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Big Blue View mailbag: Free agency, Daniel Jones’ contract, draft impact, more

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Free-agent signings and a major trade made this an important week for the New York Giants. Let’s open up the Big Blue View Mailbag and see how it has changed the type of questions coming in.

Benjamin Lawrence asks: From my understanding, unused cap space gets credited the following season, increasing the team’s salary cap by that same amount. If this is the case, then why would a team not always designate a post June 1st cut?

For example, we [could have saved] about $14M this year by designating Kenny Golladay post June 1st, and whatever money we don’t use would get added to our cap next year, right?

Ed says: Benjamin, there are drawbacks to the post-June 1 cut and they have nothing to do with rolling over unused cap into the following season.

The first drawback to a post-June 1 cut is that you don’t have that money available until June. That means you don’t have that money available during the first wave of free agency. So, if you need some extra cap space to add free agents you handicap yourself if you hold a player as a post-June 1 cut. Without Golladay’s money available, the Giants likely could not have done all of the things they did in free agency.

The second drawback is that you don’t actually save money in the long run. The money just gets kicked down the road.

By making Kenny Golladay a pre-June 1 cut, the Giants saved only $6.7 million this year (with a $14.7 million cap hit). The benefit of that is that they are completely done with Golladay’s contract.

Making him a post-June 1 cut would have given them a $13.5 million cap savings this year. That additional $6.8 million (the different from $6.7 million to $13.5 million) would not have just disappeared. That money would have been charged to next year’s cap, giving them $6.8 million less to spend in 2024.

Kölnerbigblue asks: Ed, in days gone by the early announcements in free agency were always the big signings. Nowadays, we see so many low level signings on Day 1. What has changed?

Ed says: I think what has changed is that many teams are recognizing that a) the big-time splashy free-agent signings are not always the best ones and b) there is tremendous value both on the field and financially in the ‘middle tier’ of players. I think teams are putting a lot of time and effort now into figuring out which players fit their needs, and targeting more of these middle-tier players.

Nathan Kase asks: Ed I am a physician in my day job but a fiendish Giant fan on Sundays. My question is does Coach Daboll pay as much attention to his personal health as he does his players? I am concerned — here’s a guy approaching a vulnerable age, works 24/7 in a hugely tension filled job but has a waist circumference that is concerning. We need this guy as healthy as possible - he’s got to have the best care. Does he?

Ed says: Nathan, I know that Brian Daboll gained a considerable amount of weight during the 2022 season. He admitted to being a stress eater, which is not uncommon. He likes his cigars. Football coaches work an unhealthy number of hours in a high-stress environment.

I’m certain he is aware of trying to take care of his health the best he can. The Giants have an excellent medical staff and I have to believe keeping the head coach as healthy as they can is a priority.

Jim Willis asks: Who, or what, determines the quarterback’s ratings. If DJ is going to receive bonuses according to being top 5, 10, or 15, how is this determined?

Ralph Carter asks: The incentives part of Jones’ contract reference top 10 and top 5 QB play. Do you know how that ranking is determined?

Ed says: Jim and Ralph, these incentives are not based on ‘subjective’ rankings. They are based on performance in common statistical categories associated with quarterback play. The Athletic reported that Jones’ personal incentives are tied to where he ranks in passing yards, passing touchdowns, total offensive yards and total touchdowns. He also has incentives tied to the Giants reaching the playoffs.

Daniel Baxter asks: Can you tell us how much percentage an agent makes off of a NFL contract signed? On Daniel Jones contract does the agent get paid a percent every year of the contract or only once at the beginning? What about if Jones is cut after 3 years how does that figure into how much money they get from the contract? How does that all work?

Ed says: The standard agent fee is 3 percent, which per the Standard Representation Agreement between players and agents is the most an agent can earn. It can go below that percentage if the player and agent agree, but 3 percent is the basic fee.

Dan Schutt asks: Over the years, we have criticized GM’s like Gettleman for back loading contracts, leading to salary cap issues down the road. Prior to, and even subsequent to, Daniel Jones, contract everyone was writing about how we need to sign him to a long-term deal and avoid the franchise tag, partly because we did not want to absorb a $32 million cap hit in the first year. When the Giants did signed him, they did so with a low cap hit for this year as predicted. I know the salary cap increases each year, and they may be thinking that they want to keep a certain percentage of each years cap allocated to quarterback, so it makes sense that it would go up. It just seems, however, that to an extent they are doing exactly, what has gotten the Giants in trouble in the past. Thoughts?

Ed says: Dan, the reality is that is the way most long-term NFL contracts work. The assumption is that the cap will go up each year, and teams know it is going up substantially over the next two years.

The problem the Giants had with the Golladay and Leonard Williams deals was that they agreed to those in an odd year where the cap went down and they had little room to maneuver. They kicked an extraordinary, crippling, amount of money into the future.

Jones aside, the contracts the Giants have taken on appear sensible. Parris Campbell is a one-year deal. Darius Slayton is a two-year deal. Rakeem Nunez-Roches is a three-year deal that carries little dead money if the Giants move on from him in Year 2 or Year 3. Darren Waller has no dead money after 2023 — unless the Giants re-negotiate that deal.

None of these deals tie the Giants to a player for a long time, or tie up gobs of money over the long haul.

Tom Vayda asks: In your discussion of the Daniel Jones contract, you mentioned incentives. If Jones earns those incentives, do they go on the current years cap or are they deducted from next year’s cap? Or do they do nothing at all to the cap?

Ed says: Tom, that depends on the type of incentives. We have discussed ‘likely to be earned’ and ‘not likely to be earned’ incentives in the past. ‘Likely to be earned’ incentives are included in a team’s cap hit at the beginning of the year. So, if Daniel Jones has ‘likely to be earned incentives for 2023 they are included in his current cap hit. If he does not meet those, the value of those incentives is credited back to the team’s cap for the following season.

‘Not likely to be earned’ incentives do not count against the cap as they are considered unlikely to be achieved. If the player does earn those incentives the team’s salary cap for the following season is reduced by the amount of the incentives the player met.

Seth Weissman asks: Given the fact that the draft is considered to be flush with talent at tight end, I was a little surprised to see the deal for Waller, who is 30 years old. Do you think this means Schoen doesn’t plan to draft a tight end? And if so, and in light of Okereke’s signing and the loss of Gates, where do you expect the Giants to focus with their picks other than WR?

Ed says: Seth, I don’t think the trade for Darren Waller precludes the Giants from adding a tight end in the draft at all. I think it probably takes tight end off the table in Round 1, but there is no reason they wouldn’t take a tight end they really like somewhere in the middle to late portion of the draft. After all, under his current contract Waller could be one-and-done with the Giants if it doesn’t work out.

Where might the Giants focus? Cornerback, defensive line, offensive line, safety, maybe running back in the mid-rounds. They can do just about anything based on how they stack their draft board.

Keith Wilcox asks: I am curious to know how the Giants recent moves have changed your thoughts on their draft strategy. For instance, has it changed who they should go after at WR? Or even when they should draft a WR? From what I remember reading before the moves you seemed to prefer a bigger-bodied WR for the Giants. With Waller on board do you think guys like Flowers and Hyatt make more sense if they go for a WR in the first round? Do you think it makes more sense to draft a WR later in the draft and get someone like Mims or Dell?

Florian Cortese asks: Well, Joe Schoen and the front office have so far had a very busy, and in my opinion, productive off-season and free agency. They have begun to fill the list of known needs so far. The LB room has a great addition in Okereke, whose press conference was very impressive. Now we have him, just resigned Haddy, MacFadden, Beavers (coming off an ACL), Ojulari, and KT. Ximines so far remains a FA. With the huge addition of Waller, Slayton and Sheps resigning’s, the addition of Smith and Campbell, and the hopeful recovery of Wan’Dale, the Giants are beginning to build a nice receiving corp. This, I feel, gives the Giants a lot of options and flexibility come the Draft. I realize there may be some additions to come over the next few days and weeks. There are obviously still holes to fill. Putting on your GM hat, which way do you see the Giants going come the end of April.

Ed says: Keith and Florian, these questions are similar to Seth’s. Focused specifically on wide receiver, I certainly think it has to be in play. I’m not sure Joe Schoen ever really felt pressured to get a big wide receiver — at least he has said that didn’t matter. I do think it increases the chance the Giants would draft a smaller guy like Zay Flowers at No. 25 — if they really like the guy.

Tank Dell is really interesting. At 5-foot-8 and less than 170 pounds he would be a real outlier if he became a successful NFL wide receiver. The kid can play — and yet his size makes him a risk. DeVonta Smith is 170 pounds, but he is 6-foot. Yet, Dell has speed, he can separate and he can make plays when he has the ball in his hands. He also can return punts.

As for No. 25, it all depends who is there. They could go in several directions. Cornerback, offensive line, defensive line, safety all come to mind. An off-ball linebacker to pair with Bobby Okereke or a wide receiver if there is one they love at 25 might also still be possible. What the Giants have done this week has opened up the board, which is what teams try to accomplish in free agency.

Dugan Savoye asks: I have seen the talking heads all excited about the younger WR group the Giants have for next year. Exclude TE and the WR group is the same oft injured, pass dropping gang of nobody’s they had last year with Parris Campbell added. Everyone complained DJ had no one to throw to. What is Schoen doing? Why bring back Slayton when Campbell is same person, a 6-foot 4.3 speedster who actually catches the ball! (NO DROPS last year on 63 catches). Waller is great low risk-high reward but I am talking WR’s. Only Campbell is new- all others were same group we complained about (forget about the Jet practice squad guy). I cannot fathom why “Mr. Dropsie” Slayton was brought back.

Ed says: Dugan, read my Friday post on the receivers if you have not yet done so. Also, check out the YouTube video below. Both address this question.

Parris Campbell and Darius Slayton are not the same players. Neither are Campbell and Isaiah Hodgins.

If you want to talk about pass catcher, you CAN’T exclude Darren Waller. He was the big fish and will likely be the best pass-catcher the Giants have in 2023 if he is healthy.

At wide receiver, you have to face the reality that Sterling Shepard, Collin Johnson and Wan’Dale Robinson all had major injuries last season. Their availability early on has to be in question. So, depth was needed.

Campbell is a good player with upside on a one-year prove it contract. Slayton drops too many passes, but he is also the best deep threat of the wide receivers on a team that needed more, not less, of that.

Alex Kalb asks: Without trying to re-litigate Joe Schoen’s decision not to exercise Daniel Jones’ 5th year option or the value of Jones’ new contract, I am curious if you think, going forward, teams would be wiser to exercise the 5th year option for QBs under similar circumstances? Given the leverage even decent QBs end up with in contract negotiations, the market for QBs, and the value of the top third of QB contracts, it seems like the team would be better off giving the QB as long a ramp as possible at the smallest price and if the team truly becomes convinced that QB isn’t the solution, they have more of an opportunity to trade the QB for some assets in year four.

Ed says: Alex, I have said before that the Giants absolutely made the right decision to pass on Jones’ fifth-year option. I won’t change that stance now. Why commit that kind of money to a quarterback you aren’t sure of and have never worked with. Make him prove it.Now, if the GM and head coach have been in place for a while and they know they want to go forward with the quarterback exercising the option makes sense.

Ask Matt Rhule if he regrets the Carolina Panthers exercising Sam Darnold’s fifth-year option before Rhule had ever gotten Darnold on the field and watching him practice. I would think he wouls say they made a mistake.

Ronald Buchheim asks: Pat Leonard tweeted that he believes the Giants offered more than Seattle, but there was a persistent disconnect. Do you think there is any truth to that? Love has said that for the sake of his family he needs to accept the highest offer. So why wouldn’t he take the Giants supposedly higher offer? And what could persistent disconnect mean? I’m sorely disappointed to lose Love, who had a 70 PFF grade, compared with McKinney’s 57. The contract he signed with Seattle doesn’t seem exorbitant. Why do you think the giants lost him? And how will they replace such a good player?

Ed says: Ronald, if you have paid attention to what Joe Schoen has said the entire offseason I think you should be able to answer your own question. Schoen never said re-signing Julian Love was a priority. He consistently said there was depth in both free agency and the draft at safety.

I think “persistent disconnect” meant simply that Love and his representatives saw his ability and value one way, and the Giants did not see it the same way. Players want to be wanted, and I don’t think Love really felt wanted.

Love is a good player, and he was important to the Giants last season, but not a great player.

Bart Power asks: Read today’s article about how different the WR corps is now (which is great!). Maybe I missed something, but, I’m wondering why nobody is talking about about Richie James. When I look at his stats, he was tied with SB with 57 total receptions , was able to get good separation quite often, had an 81 percent catch rate, and seemed durable. To me, re-signing James would have been more logical than re-signing an injury prone Shepard. Love Shep’s love for the organization, but, he can’t stay on the field. I realize that there’s still time for movement regarding RJ, but just seems odd to me that he’s been shoved to the background.

Ed says: Bart, the reality is you can’t keep everybody. If you want to raise the ceiling and try to get better, you have to make some difficult choices. James had a good season, but he is not dynamic and until late in the season I recall writing on more than once occasion that much of his production was coming in garbage time of games.

I think what the Giants are telling us is that what they got from James last season was his ceiling, and they aren’t sure he can duplicate that. They see more upside with Parris Campbell and Darius Slayton, and I happen to agree.

As for Sterling Shepard, there are a lot of layers to this move. NFL front offices cannot allow sentimentality to rule their decisions, but I believe there is more to giving Shepard one more chance than what kind of player he is, or maybe no longer is.

First of all, Shepard’s deal is a one-year, $1.317 million deal with no guaranteed money. There is zero risk. If he can’t do it anymore the Giants are not on the hook for anything.

You have to understand what Shepard, the longest-tenured Giant, means to the organization and to the locker room, and how much he impressed Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll last season.

Did you see the pictures of Shepard on the sideline during games? Most injured players disappear. Shepard never went away. He was always in the locker room. When physically able he was out on the practice field. When Wan’Dale Robinson tore his ACL, it was Shepard who reached out gave him the low-down on what to expect and what the recovery process would entail.

Shepard remained an integral part of the 2022 Giants even though he could not get on the field. He wanted to try again, and wanted to do that as a Giant. Schoen talks a lot about the culture he wants to permeate the Giants, and Shepard exemplified it last season. What message would be sent to the locker room if Schoen blows Shepard off and refuses to give him a chance? He wrecks his own credibility because then players would see that all that culture talk as nothing more than empty words, and that players wouldn’t be rewarded for anything more than putting up numbers on the field.

Former GMs I have talked to have often mentioned to me that whenever you make a decision you have to take into account how it will play in the locker room. So, that is definitely part of the equation here.

David Wuebbens asks: I applaud some of these new free agent signing, but I wonder with some of the injuries of these last few years at MetLife Stadium, what to stop that from continuing into this season and into the future. What is being done to correct the playing field that the entire team has to play upon? Are we to witness another year of monumental amount of torn ACL, and other injuries?

Ed says: David, apparently you missed the news that the stadium turf is being replaced prior to next season. It is replaced every three or four years, and the last time was prior to the 2020 season. The type of turf is being changed to a newer model of synthetic surface.

As for injuries, it’s football and nothing can stop at least some players from getting hurt. Football players will tell you they all get hurt eventually.

Larry Jamieson asks: Given the signing of Campbell, the resigning of Slayton and Shepard, Hodgins already on board, and Wallen at TE, and given the state of the draft, is the concept of a true No. 1 receiver actually critical? Granted, if a top talent falls to the Giants, you grab him, but do we need to obsess over having a No. 1 WR in 2023?

Ed says: No. Larry, I think I have said this but as long as he is healthy the No. 1 will be Waller. You need as many good receivers as you can get, but No. 1 guys don’t grow on trees. The Waller deal gave the Giants their No. 1.

John M Scott asks: 2-years, $12 million seems like a bargain for a player like Julian Love. Do you think the Giants should have retained him for that? Or was their decision to let him walk more about their belief in Dane Belton to fill that role?

Ed says: John, I don’t think this was about Belton. If you recall, Belton rarely saw the field the second half of last season. As I indicated above, I think this was just about the player and the team not seeing the player’s value the same way. I think Joe Schoen believes he can find what he needs at safety for a lower price if free agency, or in the draft.

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