Contract extension talks between the New York Giants and quarterback Eli Manning have intensified in recent weeks as the team makes a late effort to see whether a deal can be done before training camp starts next week, according to sources close to the situation.
One source Thursday described the Giants as confident a deal would get done "at some point" to keep Manning with the team for the remainder of his career. And while the Giants would prefer to do the deal before the team begins training camp practices July 31, they remain comfortable with the idea of waiting until next offseason if they can't reach an agreement they consider fair.
The Giants are willing to pay a premium price to keep Manning. Privately, they acknowledge that the front-loaded four-year, $87.4 million extension Ben Roethlisberger signed with the Steelers earlier this offseason provides a template for Manning's deal, and they're OK with the idea of paying Manning an average annual salary in that range, depending on structure and guarantees.
But players and their agents always want to push the market higher if they can. So at least in this still-early negotiating stage, Manning's agent, Tom Condon, seems to be making the case that Manning should be paid according to a scale that only he occupies.
"Eli obviously is a unique human being and a terrific guy, so I think that he's uniquely suited to be the New York Giant quarterback," Condon said Thursday on SiriusXM radio. "I don't know of anybody else who could handle that New York media and the scrutiny and all the pressure that comes with that the way he does. He truly is unflappable."
Manning, 34, is entering the final season of a six-year, $97.5 million contract he signed before the 2009 season. He is coming off one of his best statistical seasons, having set a single-season career high in completion percentage (63.1) and posting the second-highest single-season yardage (4,410) and passing touchdowns (30) totals of his career. He also threw 14 interceptions, tied for his second-lowest total in a season in which he started all 16 games.
He has not missed a game since assuming the starting quarterback role midway through his 2004 rookie season.
Manning is scheduled to earn $17.5 million in salary and bonuses this year and count $19.75 million against the cap. The Giants don't need cap relief; they have about $5.22 million in cap space and everyone under contract, so any incentive they have to do a deal now would just be to keep this important item off next winter's agenda.
If the Giants get to February with Manning still unsigned, they know they could franchise him to keep him off the market. But doing a deal now would help keep Manning's 2016 cap hit under control and also allow them to keep that franchise tag for another player, such as cornerback Prince Amukamara, if they end up needing it.