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Why Jonathan Stewart’s Giants contract is a good overall value

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The Giants are getting good value for a locker room leader who might also have something left in the tank to give on the field.

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NFL: NFC Wild Card-Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants signing of running back Jonathan Stewart clearly raised more than a few eyebrows among the fan base considering Stewart’s age (30) and his recent injury history.

But lest anyone think this is just another attempt by Giants general manager Dave Gettleman to turn the Giants into the Carolina Panthers of the NFC East, what Gettleman has done in bringing in Stewart is add a player who brings tremendous value in more ways than one.

I’ll break down the numbers in a moment, but let’s first talk about Stewart and the value he brings to the locker room as a leader.

The leadership aspect

It’s no secret that last year, the Giants locker room had some issues. Whether it was teammates publicly fighting or guys who reportedly gave up before the season officially ended, the locker room environment gradually took on the same ugliness of the 3-13 season.

Gettleman, who built a solid locker room culture in Carolina, one that now retired defensive end Jared Allen praised for being devoid of drama, is no doubt looking to replicate that formula with the Giants.

Enter Stewart, who was very much a part of that Panthers locker room. I asked Stewart during his conference call with the Giants media Wednesday if he was looking forward to being that veteran voice in a running back room that has youngsters Paul Perkins and Wayne Gallman.

“Yeah, I’m going into my 11th year as a running back and it’s my first with a new team. I’m definitely excited to go in there and share my wisdom as being a professional in this business and learn, too, from the younger guys as well,” Stewart said.

“There is always room for growth and I’m excited to be a part of that running back group and I’m sure we have a lot to look forward to at the end of the day. The sky is the limit and I’m excited to meet those guys and be a part of the team.”

I suspect the feeling is mutual.

The contract numbers

ESPN tweeted a summary of Stewart’s contract details Wednesday, which on a first glance, might have someone screaming “Why?!”

A closer look at how the contract is structured shows it’s not as bad as it first seemed.

Jonathan Stewart

Year P5 (Base Salary) Incentives/Other Option Roster Bonus Game day Bonus Workout Bonus
Year P5 (Base Salary) Incentives/Other Option Roster Bonus Game day Bonus Workout Bonus
2018 $1,400,000 $250,000 $250,000 $1,550,000 $400,000 $100,000
2019 $2,350,000 $250,000 $250,000 $- $400,000 $200,000

Contract Notes: Stewart’s 2018 P5 (base) salary is fully guaranteed but you’ll notice there is no signing bonus. Instead, the Giants gave Stewart a $500,000 option bonus which, like a signing bonus, is prorated over the life of the deal.

That means if the Giants decide to move on from Stewart after 2018, they’d be charged with a $250,000 dead cap hit, a total that is minuscule compared to some of the other dead cap hits we have seen.

Stewart’s $1.5 million roster bonus is to be paid out on the fifth day of the new league year (March 18).

His $400,000 game day roster bonus works out to $25,000 per game, meaning if he’s not on the 46-man roster for whatever the reason, that’s a cap credit the Giants will get back at the end of next year.

As far as the incentive bonus of $250,000, that’s tied into rushing metrics, though what those metrics are, I can’t say as I unfortunately don’t have that level of detail.

Finally, Stewart has a playing time escalator in 2019. Unfortunately, I don’t have the specifics regarding what percentage of snaps played will trigger that escalator or what that escalator is.

I am comfortable saying that if Stewart hits that escalator, he would cost a little more in dead money than the $250,000 currently projected should the Giants move on from him in 2019.

What does it all mean?

Glad you asked.

Stewart’s deal is, in reality, a one-year contract that will cost $3.95 million against the 2018 salary cap.

That’s not exactly a crazy number for a veteran leader who might very well still have some gas left in the tank.