Hello. Good Saturday morning to you all. We are 12 days from the start of free agency, in the midst of veteran-cut season, and you have New York Giants questions. Those of you who posed them on Twitter with the #nygmail hashtag are, to a certain extent, represented here. Thank you.
@DanGrazianoESPN: To be accurate, the scheduled 2015 cap numbers for quarterback Eli Manning ($19.75 million) and cornerback Prince Amukamara ($6.898) million are the highest and fifth-highest on the team, respectively. (Victor Cruz, Will Beatty and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie still have cap numbers higher than Amukamara's, and Jon Beason isn't far behind him.) Manning's number would work out to 13.8 percent of a $143 million salary cap, and Amukamara's is 4.8 percent. So together, they represent 18.6 percent of the cap.
Let's take Amukamara first. He's on that one-year deal as a fifth-year option player from the first round of the 2011 draft. Of those 32 first-round picks, 21 had their 2015 options picked up and only four -- J.J. Watt, Robert Quinn, Tyron Smith, and Patrick Peterson -- have signed long-term deals. I spoke with several general managers at the combine who have players in this category, and in general they don't seem in a hurry to alter these contracts. I spoke to Giants GM Jerry Reese specifically about Amukamara, and he said the $6.898 million is a perfectly fine salary for a starting cornerback. He likes Amukamara, but like other GMs with fifth-year option players, he doesn't see the need to act and award an extension just to get cap relief this year. Amukamara is coming off a season-ending injury, and it's reasonable for the Giants to let him play out this year and see how healthy he is at the end of it. They can always extend him during or after the season, and if it comes to it, they could franchise him next year and keep him off the market for another year. Basically, this fifth-year option is like an extra franchise tag, and teams are employing it as such. I don't expect any movement on Amukamara's contract in 2015.
And honestly, Manning's situation is kind of similar. They're obviously comfortable paying Manning a significant portion of their salary-cap allotment, as they have been doing it for years. With the cap going up, a $17 million salary for a franchise quarterback who never misses a game isn't a bad price. And if it came to it, they could always sign or franchise Manning next year. It's not as though they would be getting any kind of discount if they signed him now. An extension for Manning could save the Giants as much as $11 million against this year's cap, and for that reason they might decide they need to do it. But with about $25 million in projected cap room as of now and no big-money necessities outside of Jason Pierre-Paul, they might not have to do it.
@DanGrazianoESPN: Well, I think if you have a chance to take an original gangster at No. 9, you can't pass that up. I believe it was Gil Brandt who once said of the draft, "I ain't no superhero, I ain't no Marvel comic, but when it comes to picking in the top 10, I'm atomic." I think it was Gil. Might have been Ernie Accorsi. Need to go look that up.
However, if by "OG" you meant "offensive guard," then yeah, I think that gives you pause. I think if you're picking in the top 10, you need to find a franchise cornerstone piece at one of those critical positions we talk about -- quarterback, wide receiver, left tackle, pass-rusher, or cornerback. There are exceptions, sure, but that's a good guideline. And if a guy like Iowa's Brandon Scherff, who is the popular mock draft pick of the moment for the Giants, projects as a guard, you do have to step back and ask yourself whether picking a guard at No. 9 overall is really the best thing for your franchise long-term. If you feel like you're getting a guy who can play guard right away and then develop into your franchise left tackle down the road, that's one thing. But if the guy projects as a 10-year starting guard in the NFL? Nice thing to have, but I'm not sure you need to spend your top 10 pick on that. Just my opinion.
The Giants are in an odd place here. They desperately need to address the offensive line as a present and long-range future need, but there doesn't seem to be the kind of impact, building-block lineman in this year's draft that would justify using a pick as high as their No. 9 overall on him. So either they would need to trade down (unlikely, since they don't tend to operate like that) or shore up the line with a young free agent or two and spend this pick on a high-impact defender.
@DanGrazianoESPN: I think Reggie Bush is the kind of back for which the Giants are looking -- a home-run-hitter type with some receiving ability out of the backfield who would complement the power runners they already have in Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. But as of Friday afternoon, I was told the Giants were not among the teams showing interest in Bush, and they very well might not. Bush's 30th birthday is Monday, and if you remember the Giants' free-agent spree from last year you might remember that the only free agent they signed who was over 30 was kicker Josh Brown. Bush has the skill set for which the Giants are looking, but when they look for free agents, they look for guys who are younger than he is. So my guess is they will look elsewhere for their change-of-pace back, unless Bush's market doesn't develop and they are still looking a month or so from now.
@DanGrazianoESPN: No, I do not, because I think Jordan Cameron is going to be relatively expensive and I think we've seen very clearly that the Giants don't like to spend money on tight end. I also think they are still very high on Larry Donnell as a present-day producer and high-ceiling prospect, and that they consider Donnell their starter at the position. They believe another strong offseason will help him take another step, and they expect him to emerge as one of the better players in the league at his position. I do not think tight end is on the Giants' shopping list this offseason, except the blocking kind, on which they will surely stock up ahead of training camp as usual.
Thanks for all of the questions, and enjoy the rest of your Saturday.