EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Giants have always wanted to strike a long-term deal with Odell Beckham, and they've always understood the cost will be incredibly expensive. There's no way around that with the man who almost certainly will be the highest-paid receiver in the league.
But can the Giants really afford to give Beckham a five-year deal worth $90 million or more, with perhaps as much as $60 million guaranteed? And how much will that hurt them under the salary cap, both now and in future years?
"It could be a little complicated, but it's definitely workable," one NFL agent told SNY. "Teams can always find room under the salary cap if they really want to. And the salary cap is always going up."
That last part is very true, and perhaps key to adding any long-term contract - even one like the monster deal Beckham is expected to get. The NFL salary cap in 2011, the first year of the current collective bargaining agreement, was $120 million. This year it's $177.2 million - an increase in seven years of nearly 50%. The cap is up 6% ($10.2 million) just in the last year. It figures to be around $190 million in 2019 and top the $200 million barrier in 2020.
That alone will create the room the Giants need for Beckham in the future, and so they can conduct their other business (like doing the same with safety Landon Collins who is in the final year of his deal). But there are other factors they'll have to consider, too. After all, Beckham's deal will likely include a year or two where his cap hit is around $20 million.
That's a lot. But based on interviews with several NFL agents, it shouldn't be a big problem. Here are some of the reasons why a Beckham mega-deal will turn out to be more affordable in the long run than it seems.
It would actually help with the cap this year. Beckham is currently scheduled to make $8.459 million this year, which is also his current cap hit. But with a new deal they could lower his salary to under $1 million, which he'd accept because he'd also get a huge signing bonus, maybe $20-30 million. Since the signing bonus gets pro-rated over the life of the deal for cap purposes, they could actually create maybe $2 million in cap space, maybe more. And that's big, because right now the Giants only have a league-low $803,931 in cap room available - which won't be enough to get them through the season.
The Giants have some cap room in future years, and plenty of ability to create more. They are currently projected to have $30.4 million in cap space in 2019, according to Overthecap.com, though that's with only 45 players under contract. They also project to have $70 million in 2020, but with only 29 players under contract. Those are very early numbers, obviously, and will change, but it shows they have some room to maneuver.
Also, they have several expensive players who are not likely to still be on the books in those seasons. Depending on how they play this year, CB Janoris Jenkins, LB Olivier Vernon and DT Damon Harrison could all be cap casualties in either of those years. Cutting Jenkins alone, for example, would add $9.25 million in cap space in 2019 and $13.25 million in 2020. Cutting Vernon would add $11.5 million and $19.5 million. Harrison is not as expensive, but cutting him in 2020 would save $9.25 million.
That's not to say the Giants will cut any of them, but the option is there. Oh, and there's one more …
Eli Manning's massive contract ends after the 2019 season. The Giants' highest-paid player is due to count for $23.2 million against the 2019 cap, and then that's it. And with Davis Webb signed through 2020, the earliest the Giants will have to worry about committing big money to a quarterback again is 2021 (or 2022 if Kyle Lauletta turns out to be Manning's successor).
There's also another option one agent brought up. Eli Manning will be 39 when his contract expires. What if Webb or Lauletta aren't ready and Manning is playing well? Conceivably the Giants could give him a short-term extension so he could play one more season (or maybe two). That complicates things, but it would give the Giants a chance to restructure his deal and lower his salary cap number in 2019.
The bottom line: Even if Beckham gets what he wants - and that's believed to be a $100 million over five years - it shouldn't drastically affect what the Giants do in the future. They may have some tough decisions to make, but as players get older and nearer to the end of their contracts, they were going to have to make those decisions anyway. It would actually be more restrictive for the Giants if they were forced to use the franchise tag on Beckham in 2019 - at a cost of somewhere between $17-20 million, depending on whether they used the exclusive or non-exclusive tag. So a lucrative, long-term contract structured the right way, would actually be beneficial for the Giants - as long as Beckham remains the great player he's been so far in his career.