This season was disappointing for the New York Giants. Too disappointing. We all know how it goes. From the top of the mountain in 2011, sandwiched between four disappointing years. This year marks the first time in Eli Manning's career that he will be under .500 over a full season.
Is this a freak incident in which Giants had a bad year? Or is it something more insidious? Is it just the culmination of a long-standing decay, a Giants team that has gotten old all too fast? Jerry Reese, since 2007, has pushed to keep the core together to win another Super Bowl. He succeeded, but at a cost. The bills seem to be getting paid today.
Where do we go from here? There's a myriad of ways to try and fix what's ailing. I want to take you on a journey to the extreme side of this. Time to get rid of the old and the frail. What would happen if we enacted some real (well, not REAL) bloodshed. What if we went nuclear?
The first thing that anybody must do is identify the guys you want on the team. Those who will be on the team and will be contributing to that team winning. So let's take a look at the players that will likely be safe from the knife (barring catastrophe). There are three things I'm looking for here:
1) Under contract until at least 2015.
2) A reason why I shouldn't cut them (strong contributor, chance to be contributor, has a cap number making them not worth cutting)
3) Relative youth (At least under 30 unless on special teams)
So here is my "core":
Offense: David Wilson, Victor Cruz, Will Beatty, Justin Pugh, Rueben Randle, Adrien Robinson, Brandon Mosley, John Conner/Henry Hynoski, James Brewer, Jerrel Jernigan, Larry Donnell, Ryan Nassib
Defense: Jason Pierre-Paul, Jonathan Hankins, Damontre Moore, Will Hill, Jacquian Williams, Prince Amukamara, Jayron Hosley, Charles James, Cooper Taylor, Markus Kuhn
Special Teams: Steve Weatherford, Zak DeOssie
This group can be split into several categories .
We have the guys playing for new contracts like Pierre-Paul, Hill, Brewer and Jernigan.
Of those, the big fish is obviously Pierre-Paul. Coming off a dominant 2011 season, we saw his numbers and, to a certain extent, his play fall off a bit. Pierre-Paul was still a strong defender against the run and we saw flashes of dominance, but it was inconsistent. Fast forward to 2013 and JPP had trouble getting on the field with a myriad of health issues. His 2014 performance is going to be key if he wants a big contract.
Williams and Hill are the other two players who are strong candidates for nice deals. Both seem to have more value to the Giants than the open market but are not without major question marks. Williams needs to prove that he can be an every down linebacker, not just a nickel specialist. Hill needs to prove that he can stay out of trouble after having two consecutive years of suspensions.
Brewer and Jernigan are two players on that slippery slope where they are team contributors, but can easily be replaced by a free agent or high draft pick. They will also looking for new contracts after the 2014 season, but they won't be big ones. These will likely be low priced deals in the future highly dependent on how much they contribute. As they enter into their contract years, look for the performance to increase.
The next group of players includes Amukamara, Pugh, Beatty, Cruz, Randle, DeOssie, Weatherford, Hankins, Moore, Nassib, Conner.
They are essentially on the team because they are entrenched in the future plans and are in no danger of being cut because a) They are cost prohibitive to cut and have chances to bounce back like Beatty, Cruz b) They are incredibly young and there is talent to work with like Wilson, Moore, Hankins, Nassib, c) High-ranking starters that are under contract for at least two years like Amukamara, DeOssie, Weatherford, Randle.
I am including Conner because fullback is an interesting position. There's likely only one fullback on the roster, and that person is guaranteed to be a strong contributor.
The final group is the young and upcoming group that we just don't know much about. They could be busts and get cut, or they could be great. In any case, they are cheap, under contract and have potential. They include Donnell, James, Robinson, Hosley, Mosley, Taylor and Kuhn. The Giants need to see what they have in this group. Lots of raw talent and athleticism, can it be honed and unleashed?
That is a core of 23 players. So let's work our way up. How much will they cost in 2014 (including dead money from all cut players)? How about in 2015?
Financial Liabilities for "Core Group"
So of the players that form the nucleus of the team, the Giants are only committed to roughly $68 million next year. That following year, as dead money gets sloughed off and contracts change, that number gets cut in half.
There's a lot of room for this team to complete change its identity, should the need arise. But of course, 23 players just isn't going to get it done, we need to add some complementary pieces.
Next Time: Evaluating the veterans on the roster. Who stays? Who goes?
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