Team Giants


Special Report

Sent: 07-03-15

Dave Klein was the Giants' beat writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls. Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.


By Aaron Klein
The rumblings, during these quiet days before training camp, continue on the subject of quarterback Eli Manning and his final contract year.

The player publicly says he's ready to play out his contract and that he's not the least bit worried that something will get done.

The team has not wavered from its position, publicly, that Manning will retire as a Giant and that the delay is merely business and a way to maneuver the tricky salary cap.

There has been plenty of public talk that the two sides could very well begin negotiations at any moment, negotiations that aren't expected to be contentious or drawn out or difficult.

And yet, some are beginning to wonder if the 2015 season will be Manning's last with the team.

For the sake of argument, let's say that deep in the bowels of the Giants' home office, owner John Mara, general manager Jerry Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin (is this his last year?) are talking about "Easy" Eli and his future with the team. Part of that conversation would be simple: He's going to cost a lot of money to retain, especially at 35, and that would hamstring the team for the next several seasons.

And it does make sense, regardless of the two Super Bowl rings, the two Super Bowl MVPs and the multiple 4,000-yard seasons in two different offensive systems. Money is always a key ingredient to building and maintaining a winning program.

The other part of the conversation would be significantly more difficult: If not Eli, then who?

Ah-ha. There's the rub, isn't it?

Is it Ryan Nassib? We have no way of knowing, no point of reference. However, if the team is still unsure about Nassib's future, they're going to find out this year. Somehow.

Is it next year's first-round draft choice? Well, it might be, but talk about too early to tell. There are a slew of talented seniors getting ready for the 2015 NCAA season, but we don't know how they'll perform, if they'll stay healthy or if some firecracker underclassman will burst onto the scene sometime between September and May. Besides, the best quarterbacks with the ability to carry a franchise (don't start with Tom Brady, Joe Montana, etc.) are usually drafted in the first half of the first round. That's the rule, not the exception.

I know you want some names to ponder, so here are a few of the top seniors at this time: Michigan State's Connor Cook; USC's Cody Kessler; Stanford's Kevin Hogan; Mississippi State's Dak Prescott; and Indiana's Nate Sudfeld. Just some names. All seniors, and for now just prospects. Penn State's Christian Hackenberg, Ohio State's Cardale Jones and Cincinnati's Gunner Kiel lead the underclassmen who might enter the draft.

None of us, especially early in the summer, know what any of those kids can really do. Sure, some have flashed here and there and some are already superb college athletes. It's just that one can never know about the professional future of a guy still playing college ball. So, it's just not fair to ask if you want Hackenberg or Cook or Hogan to take over for Eli Manning ... and you couldn't answer that, anyway.

That voice (or voices?) in your head may be asking about free agency/trades of current NFL veterans. Sure, there's always that possibility. Trades for franchise quarterbacks, of course, rarely happen, though a deal for a capable, placeholder-type player isn't out of the question.

Let Manning walk and sign a free agent next year?

As of now (according to, Eli, Phillip Rivers (forever tied), Russell Wilson, Sam Bradford, Matt Cassel, Drew Stanton, Chad Henne, Matt Schaub and Ryan Fitzpatrick are slated to be Unrestricted Free Agents in 2016. Sure, there are more, young guys like Kirk Cousins, Brock Osweiler, Nick Foles and T.J. Yates, but many of them are likely to re-sign with their current clubs and the ones that don't, well, there may be a reason for their availability.

Which one of those free agents would you like? Wilson, Cousins, Foles and Osweiler appear to be the best young veterans, but Foles is probably the least likely to come free next year unless he really tanks in St. Louis. The Rams, it appears, are in love. Cousins and Osweiler have been behind starters and while Washington could be willing to blow up the depth chart and let Cousins walk, Denver probably won't let Osweiler go since they may be looking at the last season of Peyton Manning, the big brother.

Wilson? It's hard to imagine the Seattle Seahawks parting ways with the player who helped get the team to two consecutive Super Bowls, winning the first in the process. Still, the negotiations, while in the early stages, aren't going well yet as he reportedly wants to be the highest paid quarterback in the NFL. What he has working against him is that, while he's a special player, he may not be a good fit for just any offense. However, he might be a good fit for the Giants' West Coast-style offense, assuming the staff is still in place in 2016.

Go with an older veteran? Who? Bradford? Cassel? Schaub? Fitzpatrick? Yeah, right.

The Giants are in a tough spot. If they don't want to re-sign Manning, they have few if any legitimate options with which to replace him. If they do re-sign him, it will have to be a short-term deal with delicately structured guarantees so as not to tie up, say, 30 percent of the salary cap in one player's contract. But Manning and agent Tom Condon are notoriously understanding and willing to negotiate, but they are not pushovers and may not be willing to sign a one- or two-year deal.

Money says the Giants will re-sign Manning, assuming that's what he wants, and let him play out his career in a blue jersey. Sure, Wilson or Foles would probably be great free agency signings while a player like Henne or Fitzpatrick would be merely decent placeholders, pieces of duct tape. Going the way of the draft would be a prudent move, even a smart one, but that's the kind of move that requires time to take root. Maybe Nassib can be the bridge if Manning is indeed entering his season.

Maybe not.

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