EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning is the equivalent of those outdated golf clubs irresponsibly thrown in the closet. They still work (maybe not as well as they once did), but the New York Giants can’t get themselves to throw them away.
Whenever they do decide to place them at the curb, somebody will snatch them quickly. They’re still capable and useful, not yet deteriorated to the point that they need to be retired.
Manning’s days as a starting quarterback probably aren’t over if he wants to continue playing, which seems to be the case when you talk with those close to the four-time Pro Bowler. Manning could ask to be traded or cut. He also could return to the Giants, depending on how everything shakes out after the season, even though it seems unlikely.
Co-owner John Mara was careful Wednesday to leave that door open, just in case.
“I don’t think we should be writing his obituary just yet. A lot of things can change between now and next spring and next season, and the reality is we have some tough decisions to make at the end of the year, and who knows what’s going to happen,” Mara said.
The more likely scenario is that Manning looks at other options this offseason. The Jacksonville Jaguars, with his old friend Tom Coughlin running the show, seem the most logical landing spot. The Denver Broncos, one of his brother’s former teams, also would make a ton of sense, and there are several other options (Washington?) that could prove attractive if they become available this offseason.
Considering how late it is in the season, nothing is going to happen now with Manning. All of this will have to wait until next year.
The Giants (2-9) are finishing out this dismal string with Geno Smith and Davis Webb as their starting quarterbacks. Smith will start Sunday on the road against the Oakland Raiders, and inevitably Webb will get his chance.
Manning will stand on the sideline and watch. He’ll serve as the backup this week (and scout team quarterback at practice) and sit patiently while doing what the team asks, serving as the consummate professional, as he has done for the past 14 years.
His play on the field may have slipped -- the Giants are 32-43 with him starting over the past five years -- but Manning seems to have enough to warrant interest from other teams. Several factors will play heavily into how this situation unfolds:
Giants hierarchy. Who will be running the team next year? Will there be a new general manager? A new coach? Both? If so, do they want to take a quarterback at the top of the draft? So many questions need to be answered before Manning’s future is decided.
No-trade clause/contract. Manning has another two years remaining on his current deal with the Giants, though no more guaranteed money. He costs $16 million in 2018 and $17 million in 2019. That’s not outrageous for a starting quarterback these days. He also has a no-trade clause, so the cards are in his hands on where he lands. This will severely hamper the Giants’ chances of receiving decent compensation for Manning.
The deadline. The key date is March 18, the fifth day of the 2018 league year, when Manning is due a $5 million roster bonus. That probably will serve as a deadline for a decision. The Giants will have to show their cards by this date; otherwise it will be costly to retain Manning’s rights.
Cap figure. Manning is set to cost $16 million in real money next season. That’s reasonable, even if he’s an average starting quarterback. But he’s set to count a hefty $22.2 million against the cap in 2018 and $23.2 million against the cap in 2019. The $22.2 million ties him for seventh among quarterbacks alongside Tom Brady. Those cap numbers will be difficult for the Giants to carry on the payroll for a non-Pro Bowl player. The Giants have more than a few holes to fill on their roster and Odell Beckham Jr. to satisfy.
All this (and more) plays into Manning’s future. Where he lands, nobody knows. It’s still too early to tell.