It's cap-cutting season in the NFL, and blood-letting began on Monday. The Philadelphia Eagles dumped wide receiver Riley Cooper. The New Orleans Saints said goodbye to guard Jahri Evans. The Atlanta Falcons cut ties with safety William Moore and linebacker Justin Durant.
The cuts will continue as teams shed salaries to position themselves for free agency, which begins March 9. The New York Giants are in good salary cap shape right now, with Over The Cap estimating the Giants having $42.8 million to spend against an anticipated $150 million 2016 salary cap.
Teams always want more cap space, though, and they generally look toward the contracts of highly-paid veterans who have already received all of their guaranteed money to find such relief. Let's look at Giants who fit that description and could be on the roster bubble.
The situation: Cruz has not played football since the middle of the 2014 season, missing a total of 26 straight regular-season games with a gruesome torn patellar tendon and then a troublesome torn quad that required surgery. Cruz is in the third year of a five-year, $43 million contract. His base salary for 2016 is $7.9 million and his cap hit is $9.9 million. The Giants can save $6.1 million against the cap by cutting Cruz now and $8 million by designating him as a post-June 1 cut.
What I think will happen: I see no way the Giants pay Cruz, a complete unknown at this point, $9.9 million. I also see no way they don't give him a chance to make a comeback. I don't know at this point if the Giants will end up cutting Cruz and re-signing him to a lesser deal, or if they will be able to work out a restructured deal before then. Cruz has seemed amenable to reworking his contract, which is good because he is going to have to.
The situation: Schwartz is heading into the third year of a four-year, $16.8 million contract. The Giants haven't gotten their money's worth from the veteran offensive lineman, and even he knows it. A dislocated toe and then a broken ankle limited him to two games in 2014. Last season he played 11 games despite ongoing discomfort from that prior ankle injury, then suffered another ankle fracture that forced him to injured reserve. Schwartz carries a $4.9 million cap hit in 2016. The Giants can save $2.99 million by cutting him before June 1, and $3.95 million by making him a post-June 1 cut.
What I think will happen: This is a tricky one. If the Giants believe 2015 seventh-round pick Bobby Hart, or even 2015 CFL signee Brett Jones, could slide in at right guard they might be willing to let Schwartz go and save the cap space. Still, when healthy he has been a good player throughout his career. As many holes as the Giants have in other places it might be difficult for them to cut Schwartz and potentially create another one. Perhaps they approach him about reworking his deal to give them some cap relief, keep him and continue to groom Hart or a 2016 draft pick as a long-term replacement.
The situation: Beason played in only nine games for the Giants over the past two seasons. The oft-injured middle linebacker had a foot injury in 2014 and a knee injury last season. Beason is entering the final year of a three-year, $17.5 million deal for which the Giants have gotten virtually no value. Beason carries a $5.96 million cap hit in 2016. The Giants can save $4.5 against the cap by cutting him. The 31-year-old is due a $1 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the 2016 league season, which begins March 9 when free agency starts.
What I think will happen: I fully expect the Giants to cut Beason before that bonus kicks in. Beason has said he would undergo offseason knee surgery and would retire if the rehab did not go well. I do not anticipate seeing Beason play for the Giants again.
The situation: Beatty missed all of the 2015 season with a pair of injuries, first a torn pectoral suffered while lifting weights and then a rotator cuff injury that was apparently aggravated during his rehab. Beatty, 31 next season, is entering the fourth year of a five-year, $37.5 million contract. He carries a $9.175 million cap hit in 2016. The Giants can save $4.175 million against the cap by cutting him before June 1, and $6.675 million by cutting him after that date.
What I think will happen: The Giants drafted Ereck Flowers in the first round a year ago and seem committed to him as their left tackle. That means Beatty, the starter at left tackle when healthy since 2011, will almost certainly have to move to the right side to remain with the Giants. Because of that, the Giants are expected to ask Beatty to take a pay cut. The common belief is that Beatty will refuse to do so and will opt to take his chances on the open market in an effort to cash in a left tackle paycheck. It would solve an issue for the Giants if Beatty would stick around, but I doubt he will be a Giant in 2016.