INDIANAPOLIS -- Asked Saturday where his team stood this offseason in relation to the NFL's salary cap, New York Giants GM Jerry Reese said, "We're pretty healthy. We're headed in the right direction with respect to the cap. I think we'll be able to do what we need to do. I think we'll have enough money to do what we need to do with the offseason, as far as free agency goes and whatever we decide to do with the other guys."
After spending this past week at the combine, I now believe the salary cap for this year is going to come in at around $145 million per team. ESPN's current projections have the Giants with $22,617,930 in cap room if we assume a $145 million cap.
Now, if they franchise defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul for something like $15 million (which is the way I believe they are currently leaning), that obviously would drop the cap-room number down to a far scarier $7.6 million (estimating). But there is other work they can do to bring that number back up.
They're expected to release defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, a move that would save $4.825 million in cap space. It also seems likely that they'll release center J.D. Walton, which would save another $3 million in cap space. So those two moves right there would bring the total back up to $15.425 million with Pierre-Paul in the fold. Add another $2.858 million they could save if they cut middle linebacker Jon Beason (who's almost certainly going to have to take a pay cut at the very least if he wants to stay), and things loosen up pretty well for the Giants with the cap shooting up again this year.
You'll notice we haven't discussed an Eli Manning extension, which remains a smart and likely thing for the Giants to do this offseason. The Giants could save about $11 million more in cap room with a Manning extension, and combined with these other moves that would enable them to do basically anything they wanted to do in free agency. But if they get to the point where they don't need to do a Manning extension just for the cap room, they could decide to let Manning play out the final year of his deal and work on a new deal next year. It's not as though he's going to give them a discount at this point, and they'd still be able to keep him off the market next year with either a new deal at that point or the franchise tag.
Basically, the Giants are in pretty good shape in terms of cap room this offseason, especially when you figure their biggest needs outside of Pierre-Paul aren't at very expensive positions. They'll look for either a right tackle or a guard, a safety or two, a couple of 4-3 outside linebackers and a change-of-pace running back. None of those positions are huge-money free-agent positions, and the Giants should be able to franchise Pierre-Paul and still address their needs without too much financial trouble.