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Will the Giants have the cap space to be big players in free agency?

Giants Brian Daboll
New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll reacts after an NFL wild card football game against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, in Minneapolis. The Giants won 31-24.
AP Photo/Abbie Parr

After a successful first season under the leadership of general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll, the New York Giants head into the offseason with a lot of optimism but also a lot of ground to make up. 

There’s a talent gap there that we need to close,” said Schoen in his postseason press conference on Monday. However, the general manager is excited about what this offseason holds for the Giants. 

“To have financial flexibility, nine draft picks, to be able to devise a plan where you have a little bit more flexibility and resources, I’m definitely excited about that.”  

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The financial flexibility he’s referring to is that, according to Over the Cap, the Giants currently have $52.25 million in cap space for 2023. That figure includes $3.8 million in dead cap and $3 million in rollover space and is based on an estimated $225 million NFL salary cap in 2023.

The exact cap figure will not be known until the NFL announces it in early March.

So with all that cap space, the Giants will surely be big players in the free agent market, right? Well, not so fast. 

Schoen also stated multiple times during the press conference that the Giants’ priority would be retaining their own free agents first: “We’re in a unique situation in that we have some players that are upcoming that were drafted here previously before we came here that played well. Again, it just comes down to how we want to divvy [the resources] up.”

But the Giants’ new management team feels that there is an advantage to retaining players who you know. 

“The good thing about extending people in-house [is that] you know their work ethic. You know their durability. You know their injury history. You know how they train. You know how they practice. So, in terms of eliminating some of the margin for error, it’s a known commodity.”

Ideally to me, the known commodities that are good football players that you know, that’s going to be our priority first. And then we’ll look outside the building, if we need to, to supplement the roster.”

So if the Giants are prioritizing signing their own first, who will that be and how much of the cap space will that eat up?

Obviously, the first person to retain will be Daniel Jones. We’ve reported a few times that the Giants have been clear about their desire to bring Jones back. But how much could that cost?  

For comparison’s sake, Ryan Tannehill makes $30 million per year, and Jared Goff is making $33.5 million per year. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Daniel Jones belongs in the same salary range as those signal-callers, if not higher.

However, Spotrac has Jones’ market value of $26.2 million average annual salary. If the Giants were able to make it work for that much, it would leave them with $28.25 million in cap space for 2023. 

Next comes Saquon Barkley. 

The Giants have also made it clear they want Saquon back, but Schoen also was clear to add, “if it works add.”

Again, the positional value,” continued Schoen when asked, “we’ll get into how we want to build this team and allocate our resources. That’s what it comes down to…it goes back to we have certain cap space, and we have certain tools at our disposal. We’ll figure out how we want to utilize them.”  

When Schoen mentions “tools” that the Giants can use, he could be alluding to the franchise tag. Given that the Giants and Saquon were not close on value earlier in the season, it might make sense for the Giants to have Saquon play on the franchise tag for one season given his past injury concerns. 

Spotrac’s calculated market value for Saquon Barkley is $11.9 million per season on a four-year deal, which is just under what guys like Aaron Jones and Nick Chubb are making. It would be a team-friendly deal for Barkley, who is younger than those other running backs and has shown higher highs as a player. 

Or the Giants could use the franchise tag on Saquon, which would be $10.1 million and would leave them with $18.15 million in cap space. 

Joe Schoen also made it clear that one of the players he wants to bring back is Julian Love.

Julian knows how we feel about him. We had a  good exit interview with him yesterday. Again, as we start to get into the offseason planning, we’ll talk to the coaches. We’ll see where he fits in. And if we can get something done, that’ll be good.”  

According to Sportrac, Love’s market value is about $7.9 million per year, which would leave the Giants with $10.25 in cap space. 

Isaiah Hodgins is also an exclusive-rights free agent and seems like a lock to return given how good he was for the Giants after being claimed of the Bills’ practice squad. His salary would be $940,000 next year, which puts the Giants at just $9.31 million in cap space. 

They would still have to decide whether or not to re-sign Jaylon Smith, Jon Feliciano, Landon Collins, Darius Slayton, Richie James, Oshane Ximines, and Matt Breida. The decisions on those players could decide just how much money the Giants have left to bring in players from outside the building. 

Yet, another factor is that team could also look to lock up Dexter Lawrence long-term even though he would be under contract next year after the team picks up his fifth-year rookie option.

Schoen alluded to this in the press conference when he said, “Dexter played well, and we’ve got him under the fifth-year option. And that’ll be part of our end-of-season review in terms of how we want to approach that.”

Depending on how much money the Giants use to lock up their free agents, they may decide the time is right to extend Lawrence on a long-term deal and not risk losing him in free agency at the end of the season. That would make the pool of money for outside free agents even smaller. 

Considering Schoen couched his plans to bring in outside free agents by saying “if we need to,” it appears to be a safe assumption that Giants’ fans shouldn’t expect the team to make major acquisitions in the offseason. This is an organization that wants to dance with the ones who brought them. Now it’s just about whether those players want to dance again as well. 

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Giants safety Julian Love
New York Giants safety Julian Love (20) celebrates with Dane Belton (24) after intercepting a pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, in Arlington, Texas.AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

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