated by the fact that his new team would need to pay his $13 million base salary in 2022. Baltimore would need to reshuffle some money to make this work, but it has a need for a playmaking receiver after dealing Marquise Brown during the NFL draft. Golladay would give Lamar Jackson a trustworthy, big-bodied threat who can win on deep jump balls better than anyone currently on the roster.
Wharton suggests the Giants trading for tight end Nick Boyle, who carries a $4.4 million cap number in 2022. While the Giants would certainly save money in this scenario, and gain an upgrade at tight end, I’d rather just get picks if our goal in trading Golladay is to free up cap space.
Though, as Wharton notes, that might not be possible in the real world where somebody has to pay Golladay’s base salary. Taking on a third of that cap hit (in the form of Boyle’s contract), might be necessary. It would still net the Giants about $13.3 million in cap space this year.
Wharton also proposes another potential trade involving the Giants and Golladay, and this one could be a pure salary dump.
Chicago Bears trade for Kenny Golladay
Bears get: WR Kenny Golladay
Giants get: 2023 sixth-round pick
No team has more cap room over the 2023 and 2024 seasons than the Chicago Bears. This team is ripe for an upside swing on a talented but expensive player who didn’t work out elsewhere. The best marriage between fit, team need and an expendable player is wide receiver Kenny Golladay.
The New York Giants’ star free-agent signing from the 2021 offseason mightily struggled in his first season with the franchise. The offense was ravaged by injuries, and Golladay’s effort level was questionable. A new regime might buy Golladay another year in the Big Apple, but the Giants should pounce if given the chance to shed his massive $21.15 million cap hit.
Because of the way Golladay’s contract is structured, New York will save $17.75 million in cap space if they deal him. Chicago would assume just $13 million in salary in 2022. They could cut him after the season and incur a modest $3.4 million dead-cap hit from 2023 through 2025 if he simply doesn’t work out.
The best case for Chicago is Golladay flourishes with Justin Fields. Fields is a tremendous downfield passer, but the Bears lack an explosive big body who can get downfield. A receiving room with Golladay, Darnell Mooney, Velus Jones and Byron Pringle would stand a chance of helping Fields make a leap this season.
In this scenario the Giants net more cap space, but don’t add any pieces to their roster. Being able to add another $3.4 million in cap space could certainly be more attractive than a veteran player who probably won’t be a long term answer. The Giants could use the extra cap room to pursue a separate trade if a pressing need shows up in training camp or the preseason. Or they could have a deep “rainy day” fund for the season, and potentially roll it over to spend in the 2023 free agency period.
Wharton’s next trade would also free up another significant chunk of money. This time the trade is proposed for the Kansas City Chiefs
Trade Saquon Barkley to the Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs get: RB Saquon Barkley
Giants get: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, 2023 fourth-round pick
The Kansas City Chiefs added three new bodies to their backfield this offseason, including free agent Ronald Jones and rookies Isiah Pacheco and Jerrion Ealy. They also just brought veteran Jerick McKinnon back after an impressive 2021 stint. It’s clear they view the position as a concern despite taking Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round two years ago.
Their best outcome is to trade Edwards-Helaire into a fresh situation and gamble on a higher-upside talent.
The New York Giants have a bad but expensive roster. New head coach Brian Daboll would surely love to deploy a fully healthy Saquon Barkley in 2022, but the franchise has seen limited production and availability from the 2018 No. 2 pick. Trading his $7.2 million cap hit and getting a fresh look at Edwards-Helaire is the most prudent decision.
Barkley, despite lacking the explosiveness he had before tearing his ACL in 2020, still has plenty of fans around the league thanks to his potential as a dual-threat back. His fifth-year option would allow Kansas City to take a one-year flier on him regaining his form. Barkley, unlike Edwards-Helaire, would clearly be the most talented back in a crowded room.
If Barkley is going to be traded, I’m not a fan of doing it for another running back. I liked Edwards-Helaire coming out of LSU, but I’d rather save the $2.9 million and let Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Jashuan Corbin, Antonio Williams, and Sandro Platzgummer battle it out in camp (at least in this scenario). That isn’t an inspiring group on paper, but we don’t know who could step up, or who might become available after the preseason. Or even how much running the ball figures into Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka’s plans.
The final proposed trade involving the Giants is one I would absolutely oppose.
Trade for CB Jonathan Jones
Patriots get: 2023 sixth-round pick
Giants get: CB Jonathan Jones
The New England Patriots currently have the least amount of available cap space in the NFL. After stocking up at running back, cornerback, and wide receiver this offseason, it’s clear there will be veterans on the move. We already have the Patriots trading receiver Nelson Agholor to the Texans, but slot corner Jonathan Jones also looks like a possible cap casualty.
Jones has been a solid starting slot defender since his second season in 2017, showing off great short-area quickness and toughness in the run game. He’s produced seven interceptions and 33 pass deflections in six seasons. Until 2021, he had missed just one game in his career.
Unfortunately, Jones had a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 6 last year. About to turn 29 this September and with a $7.7 million cap hit in the final year of his deal, he’s a prime target to be moved.
The Patriots seemed to line up his replacements in the draft. They selected two similarly-built corners Marcus Jones and Jack Jones in the third and fourth rounds, respectively.
A great landing place for Jonathan Jones would be with the New York Giants. The Giants are thin at cornerback, and Jones would immediately challenge to start at nickel over Darnay Holmes. If nothing else, his experience and leadership could help New York’s young cornerback group develop for the future.
A sixth-round pick is a pretty light price to pay for a potential starting cornerback. On the other hand, the Giants wouldn’t be able to take on Jones’ salary without making any other moves.
But for as many questions as the Giants have in their secondary, they have plenty of options at slot corner. The Giants already have Darnay Holmes, Aaron Robinson, and now Cor’Dale Flott as natural slot corners — and Julian Love can play the slot as well. They need to find an answer opposite Adoree Jackson. Aaron Robinson appears first in line for that job, but there’s no guarantee he can do it. And even if he can, Jackson has an injury history which could make depth at the position a concern.
While I don’t agree with the trade target, if the Giants are able to free up a substantial sum of money, pursuing a cornerback before training camp (or the season itself) might not be a bad idea.
As it stands right now, the Giants have approximately $6.2 million in cap space this year and $54 million next year, the fourth-most in the League. If the team moves on from Golladay, Barkley, Slayton, they could have up to $33.73 million this year, and $65.5 million next year, and an incredible $193.6 million in 2024.
That amount of money could give Joe Schoen all the flexibility he could ask for to rebuild the Giants. Having $35 million this year could let Schoen pursue a trade for a cornerback or roll over a chunk to 2023 for even more cap flexibility.
Now, do I expect these moves to be made? I can’t say that I’d be surprised if Slayton is released after training camp, and that would help out the Giants cap situation. But I would be stunned if Barkley and Golladay were traded before the season starts. This is all just an exercise for the quietest part of the NFL’s calendar. That’s why Wharton proposed the trades in the first place, and why we’re looking at reasons the Giants might consider them.