The New York Giants will encounter a severe challenge prior to the 2013 season. With the Giants immersed in a salary cap conundrum, general manager Jerry Reese will be tasked with improving a roster on limited resources.
The state of uncertainty surrounding Big Blue will be rectified in the manner Jerry Reese knows best.
New York's exploits in recent years emanate from the fact that the front office rarely strays from the path. Reese and his cohorts have a system, and it typically works.
Despite currently being an estimated $4.7 million over the cap for 2013, the Giants will stick to the script in an attempt to accrue much-needed flexibility.
History tells us to expect these types of decisions to be made before the 2013 season commences:
Restructure Eli Manning's Contract
The ability to free cap space by restructuring a quarterback's contract should not be taken for granted. Make no mistake about it: This is a luxury for the Giants.
Eli Manning is the perfect candidate to execute this move.
Manning is third all time in consecutive starts at the quarterback position (135) and is slated to make $13 million in 2013. The Giants have seen the benefits of this tactic before, restructuring their offensive captain's deal prior to the 2012 season.
When you couple Manning's resume as an iron man (few would have thought this adjective would be used to describe him back in 2004), with his large contract, it makes perfect sense to guarantee the majority of his salary upfront.
Organizations want to be assured the players they restructure are durable.
It's inconceivable to count on most veterans to reliably execute this maneuver. For instance, Chris Canty would be a nice candidate when you consider his cap figure. Factor in his perpetual knee issues, however, and the Giants will be reluctant to take any chances
Trim the Fat
Since 2011 the Giants offensive line has undergone major changes. Two years ago the Giants cut ties with Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert, followed up by the departure of Kareem McKenzie last year.
Unfortunately for David Diehl, history is not on his side.
The Giants may have to piecemeal at the right tackle position as a result of this move. Even so, it will be difficult to overlook Diehl's decline on the field and his $4 million salary.
Make an Impact Signing
New York has never been the type to throw money at its problems. However, it's had its fair share of success in the free-agent market.
In March of 2005 and 2010 respectively, the Giants successfully courted Plaxico Burress and Antrel Rolle. Big Blue is due to make a splash in March of this calendar year.
While Sebastian Vollmer of the New England Patriots is an intriguing option to replace David Diehl, New York's focus will primarily be on defense this offseason.
Philip Wheeler would be an astounding acquisition for Jerry Reese.
Wheeler recorded a career-best 109 tackles and 3.0 sacks for Oakland in 2012. The speed and athleticism this linebacker boasts would be an enormous upgrade from that of Chase Blackburn.
If the market for Philip Wheeler begins to heat up, a practical second option could be Erin Henderson of the Minnesota Vikings.
Allow Bennett to Walk
Take a minute to indulge in a game of "Guess the Giants tight end from the past three years."
Player A: 38 receptions, 604 yards, 4 touchdowns
Player B: 55 receptions, 626 yards, 5 touchdowns
Player C: 35 receptions, 531 yards, 5 touchdowns
You would be right if you guessed Martellus Bennett (B) was sandwiched between Jake Ballard (A) and Kevin Boss (C).
Bennett was worth every penny of his $2.5 million salary in his first season with New York. It remains very unclear whether he will be able to meet the expectations of his next contract, however.
Eli Manning has developed a solid rapport with unproven tight ends in the past. Kevin Boss was a fifth-round pick in 2007, while Ballard emerged as an undrafted free agent last year.
With a leaky defense and issues with roster depth, the Giants will find it unjustifiable to break the bank at tight end.
Draft the Best Player Available
The Giants have been resolute in their selection strategies for the NFL draft. Jerry Reese's brain trust typically plucks the highest prospect off their big board, keenly keeping one eye on the future.
This blueprint has seen the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul play a moderate role on the field as a rookie while learning the game under established veterans.
It will come as no surprise if New York continue its tradition of drafting a defensive end early.
Osi Umenyiora is expected to seek greener pastures this spring, while Justin Tuck may be gearing up for his final season in New York.
LSU's Sam Montgomery is a prospect to follow as we inch towards April's draft. Montgomery would improve vastly under Justin Tuck's apprenticeship and will eventually be a force to be reckoned with.
Trust The Coaching Staff
Since the Giants cannot acquire outside help to fill every position of need, they will need to show faith in the development of their younger players.
Tom Coughlin endured the growing pains of both Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe in the early stages of their careers. The improvement each player put on display in 2012 is a testament to the coaching prowess of Pat Flaherty.
Expect offensive tackle Brandon Mosley to be the Giants' next project.
Mosley would complete the transformation of youth on the offensive line if he is given an opportunity to compete for a starting job. At the very least, it will be interesting to see if Flaherty has worked his magic yet again with a raw player like Mosley.
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