By Michael Stewart
Since the Giants officially announced the benching of Eli Manning in favor of underachiever Geno Smith; much has been written from disbelief to what Manning’s options should be. If this was a decision involving all the upper management (owners, GM and HC), then it’s likely that this is not a temporary move and the Eli Manning era with the Giants has come to an end. Now added to this equation is the firing of both GM Jerry Reese and HC Ben McAdoo. Also, owners John Mara and Steve Tisch have announced that Manning will once again be the Giants starting quarterback as least for the upcoming game against the Cowboys. Despite these sudden changes and the reinstatement of Manning, could this still be the final 4 games in Eli Manning’s career as a Giant?
This off season, the Giants new regime (GM and HC) will need to make a decision on whether or not Eli Manning is a Giant in 2018 and that decision must be determine before March 17th. That’s the date that the Giants must make a decision on whether or not to retain Manning or release him. If they retain him, they will have a backup quarterback making $22.5M; which would account for a huge percentage towards the teams salary cap. However; by releasing him before March 17, they would save $5M in roster bonuses, $10.5M in salary; which could clear nearly $16M off the salary cap. Should the Giants convince Manning to waive his NTC (no trade clause), they would only save $9.8M in cap space before June. The Option of trading Manning seems very unlikely based on two reasons: For starters, what type of return could the Giants really expect to get for a 36 year old quarterback who is near the end of his career. Probable scenario would be mid-round drafts picks and nothing more as Manning’s stock would be low. The release of Manning would give the New GM a full piggy bank in cap space to rebuild this team beyond 2018 and for many years. Here’s a look at which teams would be interested in Eli Manning (released/traded):
- Jacksonville: This team is on anyone’s list as the most obvious landing spot for Manning with former Head Coach Tom Coughlin running the show. Reuniting the future Hall of Famers makes a ton of sense as Manning could be the missing piece that could put the Jaguars into the upper elite teams in their conference in 2018.
- Denver: It worked out well for big brother Peyton, so why not for Eli as the Broncos quarterback situation is a total mess. Although the Broncos are still high on Praxton Lynch, he is clearly a few years away of leading this team; which would fit well with Manning playing a few more years and tutoring Lynch along the way.
- Minnesota: Seems odd to include the Vikings with the sudden excellent play of Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater still viewed very high among the Vikings Management. However; both quarterbacks are not under contract for 2018 and that is why Manning could make a lot of sense. The Vikings defense is the main reason why they are leading their division and having a veteran like Manning running the offense could place the Vikings into a higher status (if that’s possible).
- Arizona: With the injury bug once again claiming Carson Palmer and his career in doubt; the Cardinals are relying on journeymen Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton to lead the offense. Both will be UFA this off season, so like the Vikings; Manning would make a lot of sense to take over an offense that has talent.
Final Thoughts: On a personal note, the decision to bench Manning by the Giants management and coaching staff is a disgrace and should be viewed as heartless. I realize that football is a business and every player will one day need to step down for the next generation. Perhaps I wouldn’t so adamant about his move if it was made with a future young talented quarterback waiting in the wings; similar to when the Giants benched future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner in favor to Eli Manning. Moving forward, owners Mara and Tisch have reached out to former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi as a consultant to help in the hiring process as Kevin Abrams (18 years with the Giants) will serve as the Giants interim GM for the rest of the season. Will the Giants bring in a new GM from outside the organization? Will the Giants go after a big named head coach? Will the Giants decide to release Manning before the March 17 deadline to free up much needed cap space? Or will Eli Manning despite the firing of Ben McAdoo, waive his no trade clause and force the Giants to trade him this offseason? These are just a few of the many questions that will soon have an answer before the start of the 2018 season.