EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When the Giants took Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the NFL draft, it wasn't just a declaration that they were all-in on Eli Manning, it was their way of punting their search for Manning's successor into the future. They believed that somehow, some way, they'd find their heir apparent somewhere down the line.
It sounded so easy. Of course, don't try telling that to teams like the Jets.
Now maybe the Giants won't need 50 years to find their next franchise quarterback, but now that they have no choice but to begin the search, the truth is it likely won't be easy at all. They learned that the hard way back when they cut Phil Simms after the 1993 season, and suffered through Dave Brown, Kent Graham, Danny Kanell and even Tommy Maddox before they lucked into Kerry Collins in 1999.
How can they avoid another stretch of suffering? Maybe they can't. It's hard to know. But here's a look at how they might try to replace Manning as quickly as possible, and some of the obstacles they will face:
A trade before the deadline (Oct. 30)
First of all, there are no franchise-caliber quarterbacks that are going to be available in a trade. There is no Jimmy Garoppolo out there, stuck behind a star, that everyone thinks will be good if he only gets a chance. Maybe the closest is Jacoby Brissett, a 24-year-old who was OK in Indianapolis last season. But even if he was available (and with Andrew Luck's injury history, he might not be), the Giants probably would be better off giving Kyle Lauletta a shot and taking their chance on finding someone else in the offseason.
There's no point in going after 30-somethings (or close) like Nick Foles and Sam Bradford. They'd be short-term fixes anyway, and the Giants can probably do better. As for the most interesting name out there -- New Orleans' Teddy Bridgewater -- he'll be a free agent in March, so why give up a draft pick to rent him in a lost season?
Free agency (starting March 13)
The Kirk Cousins bidding war last offseason between the Vikings and Jets was unusual because franchise quarterbacks almost never hit free agency. And that's mostly true again for this coming offseason, unless someone considers Tyrod Taylor, Geno Smith or Brock Osweiler a franchise quarterback.
The notable exception: Bridgewater, a 25-year-old former Pro Bowler who returned from a devastating knee injury and looked pretty good for the Jets this summer. The problem, of course, is the price of quarterbacks is ridiculously high. Cousins got $87 million fully guaranteed from the Vikings and was offered $90 million fully guaranteed from the Jets even though he's … you know, Kirk Cousins.
Bridgewater won't get that much, but the Giants don't have a ton of cap space. Right now, Overthecap.com projects them to have about $14 million. Of course they can create some by cutting some players. For what it's worth, cutting Manning would clear about $17 million in cap room. So they certainly could squeeze Bridgewater in if they want.
The NFL Draft (the first round is on April 25)
The good news is the Giants are heading for a Top 5 pick again. In fact, right now they'd be No. 1 overall. The other good news is that there aren't a lot of teams in the market for a quarterback, so they might have their pick of QBs in the draft even if they mess up and win a few games down the stretch.
The bad news? Generally this quarterback class isn't as highly regarded as last year's class. That could change, of course, and it's not a universal feeling, but it's the general feeling. The consensus top quarterback in the class appears to be Oregon's Justin Herbert. The second choice seems to be Missouri's Drew Lock.
Projecting them this far out is impossible, but given how high the Giants seem likely to be picking, they really will have no choice. They have to draft a quarterback and hope he turns out to be good. Then the question becomes about when to play him -- and whether Manning will be there to guide him along.
Develop their own
This is always a dicey proposition, taking a mid-round quarterback and hoping to turn him into a prospect. Sure, there are always exceptions like Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, but far more mid-round quarterbacks miss than hit. It's more dicey with Lauletta, who a year ago went 6-5 with the Richmond Spiders against the likes of Colgate, Albany, Stony Brook and Villanova -- not exactly the SEC.
Maybe Lauletta will surprise everyone. The important thing here is the Giants have to find out. They need to learn their lesson from last season and absolutely take a look at him in a game this year so they know what they have before heading into the draft. They made a big mistake not at least looking at Davis Webb last year.
And by the way, it sure would've been nice to have Webb on the roster right now instead of Alex Tanney, so the Giants had two young, potential heirs to develop. Of course they could always sign him off the Jets practice squad if they want -- assuming he'd even want to come back.