Barring something dramatic and unforseen, the move effectively ends Eli Manning run as the Giants’ franchise quarterback and makes him the Giants’ backup signal caller. It was a move we all knew was coming, we just didn’t know exactly when it was going to happen.
The move also rockets the Giants up to the most highly-paid backup in the NFL, with his $23.2 million cap hit more than tripling the $7.25 million the New Orleans Saints are paying Teddy Bridgewater.
Of course, the next logical question is “what is next for Eli Manning?”
The most likely outcome for the season is that Eli will remain with the Giants, starting games in a baseball cap just in case something bad happens or Jones struggles to the point where the Giants can’t justify keeping him on the field.
But there are a couple more options on the table.
If Eli is adamant that he still wants to play and believes that he is a starting quarterback in the NFL, the Giants could release him from his contract and let him find a landing spot in free agency. There have been several high-profile quarterbacking vacancies already this season, with the Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Indianapolis Colts being the most notable.
The other option is that Eli could request a trade, which would involve waiving the no-trade clause in his contract.
Those teams mentioned above could also be potential trade partners for the Giants if the team wants to work out a transition that works for all involved.
Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers are probably the least likely of the possible trade partners. They simply don’t have the available cap space to take on Manning’s remaining contract without making some difficult roster decisions.
Jacksonville Jaguars - The Jags made Nick Foles a highly paid quarterback only to lose him in week 1 to a broken collar bone. Rooke Gardner Minshew has been exciting, but with Doug Marone and Tom Coughlin dealing with troubled waters in the locker room, a calming presence like Eli could be very attractive. Again, salary cap space would be an obstacle that needs to be overcome in getting a deal done. The Jags have more room than Pittsburgh, but still not enough to absorb Eli’s contract. However, things could get very interesting if Jalen Ramsey — who has requested a trade from Jacksonville — is added to the mix. The Giants might have to add draft compensation to sweeten the pot, but that would help make the money work and get the Giants a badly-needed piece for their own rebuild while reuniting Eli with Tom Coughlin.
New Orleans Saints - This would be the Fairy Tale Ending for Eli. He would get most of a year to prove that the Giants made a mistake while working with a vastly improved offensive roster, playing in prime conditions under — by far — the best offensive mind under which he would ever have the opportunity to play, and play in his home town for the team which still reveres his father and family.
Of course, there is the fact that it is still possible for Drew Brees to return from his thumb injury before the end of the year, Eli’s contract will once again be an obstacle, and the Saints like Teddy Bridgewater. This might be the Hollywood outcome, but probably not one we will see in reality.
Indianapolis Colts - The Colts could be the wild card here. They reportedly like Jacoby Brissett, but they also have a roster built and ready to win now with a stout offensive line, good receiving threats, a good (and not unfamiliar) offensive scheme, and a fast defense. The Colts offer prime conditions for quarterback play and the worst weather Eli would face would be an October trip to Pittsburgh. They also have more than enough cap space to easily take on Eli’s contract (they have $42 million in cap space), and could ask Peyton to do some recruiting.
So, what is next for Eli Manning? We don’t really know. He is, one of the most competitive players on the Giants’ roster and has been for the last decade and a half. He has been adamant that he believes in himself as a starting quarterback and still wants to play the game. Eli might ride out the season and enter free agency in 2020 the healthiest and least beat-up he has been in a long time. He could request a trade and hope to choose his landing spot and prove that the Giants were holding him back.
Or he could decide that he doesn’t want to play for another franchise and decides to retire and spend his time with his wife and four children — That would be okay, too. Eli’s earned it.