Even as they signal a commitment to a rebuilding plan, the New York Giants still do not expect to move on from 38-year-old quarterback Eli Manning this year, according to multiple sources familiar with their strategy.
Manning has one year left on his contract. He is scheduled to earn an $11.5 million salary, a $500,000 workout bonus and a $5 million roster bonus if he is still on the roster at 4 p.m. ET this Saturday.
If the Giants were to release Manning prior to that time, they would save all $17 million of that salary and bonus money in both cash and cap space this year, as well as carry a reasonable $6.2 million dead-money cap charge for what’s left of Manning’s signing bonus.
However, while such a plan might make sense for a rebuilding team, sources said the Giants at this time expect to keep their two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback on the roster through that deadline and start him at quarterback for one more season.
“He’s what we have at this point,” one Giants source said Wednesday.
The Giants do, according to the sources, acknowledge the need to address the issue of Manning’s successor at some point soon. Following this week’s trade of star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns, the Giants hold the No. 6 and No. 17 picks in the first round of this year’s draft. Giants executives were at Oklahoma’s pro day Wednesday to check out and meet with quarterback Kyler Murray, and they’ll surely do the same with Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Missouri’s Drew Lock and others.
However, the Giants are not certain to take a quarterback in the first round of this year’s draft. The sources said the team was still in the process of evaluating the available quarterbacks and wouldn’t feel compelled to take one if it didn’t think they were worth it. The Giants held the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft, in which four quarterbacks were picked in the top 10, but they used it to take running back Saquon Barkley.
Should they decide not to take a quarterback early in this year’s draft, perhaps instead using those two first-round picks to help rebuild their defense in a defense-heavy draft, the Giants believe they have options.
Sources said they would explore a trade for Arizona’s Josh Rosen, if the Cardinals decide to make him available, but that they aren’t sure yet whether that will happen or whether they would be sure to make an offer for Rosen if it did.
There’s also a belief that next year’s first round could feature promising quarterback options such as Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, or that a current young NFL option such as Teddy Bridgewater could be available again next offseason.
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman insisted last offseason that he believed the team could compete in 2018. Sticking with Manning, drafting Barkley, signing expensive players such as Nate Solder and Patrick Omameh and trading for pricey veteran linebacker Alec Ogletree signaled that intention. They signed Beckham to a five-year contract extension last summer that included a $20 million signing bonus and $41 million fully guaranteed at signing. Gettleman said more than once since that extension that the Giants “didn’t sign Odell to trade him.”
But the Giants went 5-11 last year, and trade Beckham they just did — to the Browns for a first-round pick, a third-round pick and safety Jabrill Peppers. The Giants also sent veteran defensive end Olivier Vernon — one of the prized 2016 free agents than helped them to their only winning season in the past six years — to Cleveland for guard Kevin Zeitler.
The Giants let former All-Pro safety Landon Collins become a free agent rather than using an $11.15 million franchise tag on him. And they didn’t make any pricey signings during this free agency’s first wave. All of this signals a team determined to use 12 draft picks this year to help it rebuild around young players, with Barkley as the focus of the offense and the long-term face of the franchise.
Manning, however, will apparently stick around for one more season in spite of New York’s decision to go young. One of the sources interviewed for this story said the Giants believe Manning can play better than he has in recent years if the team continues to improve the offensive line, and Zeitler should help with that.
Another source pointed out that cutting Manning, a surefire future Giants Ring of Honor member, to save $5 million wouldn’t be the classiest way to treat one of the most accomplished and decorated players in the team’s long history. So, it appears Manning will stay, possibly with the assignment to help groom a drafted successor, possibly while the team continues to figure out its long-term plan at the position.
The Giants are rebuilding, but at this point that doesn’t mean they’re ready to move on from their longtime franchise QB.