Free-agent defensive tackle Linval Joseph made it clear via Twitter that he would like to return to the New York Giants next season.
I want to be back with the Giants next year! This where it all started just want to take care of my family and put on that BLUE every Sunday— Linval Joseph (@LinvalJoseph) February 15, 2014
So, the question is can the Giants make that happen?
Joseph, 25, is in line to become one of the league's highest-paid defensive tackles. He two straight 59-tackle seasons, and had three sacks in 2013. His Pro Football Focus score was +9.9, 19th among defensive tackles who played at least 50 percent of their team's defensive snaps.
The last time the Giants were in this situation was 2010 when Barry Cofield was a free agent. The Giants, after choosing Joseph as a potential replacement for Cofield in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, let Cofield walk. He signed a six-year, $36-million contract with the Washington Redskins.
How much will it take to sign Joseph? Well, Cofield's deal is one point of reference. Another is the six-year, $42-million contract the Giants gave Chris Canty back in 2009 when they signed him away from the Dallas Cowboys. Former sports agent Joel Corry told me "if I'm Joseph's agent I'm positioning him as better than Chris Canty."
The top contracts for defensive tackles are as follows:
Ndamukong Suh, Lions (5 years, $64.5 million); Gerald McCoy, Buccaneers (5 years, $55 million); Geno Atkins, Bengals (5 years, $53.3 million); Vince Wilfork, Patriots (5 years, $40 million); Barry Cofield, Redskins (6 years, $36 million); Desmond Bryant, Browns (5 years, $34 million); Kyle Williams, Bills (4 years, $29.15 million).
If I'm Joseph I am looking for at least Cofield money, and I would enter the free-agent market pretty certain I would be able to find it. Question is, can the Giants stretch their budget that far? Do they want to?
The Giants have shown in recent years, especially with Cofield, a willingness to consistently re-structure the defensive tackle position. Do they value Joseph enough to pay $6 million or more annually to keep him? Without him, they would have veteran Cullen Jenkins, second-year man Johnathan Hankins, third-year man Markus Kuhn and possibly veteran Mike Patterson as part of a rotation at the position. Would that be enough?
The Giants have nearly two-dozen unrestricted free agents, and many holes to fill. Spotrac estimates that the Giants have about $12.6 million in salary cap space to work with.
Using the franchise tag to keep Joseph is also an option, though one the Giants rarely use. The estimated 2014 cost of tagging a defensive tackle for 2014 is $9.1 million. Could the Giants afford that?
As you can see, Joseph's free agency is a tricky one for the Giants. It would, obviously, be nice to keep him in a Giants' uniform -- and he would like to stay.
It simply might not be financially feasible.