The New York Football Giants began their off-season with plenty of work to do. The team had no less than twenty-three free agents to deal with in one fashion or another, including key contributors Victor Cruz, Stevie Brown, Martellus Bennett, Osi Umenyiora, Andre Brown and Lawrence Tynes.
And while the team has created cap space by releasing veterans Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Boley and Chris Canty, as well as restructuring the contracts of David Baas, Corey Webster and Mathias Kiwanuka, Big Blue is still only about $9 million under the salary cap according to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News.
Vacchiano makes the point that the $9 million is not enough to deal with the team's trio of restricted free agents that they appear to want back; Stevie Brown, Andre Brown and Cruz, as well as signing two of their own unrestricted free agents, Martellus Bennett and Kevin Boothe, and still having enough money left over to sign their 2013 draft class.
Vacchiano estimates that the minimum amount of money to handle these "maintenance" transactions is about $14 million, or $5 million more than the Giants currently have under the NFL's $123 million salary cap.
The New York Giants' beat writer for the New York Daily News wrote yesterday, "After the Giants’ recent flurry of moves – cutting Canty, Boley and Ahmad Bradshaw, restructuring the contracts of Mathias Kiwanuka and David Baas, getting Corey Webster to agree to a sizeable pay cut – I’m pretty sure the Giants are about $9 million under the $123 million salary cap."
So after crunching the numbers, it's easy to see that New York probably won't be very active in the annual NFL roster feeding frenzy that begins in earnest on Tuesday.
In fact, it would not be surprising to see many of New York's unrestricted free agents gobbled up pretty quickly because player agents realize that a return to Big Blue is an improbable outcome for players like Osi Umenyiora, Kenny Phillips, Lawrence Tynes, Ramses Barden and Rocky Bernard.
The G-men will also have to until Tuesday to place a tender on Cruz, and the Browns. Most likely Cruz will receive a first-round tender, and usually that is enough of a disincentive for teams to shy away from signing a restricted free agent.
But in the case of Cruz, he is 26-years old, with two straight 1,000 yard receiving seasons and a bonafide game breaker, so there is a chance that a team may take a shot at signing him during free agency, and this reality should certainly be a cause for concern for Giants' general manager Jerry Reece.
Meanwhile, the Giants may have to find more salary cap room, in order just to maintain a solid roster, but without an ability to upgrade at any position through free agency. Candidates for a contract restructure would include Justin Tuck, Antrel Rolle, Eli Manning, and David Diehl.
Since status quo is a likely occurrence during free agency, New York will have to restock its roster initially through the draft, and then pounce on bargain basement free agents in the late spring, similar to what the team did in signing Stevie Brown last year.
As the hours tick down to Tuesday's opening of free agency, a reunion of the Bennett brothers, Martellus and Michael, in the Big Apple appears to be less and less likely, and if a reunion were to occur, more likely it would happen in Tampa.
At this point, a conservative estimate points to New York having nine of twenty-two starters not return in 2013, including six on the defensive side of the ball alone, so New York's front office will earn their paychecks this off season.