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Fixing The New York Giants, Part II: Looking Within

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This is the second of a four-part series in which Invictus XI takes over as the GM of the New York Giants to help build a stronger team for the 2015 season. Part II takes a look at the veterans currently on the roster and makes tough determinations about who should be welcomed back in 2015.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the second part of our four-part series in which I, your host Invictus XI, take over as general manager of the New York Giants. In our first part of this series, we took a look at the young core that made up the roster looking forward at the future. Today, we look at the veterans on the roster as well as soon-to-be free agents and make determinations about where we want to invest in making the team better. Let's get started.

First of all, let's take a look at the projected salary cap. It is determined to be somewhere between $138 million and $145 million this year, up from the $130 million last year. So let's take a nice, even number and use a projected salary cap of $140 million to make things easy.

So where are we right now? Well, without touching anything, we are at $123,166,168 in liabilities (as per the excellent web site OverTheCap.com), therefore making our starting cap space at a healthy $16,833,332.

First thing I'd like to do is take a look at the veterans on the roster and determine whether or not they belong on the team based on what they are making. I'd say the veterans that fit this description include (but not limited to):

Eli Manning, Mathias Kiwanuka, Jon Beason, J.D. Walton, Cullen Jenkins, Jameel McClain, Peyton Hillis.

We'll examine all of those guys individually, but before we do that, let's just get this out of the way:

David Wilson

Cap Number

Cap Space Created

$2,126,887

$1,301,523

A small tear rolled down my face. Okay, let's continue.

A Veteran Look

Eli Manning

Cap Number

Cap Space Created

$19,750,000

$17,500,000

Those are some huge numbers. Is Eli Manning worth almost $20 million in cap space. That's debatable, but the more important question is, do you think the Giants can be a successful team in the near future and is there anybody out there that can replace his production in the short term?

My answer to that is, yes, I believe the Giants have enough pieces in place and enough money to make a run at what is a mediocre division. Do I think anybody in the next few years can offer the Giants what Manning has? No. It's not ideal, but that's the reality that I see. Do I think the Giants should be preparing for the QB of the future? Yes, I think so, but I'm not sure next year would be the time to do it.

Ideally, I'd like to sign Manning to a two- or three-year extension at a lower rate to help mitigate his gigantic cap number. I just don't see him doing it. I'd be thrilled if they were to pull it off, at say, a three-year, $50 million deal with most of it guaranteed, but it seems doubtful to me. Therefore, I'm going to let him play out the 2015 year and evaluate him going forward as he hits free agency.

Decision: Retain

Mathias Kiwanuka

Cap Number

Cap Space Created

$7,450,000

$4,825,000

I got the easy one out of the way early. I like Kiwanuka as an individual, but not as a player. This job deals with how you are as a player. There's no way he's on this team next year, sorry.

Decision: Cut

Jon Beason

Cap Number

Cap Space Created

$3,833,334

$3,533,332

This one was a tough call. I know I'm not going to be happy with my decision no matter what I decide to do. Beason's intangibles, despite what people say, are a huge asset for the team. By intangibles, I mean his instincts, his ability to read pre-snap and line everybody up, and his ability to keep everyone under control as a glue guy. That being said, what isn't a huge asset is his inability to perform in coverage and also his inability to stay healthy. He's a two-down linebacker who is, unfortunately, a ticking time bomb.

I'm kicking myself, but I look at that $3.5 million we could save and I think I'm going to let Jon Beason go. I'd be open to re-signing him at a lower rate, but at his current price, it's too much for too little return on investment.

Decision: Cut

J.D. Walton

Cap Number

Cap Space Created

$3,125,000

$2,500,000

Another difficult decision for me. The Giants badly need offensive linemen. Although we all project Richburg to be a very good center, the Giants need to be prepared in case he can't go. Walton has been bad as a starter, but I think as a backup, he's certainly serviceable. Not at that cap number, however. He's one of those players I think would be amenable to bringing back on a pay cut. He's making starter money, but he shouldn't be next year as Richburg's back up. So I'm going to shave off $1 million from his salary and retain him. If he doesn't like it, we'll move on.

Decision: Pay Cut. Cap Number becomes $1.875 million

Cullen Jenkins

Cap Number

Cap Space Created

$2,916,668

$2,250,000

I think I'm keeping him and it wasn't that hard of a choice. Sure, $2.25 million would be nice to add, but the Giants are low on quality depth at defensive tackle as it is, so including a nice pass rusher like Jenkins for that price is not the end of the world. He'll figure to be a big rotational guy, so he'd still see plenty of snaps.

Decision: Retain

Jameel McClain

Cap Number

Cap Space Created

$2,650,000

$2,350,000

This was a difficult decision for me, as that $2.35 million for a mediocre player is very, very tempting, but I'm keeping McClain on. It was either Jameel or Beason, and I wanted to keep the guy that had a better chance of being healthy. Not only has McClain established himself as a core player that the others trust and appreciate, but he also is the signal caller for the defense. I also want at least one veteran middle linebacker on the roster. Some will bristle at this and I understand why, but I think he really helps the young players get stabilized. Devon Kennard personally attributed McClain to giving him a lot of help.

Decision: Retain

Peyton Hillis

Cap Number

Cap Space Created

$945,000

$945,000

With Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Orleans Darkwa, and a loaded running back class in the draft, I'll take my $950k back, thanks.

Decision: Cut

So after all of that, where does that leave our cap space? Let's take a look:

Cap Space (prior to cuts)

$16,833,332

Cap Space (now available)

$28,253,187

Yes, we really did clear up that much space doing all of that. There were a lot of difficult decisions to make, and when it comes time to use this cap space, there will be many more.

I did not like cutting Beason. I really, really didn't. However, given the free agents on the market right now, that space is key. It was just impossible for me to retain him at that given price with the knowledge that it would take a minor miracle for him to play 16 games. Instead, I kept McClain, which some won't like, because by the same token, I do think linebacker is a position that requires some veteran guidance.

Similarly, perhaps it's just me being paranoid based on our injury numbers, but there was no need for me to get rid of J.D. Walton and Cullen Jenkins as they would be quality depth. Would Tom Coughlin use them as quality depth though? Or put them at starter? Fair question to ask. However, as GM, I'd also sit down with Coughlin and assert that they should be rotational guys. I don't know how persuasive I am, but there it is.

I'm sure not all will agree with my plan here, so let me know. There's hundreds of ways to go about it, with most of them reasonable suggestions.

Next time: We run into free agency head first, as we take all of this newly found cap space and put it to good use!