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Giants’ salary cap picture worse than previously known

Giants actually slightly over $176 million projected cap

NFL: NOV 15 Eagles at Giants
Will Hernandez
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the salary cap expected to drop from $198.2 million to somewhere around $180 million for the 2021 NFL season, it has always been anticipated that the New York Giants would face some difficult financial decisions both before and during this year’s free agency period.

We learned on Thursday that the Giants’ cap situation is actually tighter than had previously been known. Per Over The Cap, the Giants are actually $3.373 million over a salary cap based on an OTC projection of $176 million.

How did this happen?

The sharp eye of a fan led to the fact that four Giants’ players met what the Collective Bargaining Agreement calls Proven Performance Escalators for their first three seasons, bumping up their 2021 cap hits.

  • Will Hernandez went from $2,370,694 to $3,057,680
  • Lorenzo Carter went from $1,299,290 to $2,445,451
  • B.J. Hill went from $1,282,708 to $2,440,379
  • Isaac Yiadom went from $954,250 to $2,183,000

Via Over The Cap, here is the explanation of how these escalators work:

Article 7, Section 4 of the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement governs the PPE, establishing three levels of qualification:

The Level One PPE is earned if a player participates in a certain percentage of a team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averages that percentage of offensive or defensive snaps over his entire first three years. For 2nd round picks, the average is 60%, and (as was the same in the 2011 CBA) for 3rd-7th round picks it is 35%.

The Level Two PPE is earned if a player participates in at least 55% of a team’s offensive or defensive snaps in all of his first three seasons.

The Level Three PPE is earned if a player is selected to a Pro Bowl on the original ballot (not as an alternate) in any of his first three seasons.

All four Giants players earned Level 1 PPE, raising their base salary to the amount of the Right of First Refusal (ROFR) RFA tender. The Giants were certainly not caught off guard by this development.

There are 12 teams who are actually farther over OTC’s projected cap than the Giants, topped by the New Orleans Saints at $97.537 million over.

The Giants will be helped by being able to roll roughly $4.8 left from 2020 into their 2021 salary cap.

The Giants can clear cap space by cutting players like Nate Solder ($16.5 million 2021 cap hit), Kevin Zeitler ($14.5 million cap hit), Golden Tate ($10.852 million cap hit), David Mayo ($2.3 million cap hit), Levine Toilolo ($2.95 million cap hit) or even Hernandez, who lost his job to Shane Lemieux at the end of last season. They could also restructure contracts.

Whatever they choose to do, it’s clear the Giants have even more cap work to do that we thought.