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Big Blue View mailbag: Draft, salary cap, offseason moves

The mail’s here!

With the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine coming up in a few days, and free agency not that far behind, the NFL calendar never truly slows down. With that in mind, let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag and answer some New York Giants questions.

Jermaine Dickerson asks: Should the Giants draft a quarterback in this year’s draft to challenge Daniel Jones for starting quarterback?

Ed says: Jermaine, if you are talking about using one of the top top-10 picks on a quarterback, the answer is no. If you are talking about using the pick at No. 36 or one of the two third-round picks on a quarterback, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. Let’s suppose the Giants love Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder and he is — unexpectedly — still sitting on the board when the Giants pick at No. 67 in Round 3. Why wouldn’t you take a swing at that? If I loved a quarterback, I would.

That said, I don’t think any rookie is really going to challenge Jones in 2022. If the Giants want to do that, they might go get someone like Buffalo Bills’ backup Mitchell Trubisky.

Wayne T. Wendel asks: I am aware that on March 16, 2022 the Giants need to be under the new $208.2 million cap. My question: How is the cap applied with the roster expansion for training camp?

Ed says: Wayne, obviously 90 players cannot be counted toward the salary cap when teams carry 53 plus their practice squads during the season. The NFL uses what is called the “Top 51” rule.

This, from Pro Football Network, is really the simplest explanation of the top 51 rule:

During the offseason, the NFL does not count the salary of every player on the team towards the salary cap. Instead, they use a process of only counting the 51 most expensive contracts in terms of the team’s salary cap hits. This rule stretches until the start of the season. At that point, all 53 players on the roster count towards the salary cap.

So, when a player is signed, the least expensive contract drops off from the list of 51.

Two questions here, since they go together.

Brad Gillan asks: I am a proponent for the Giants trading down with at least one of their first round picks. Do you think the salary cap situation will be a motivating factor for the Giants to trade down in the first round for a lower rookie salary slot? Do you think it could be a legitimate salary cap strategy to trade down with both picks, amassing 3 first-round picks next year and dramatically lower rookie salaries this year?

John H asks: Per OTC the cost of the their draft class is 20 mil that’s biggest in league with Jets close 2nd. I hear about adding picks more swings at bat but is it realistic that the GM will actually spend 20 mill out of his stated 40 mill on 1 draft class.

Ed says: Brad and John, let’s try to clear this up the best I can.

Over The Cap shows the Giants’ rookie pool at $20,330, 016. That isn’t correct as it is based on 11 picks, including two seventh-rounders the Giants do not have. By my calculations — and these are MINE and might not be perfect — that actual pool is $18,855,676.

It is not going to cost the Giants more than $18 million against the cap to sign their draft picks. OTC explains:

The Rookie Pool is the total cost in cap dollars that a team needs to sign its rookies in the summer. The cap space required to do this is less than the rookie pool. This is because every draft pick signed will replace a player already counting against the cap.

The effective cap space needed is equal to: Rookie Pool - ($705,000 * number of picks).

So, multiply $705,000 by nine picks and you get $6.345 million. Subtract that from the $18.885 million. OTC has the effective cap space at $12,575,016. My calculation is $12.51 million, but there’s a reason I’m a writer. Math is not my thing. Point is, the real cap cost is slightly above $12 million.

Brad, you raise a good point that trading down in the draft not only helps you acquire more picks, but it does offer you salary cap relief. Rookie contracts are slotted, and you can see from the chart at OTC how each pick costs less against the cap than the one that came before it.

So, sure, getting some cap relief can be part of the reason you trade down. That said, I don’t think trading down with both picks is the way to go. I am a proponent of use one, move down with the other. You’re in the top 10, meaning you have a shot at the players considered to be the best. I would hate to see the Giants give up both of those.

John, another thing about rookie contracts is that you have those cost-controlled players under contract for four years — possibly five with first-round picks. That’s a huge cap benefit if you draft the right players, because then you don’t have to go into free agency and spend additional dollars to fill out the roster.

Jim Moriarty asks: We all know that the O-line is our off-season priority; however, I think our free agency priority should be “Center” over the other positions. My understanding is that the draft apparently goes fairly deep on quality tackles and very deep on guards. However, there appears to be a huge drop off after the first 3 centers in the draft. I would hate to be in a position to have to force a pick to get a center, or move a collegiate guard to center after the draft, adding chaos to the rebuild. Billy Price is below average but functional. Any other FAs that make sense? What are your thoughts?

Ed says: Jim, I wouldn’t say it’s “center above guard or tackle.” It’s “best players everywhere but left tackle who fit what you want to do at a reasonable cost.” Fans need to be realistic — it’s possible but unlikely that in one offseason the Giants can find the perfect players at all four offensive line spots to join Andrew Thomas. Let’s say the Giants get a right tackle and right guard, leave left guard as a competition between Ben Bredeson and Shane Lemieux and — if they can’t find a potential upgrade at center — bring Price back for a year. Maybe they draft a developmental center who isn’t ready to start. I could live with that. We’ll see, but I’m not going to one position is more important than another along the line.

Gary M. asks: Does this sound feasible?

Giants trade No. 5 for draft capital, take O-lineman at 7 then later in first round take another O-lineman then get edge, corner, and like always can find a diamond in the rough in the later rounds to get WR, or RB etc…

Ed says: Gary, sure that sounds feasible. I have said over and over, and will continue to say it, that I would be fine with making one of the two top 10 picks and trading back with the other. Whether you use the remaining pick on an offensive lineman depends upon who is on the board. Offensive line needs aside, it would be really difficult for me to pass on Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton or Oregon edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux. Those guys are potential game-changers, and the Giants need more of those.

RonSwanson’sAlterEgo asks: There is a lot of chatter about trading Saquon Barkley and one of the reasons listed seems to be how much he would cost after this coming year as a free agent. Since the NYG will likely not sign him to a big deal, get something for him now. The comps for Barkley seem to be contracts like McCaffrey, Elliot and Kamara all in the $15M per year range, double what he will make this coming year. Fair enough to say that don’t sign him for that. But in light of the results of those big RB contracts, who is shelling out $15M per year for a twice injured, moderately productive RB? Why not extend Barkley to a 3-year deal at a 4-5 Million per year total with guarantees for more than the 7.8M now but with a more reasonable cap hit. This would give the player some injury security and the team a lower cap number more in line with his actual production rather than his skill set “when healthy”.

3 yr with 10M signing bonus and salaries of 1.2/1.8/2.0 would be roughly a 4.5M cap number this coming year and then 5.1 and 5.4 range.

Any chance? Which side would hate it most? Yes, he was the No. 2 overall pick, but second contracts should be about actual production, not potential. Thoughts?

Ed says: Well, Ron ... or Swanson ... or Alter ... or Ego, that’s an interesting thought. I honestly don’t hate it, but right now I don’t think I would do it. I have said many times that I think the best path forward for the Giants is to trade Barkley, reset their finances and their priorities, and not put themselves in the position down the line of either paying him big money or losing him for nothing.

I still believe that is the best move. Right now, I’m not sure either side would take it. If the Giants have any interest in keeping him long term, I think they would want to see him prove he can have a healthy, productive season first. Why tie yourself to him financially, at any price, if he can’t consistently get on the field, earn his money and help your team? From Barkley’s side, he is a former No. 2 overall pick, he knows what he did in 2018, he knows what kind of money other backs have gotten on second contract. If I’m him, I bet on myself and on having a big 2022 and putting myself back in the discussion for that kind of money. I don’t settle now.