The NY Giants still have a gaping need at edge rusher and Markus Golden remains unsigned. Here’s how the team can swing the cap space needed to re-sign it’s 2019 star.
By now, most NY Giants fans have correctly come to grips with the fact that the NFL free agency period is more or less over for us. The team smartly didn’t compromise its future books by handing out big signing bonuses, but unfortunately, it still has a few gaping holes.
Arguably, the biggest current. need is in the edge-rushing department. While the team has multiple high-upside young players that might end up producing, it lacks an elite player that the offense has to truly worry about on a play to play basis.
Enter Markus Golden, our 2019 sack leader who still puzzlingly remains unsigned. Many speculated that the two-time double-digit sack artist wouldn’t find the market he was looking for and that certainly appears to be the case. Right now, the NY Giants can swoop in and make a huge impact on this franchise for years to come by bringing back a true leader and difference-maker.
“Hustle sacks” be damned, anyone who knows football knows Markus Golden is the real deal. While this is a nasty business, and a team or player never truly owe each other, it’s hard not to feel for Golden after he’s being left out in the cold by the team he balled out for under such a minuscule 2019 salary.
With the Giants currently having less than $10M in available cap space and a long way to go before the season starts, signing him under the current set of circumstances seems unrealistic at best. The bad part of the Giants’ books being so clean (if there is one at all) is that GM Dave Gettleman has little wiggle room in creating the extra 2020 cap space needed to sign Golden.
However, the best in the business find a way to get things like this done and there is a path forward here. Backup center and borderline replacement level player Spencer Pulley is due to make close to $3M in unguaranteed money in 2020. So, with him being expendable due to the fact he’s never proven to be worth what say a mid-round draft pick could give you, he’s first up on the chopping block.
Next is the hard part; finding a player’s contract who is worthy of restructuring. After the disaster that was the Nate Solder restructure in 2019, you can bet Gettleman doesn’t want to have a repeat event. One of Gettleman’s best moves overall was swinging a trade with the Cleveland Browns to send away Olivier Vernon for Kevin Zeitler on one of the best contracts in the game.
While his overall APY is high, he’s a very high-quality player and his contract includes zero guaranteed money at this point. The Browns foolishly traded a high-level guard under a 3 year/$30M contract with just $10M guaranteed, in the first year of his deal. In 2020, cutting Zeitler (which will never happen, but bare with me) would induce just a $5M dead cap hit.
It gets even better in 2021, where Zeitler’s dead cap number is just $2.5M. With such a low amount of money guaranteed, Gettleman has massive flexibility when it comes to a 30-year-old player who undoubtedly will be here for the long term, anyway.
I’m about the biggest proponent to not kicking the can down the road for a rebuilding team – which is what restructuring in a nutshell is – but under this specific circumstance, it’s very doable. If a deal was to be on the table with Markus Golden, this scenario needs to be on deck for Gettleman.
Zeitler’s 2020 cap number is $12.5M against the previous $5M cap number discussed. The team could fully guarantee his salary in 2020, while he’ll be here anyway, and almost right there save the money needed to. Additionally, it could even guarantee him some more money in 2021 to further open up the books.
At this point, Markus Golden has to be hoping for a contract somewhere in the $7M-$8M range; a far cry from what he hoped, but still enough to take care of his family for life. Cutting a player that can be replaced late in the draft like Pulley (or the free agency bargain bin) and giving more upfront money to a player that will be here anyway is a small cry to fill such a huge need with a proven pass-rushing force that wants to be here.
If Dave Gettleman plays his cards right, he could land the edge-rusher the team so desperately needs while barely jeopardizing the future of the NY Giants at all.