The Giants are set to pay Eli Manning $16.5 million this season and his salary cap hit is a robust $23.2 million. That seems excessive for a 38-year-old quarterback of a team that's shedding its stars and is clearly rebuilding for the future.
But the Giants still plan to keep Manning for the 2019 season. And at the moment, it appears they'll be paying him all that money, too.
The stunning trade of Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns on Tuesday did not alter any of those plans, multiple sources have told SNY. Manning is still expected to be the Giants' starting quarterback at the start of training camp, at the very least. And there is no indication at all that they'll attempt to cut his pay.
Of course, GM Dave Gettleman has sent a loud and clear message in recent days that no one is truly safe on the Giants' roster. In the span of a few days he let his best defensive back (Landon Collins) go, traded his best pass rusher (Olivier Vernon) and his top playmaker and biggest star (Beckham). And even though head coach Pat Shurmur said "He's back" about Manning two weeks ago at the combine, Gettleman never actually went that far.
So yes, anything is possible. But no, the end of the Manning Era isn't expected just yet. He is due a $5 million roster bonus on Sunday, to go with his $11.5 million salary, and by Monday morning that bonus check from the Giants is expected to clear.
Why would the Giants keep Manning at his age, and in the final year of his contract, after dumping Beckham, Collins and Vernon -- not to mention cornerback Eli Apple and defensive tackle Damon Harrison back in October? Wouldn't it make sense to cut Manning and clear $17 million in much-needed cap space, rather than keep a declining player who counts for 12.3 percent of the Giants' cap?
In a vacuum, clearing that cap room would make sense, and sticking with an aging quarterback on a rebuilding team would not. But the Giants' problem is still the same as it's been at quarterback: They don't have a better option. They passed on the available quarterbacks in the last draft when they took running back Saquon Barkley No. 2 overall. And they were not interested in paying $22 million per year for a 30-year-old Nick Foles or taking a chance on Teddy Bridgewater's reconstructed knee.
Their intention, as Gettleman clearly stated at the combine, is to use "the Kansas City model" with their quarterback of the future -- meaning acquire a young quarterback (through the draft or via a trade) and have him sit for a year behind Manning before taking the reins in 2020.
That leaves Manning playing the role of mentor while captaining what seems to be a sinking ship -- assuming he wants to stick around after seeing the Giants' recent firesale-like moves. There's a decent chance the Giants will draft his eventual replacement either with the sixth or 17th pick in the upcoming draft. They could also trade for Arizona quarterback Josh Rosen, a Top 10 pick from a year ago who may be available if the Cardinals decide to take Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray No. 1 overall.
There's also a chance the Giants will go in another direction and wait to select their Quarterback of the Future until the 2020 draft. That seems less likely, but if it happens the Giants would likely still move on from Manning at the end of the season and bring in a low-cost veteran to be a placeholder until the rookie quarterback is ready to go.
For the present, though, Manning remains the Giants' best option. And since he's in the last year of his contract, a simple restructuring to lower his cap hit isn't possible unless the Giants add years onto his deal. That is not something they appear willing to do at the moment, nor is it something Manning would likely agree to do without some sort of guarantee.
So that leaves the Giants right where they've been -- with Manning at the helm at a cost of $23.2 million in salary cap space. It may not be ideal for a franchise that is starting over, but it's a reality that is not expected to change.