Landon Collins and Odell Beckham Jr. are both multiple Pro Bowl selections. The teammates are also very much a part of the New York Giants’ foundation that is expected to be in place for the next several years.
Barring something unexpected happening in 2018, both are also set to be unrestricted free agents after the 2018 season.
Yikes ... make that double yikes!
Under former Giants general manager Jerry Reese, extending a player’s contract before it ran out was as much of a rarity as making a draft-day trade in the first three rounds.
In fact, the last such player to have his contract extended before it expired was quarterback Eli Manning in 2015.
Reese, of course, is long gone, replaced by Dave Gettleman, who, in his tenure as the general manager of the Carolina Panthers, has actually has signed players whom he viewed as a cornerstone of the franchise to extensions that weren’t quarterbacks, such linebacker Luke Kuechly, who inked a 5-year, $62 million contract extension in 2015 and defensive tackle Kawann Short, who signed a 5-year, $80 million extension last April.
Barring something totally crazy happening, both Collins and Beckham will get their respective paydays. But with both under contract for 2018, might Gettleman look to extend one of the Giants young budding stars this year?
Such a move wouldn’t be surprising at all given his history and appreciation of talent. The question is which of Collins and Beckham will get his pot o’ gold first?
The Giants projected cap situation — per Over the Cap, they are currently estimated to have $23,331,735 in effective cap space once the Top 51 rule kicks in on the first day of the new league year (and again, this projection does not take into consideration any potential cuts, restructures, rollover, or postseason accounting adjustments).
Given that the Giants have quite a few needs including linebacker, offensive tackle, cornerback and receiver, barring a massive gutting of the roster, it would be a major challenge to extend both this year.
If they have to pick one, the choice that for this year makes the most sense is Collins.
Why not Beckham?
Because Beckham is a first-round pick who had the option year in his rookie deal picked up last year, he will soon be locked in for a pay bump from the $1,839,027 base salary he made in 2017 to a more respectable $8.459 million base salary in 2018.
While all rookies are required to sign four-year deals out of the draft, teams have the option to pick up a fifth-year option on first-round picks. In that case, the fifth year’s salary is guaranteed for injury when employed. For the 2014 draft class, that fifth season will be 2018, or the one after next.
(For those wondering how the salary is calculated in the option year, the top 10 selections receive a salary equal to the average of the 10 highest salaries at their position, similar to how the transition tag is calculated. Picks 11-32 receive a salary that is the average of the third through 25th highest salaries at the position.)
Beckham’s 2018 cap figure currently puts him as the 20th highest paid receiver in terms of 2018 cap figure. It’s not ideal, but it certainly corrects the disgrace from 2017 in which Beckham’s $3,311,063 was only slightly ahead of teammate Dwayne Harris’ $3.3 million cap figure.
Team co-owner John Mara has expressed numerous times that he would like Beckham to be a Giant for life.
Most recently, during the Pat Shurmur introductory press conference, Mara was again asked about Beckham.
“We will deal with that at the appropriate time. That is not necessarily right now,” Mara said. “I’ve said before many times that we want him to be a Giant. We will get something done at some point. I first want Pat to sit down with him and for them to have a good understanding of how we are going to act going forward. I have a lot of confidence that it will work out well, but we’ll see.”
Whether Beckham will become the league’s highest-paid player might be too ambitious a goal, not because he isn’t deserving of such a raise, but because of some other cap ramifications I’ll touch upon in a moment.
The Giants would be wise to wait on extending Beckham in 2018. The receiver, remember, is coming off a season-ending ankle injury. While early indications look extremely encouraging as far as him making a complete recovery, enthusiasm needs to be tapered because it wasn’t too long ago that the same optimism existed when Victor Cruz was attempting his comeback from a torn patellar.
Even though the injuries are different, Beckham, remember, had surgery for his injury. The chances of him passing a physical between now and say the beginning of April, which is usually when the bulk of the spending is done by teams, would be touch-and-go—he would likely have to be cleared to run and cut as opposed to just running straight ahead.
Even if he does pass a physical early, it’s probably not a stretch to assume the Giants medical staff will limit his participation during the spring OTAs as they eye a training camp return for the receiver.
If Beckham’s recovery stays on track and he doesn’t develop any setbacks and he goes on to be the Odell we all know and love, the Giants could apply the franchise tag on the receiver in 2019 absent striking a new long-term deal after the 2018 season.
While the franchise tag to keep Beckham would be astronomical—Over the Cap projects the 2018 franchise tag tender for receivers to be $16.465 million so the 2019 tag will be even higher—there are a few things the Giants may have in their favor that will make absorbing that hit easier in 2019.
The top factor will be that some of the big-money guys who have guaranteed money in 2018 will not have that in 2019. This includes guys like defensive end Olivier Vernon, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, defensive tackle Damon Harrison and tight end Rhett Ellison.
When a player’s guaranteed money expires, that makes it a bit easier (assuming both sides are willing) to lower the cap number for that year via a restructure.
If the player’s production isn’t living up to his contract or is no longer a fit for what the team wants to do, the team can also move on from him.
For example, if the Giants decide that Ellison is no longer a fit for what they want to do, they could cut him pre-June 1 for a $3.25 million savings and a $2.5 million dead-money hit.
The bottom line is with extra money freed up, the Giants should have more than enough in 2019 to take care of Beckham either way which is why it makes sense to wait.
Ask Pat: Clarifying the suggestion to “extend” Eli Manning
In looking at the comments, there are a few people who aren’t clear why I suggested the Giants “extend” Eli Manning’s deal by a year.
To be clear, the extension isn’t a true extension in the same way as, say for example, extending Landon Collins or Odell Beckham Jr.
The proposed one-year extension is designed to alleviate the cap stress that a potential restructuring of Manning’s 2018 creates.
The best example I can think of that illustrates how this tactic was put into play was in 2013 when the Giants signed tight end Brandon Myers in 2013.
Per the historical contract records at Spotrac, Myers’ Giants deal consisted of four years with a signing bonus of $1.5 million.
Years 2-4 of that deal contained a $4 million base salary per year which made it obvious that the deal was actually a one-year contract.
So why even bother adding in the extra years? To alleviate the cap hit and spread the signing bonus out. When Myers contract was voided after 2013, he only cost the Giants $1.125 million in dead money when his deal was voided after the 2013 season.
If the Giants are going to take a wait-and-see with Beckham in 2018—which again makes sense—they can save themselves a major headache by taking care of Collins before he gets a sniff of free agency after the upcoming season.
Collins, unlike Beckham, is a second-round draft pick whose rookie deal not only ends after the 2018 season, but which also doesn’t include an option year (that’s reserved only for first-round picks).
Like Beckham, Collins is also coming off a season-ending injury. However, Collins’ season-ending injury was to his arm.
Assuming the high ankle sprain he dealt with for most of 2017 fully heals, Collins should be as good as new and with no restrictions on his activity when the OTAs begin.
There is another reason behind why it makes sense to take care of Collins now and wait on Beckham: Collins should be “cheaper” to sign long-term than Beckham.
To explain what I mean by “cheaper,” let’s use some numbers from Over the Cap that breaks down the positional spending by team at each position.
Averaging the totals out, teams end up spending $17,827,340 on their receiver units versus $11,124,541 on their safeties.
Now let’s compare the league’s current top-paid receiver and safety. Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown is the top-paid receiver whose current contract averages out to $17 million per year. Kansas City’s Eric Berry, the top-paid safety, has a $13 million per year average cap number.
Still not convinced? Let’s look at the Giants’ current top-10 biggest cap hits and see what kind of effect they have on what the Giants may or may not be able to do.
Excluding Beckham, as things currently stand right now, Jason Pierre-Paul, Damon Harrison, Ereck Flowers and Eli Apple (assuming his suspension didn’t change things) all have guaranteed money coming to them in their respective 2018 base salaries.
Eli Manning, as I’ve previously noted, has a $5 million roster bonus due on March 16, per Spotrac. Once that bonus is paid out, the Giants become invested in keeping him since it doesn’t make sense to cut a player to whom you have given a roster bonus.
As for Oliver Vernon, per Spotrac, $12M of his 2018 salary ($12.75 million) becomes guaranteed on March 16 as well.
If the Giants are to address the offensive line, linebackers, cornerbacks and any other position that Dave Gettleman feels he needs to address via free agency, and if the Giants are going to hang on to the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, they will not have enough money to take care of Collins AND Beckham with extensions this year.
Final thoughts regarding Beckham
There is a scenario where the Giants can tweak Beckham’s 2018 cap figure to push him closer to the top-10 paid receivers in the NFL if they want.
However, I don’t see this happening. His injury and their recent experiences with Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz’s injuries and how the optimism that all three of those guys would be able to bounce back and pick up where they left off pre-injury only to see the opposite happen—likely has the Giants as being gun-shy to hand deliver a mega deal to a receiver coming off a broken ankle.
There is also the unacceptability issue. Shurmur made it crystal clear that he wants to get to know what makes Beckham tick and that he is also not going to give preferential treatment to anyone. The question then becomes can Beckham still be Beckham while operating within the lines set by the head coach?
While we wait to find out the answer — and there is optimism that it will all work out — the most likely scenario is the Giants will let Beckham play out 2018 and see how he looks. If he bounces back, the Giants can always franchise Beckham in 2019 absent reaching a long-term deal.
An early glance into the 2019 team cap picture shows fewer top-10 guys with guaranteed money which gives the team some options, depending, of course, on each situation.
Also, if the Giants don’t rework Eli Manning’s contract, they could, assuming they are able to identify their quarterback of the future and if they feel comfortable turning over the reins to that individual in 2019, choose to part ways with Manning and use his $17 million pre-June 1 savings toward Beckham’s first-year cap figure if they do indeed plan to make him the highest paid player at his position.