On franchise tags.....None of the free agents are franchise-worthy.
Will Eli restructure to help out?
The only way that Eli can restructure is to:
1) take less money and he's not overpaid so why would he?
2) Take a signing bonus that will extend into his decline (e.g. do a 7 year deal) which would kill the Giants if they cut him when he's old. Not the Giants way to create future headaches like that. He could shave a few bucks off but not much....Unlikely (JF)
Things are not horrible. Remember - if the cap is flat, it's flat for everyone which means fewer dollars chasing free agents. Also, the cap is not use it or lose it so if you are not close to being a playoff team, it makes sense to be under the cap and save dollars for future years.
QB - set
O-line is fine without Kareem. They have 7 guys and will draft another like they do every year. Likely a tackle.
RB - set at 1 and 3. Either Brown will step up or they'll pick someone up (or keep Jacobs at a reduced rate). Other than the top guys, RBs are fungible to a great extent in any case. Running the ball is mostly about the OLine.
WR - Nicks/Cruz are a great 1/2 and either Jernigan or Barden will step up at 3 or they'll sign whichever veteran slips through to be a #3 (e.g. Steve Smith if he's healthy).
TE - biggest hole. I think that they'll pick someone in round 1 or 2, depending on perception of value.
D-Line - set at DT and DE (3 each) need depth so they'll likely add one here and/oror re-sign Tollefson/Bernard. There are a lot of tweener DE/LB guys who they might pick up in round 1 or 2 if they fall. Remember Osi and Kiwi are tweeners in terms of size/approach (more speed than bulk/strength).
LB - lots of guys here. Kiwi, Jones, Boley, Herzlich, Paysinger, Williams, Blackburn. My guess Sintim is cut or renegotiated as he's not worth $1 million. Might add depth in the draft here. Might add Goff as a 1/2 down guy although playing nickel all year didn't seem to hurt much.
Secondary - If they re-sign Thomas, they have a good 1,2,3 and Witherspoon will be back. Safety is fine at starter with Sash a decent backup unless they can't cut a deal with Rolle and he walks. A safety pick would not surprise me if there is value here when the Giants pick at some point.
Trading Osi changes all of this, of course as they will be short depth-wise at either SAM or DE depending on what they do with Kiwi. That would require drafting a new pass rusher.
The Giants might want to throw a new deal at Cruz and/or Nicks. Not required with 2 years left but might.
I can see doing say 5 years for Cruz $5mm signing bonus, salaries of $500k, 1.5, 5, 6, 7, maybe first 3 years guaranteed. Incremental salary cap hit of only $1.0 in 2012 ($500k salary plus $5mm/5). $12 million guaranteed is not an insult for a guy with 1 year of experience. (He'll want more -JF)
You could do a similar deal with Nicks although at slightly higher rates. (Probably won't happen this year - JF)