Another Manning may be on the move in 2015. While it may be hard to fathom a team letting a quarterback who won two Super Bowl titles with the organization–and was the first overall pick and face of the franchise–go at the end of the season, conditions exist that make it a very real possibility.
Let’s start with the likelihood that the Giants will have a new coaching staff this offseason, where Coughlin is talking about “paying the price” as the person responsible for what is going on with the Giants. The 68-year old coach would enter the final year of his contract as a lame duck unless the Giants extend him. New York is 19-25 over the last three seasons with no playoff appearances, since the Super Bowl win. It’s hard to see an extension coming.
That would mean a new coaching staff, likely another new offense to learn, and new ideas. Some head coaches would like to “shop for their own groceries” so to speak, and it may impact the coaching search. Others, no doubt, would like to have Eli Manning, but it’s not just a choice of whether Manning is a viable starting quarterback for the next few years. It’s the cost for a team that is reloading.
In a vacuum, Eli Manning is one of the best 20 or so quarterbacks, and will be that for a few more years. His cost and cap charge, though, make him pretty expensive. According to Spotrac, his cap charges the last two years have been $20.85 million and $20.4 million. Next year, it will be $19.75 million.
The difference next year is that the dead money finally drops, in the final year of his contract, to a point where releasing him becomes a realistic option. The Giants would have a “dead money” hit of $2,250,000 if they release Manning. They would save over $17 million by releasing him. For comparison, the quarterback franchise tag number was $16.192 million in 2014. That’s the football equivalent of potentially being worth more dead than alive.
The Giants could extend Manning to lessen that cap hit, but I don’t see them bringing in a new coach, letting Manning stay on the remaining year of the contract, and then deciding which way to go a year into the new coach’s grace period. If they extend him, they would be banking on Eli being part of the rebound, and performing at a high enough level to justify the cost of extension, well into his late thirties.
For what it’s worth, here’s a list of the 20 guys most similar to Eli Manning in “adjusted net yards per attempt from ages 27 to 31, who played for only one franchise during that period. (The numbers are era-adjusted, with 100 being average). I’ve been more on the Eli defender side of the equation, and Eli was pretty good from 2008 (or should we say late 2007) to 2012, ranking tied for 21st among all passers with at least 50 starts.
Eli is not his brother, or other perennial all-pros like Joe Montana, Tom Brady, or Dan Fouts in their late 20’s and early 30’s. He was pretty good for a stretch. The above list shows the age during last year that the player was on the roster where he starred from age 27-31, and the age the last year he started 8 or more games in the NFL (regardless of team).
The median last year with the team was at age 34. Eli turns 34 in January. The median last year starting 8 games was 34.5.
I’m not sure it makes sense for the Giants to extend him given the current state of the team, and the cost. Nothing’s guaranteed. Many of those teams with those star quarterbacks went through prolonged droughts at the end of their runs. But given the current salary structure, devoting a large chunk to a non all-pro QB at ages 34 to 36 is not ideal.
As for Manning, while he has strong ties to New York, it might be in his best interest to move on as well. He might just be more valuable to another organization with a short window and the potential for success. Houston, for example, would be a pretty good fit. It’s a team that came into this year with questions at quarterback, and has some star talent. With DeAndre Hopkins and a veteran in Andre Johnson, to go with a defense anchored by J.J. Watt, it would be the type of situation crying out for a decent veteran quarterback to land.
[photos via USA Today Sports Images]