With free agency approaching, we’re analyzing the quarterback position on the New York Giants.
2018 cap hits of top returnees:
Eli Manning: $22.2 million
Davis Webb: $820,756
Pending free agents: Geno Smith
Key stat: Manning had 20 total touchdowns and 18 turnovers in 2017. He is on the decline. He isn't the quarterback he once was at this late stage of his career. His touchdown passes and QBR have decreased each of the past two seasons. He’s also going to be 38 years old before the end of the 2018 season. Only three quarterbacks -- Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and John Elway -- have started in a Super Bowl after their 38th birthday. The odds are stacked heavily against Eli putting together another magical run at this point following a rough season in which he was benched and the Giants finished 3-13.
Money matters: Manning cost $24.2 million against the salary cap in 2016 and $19.7 million last year and will cost $22.2 million this year. What the Giants have received in return for a quarterback paid among the top 10 at his position is middle-of-the-pack play -- not exactly a great return on investment. With a depleted roster around him this past season, it became apparent that Manning isn’t capable of carrying a team for any extended period. It’s possible that the Giants could try to alter Manning’s contract this offseason in hopes of decreasing his cap number.
Big picture: In all the time they've had Manning, the Giants haven’t had to invest much at the quarterback position compared to other teams. They used a fourth-round pick on Ryan Nassib in 2013 and a third-round pick last year on Webb. Nassib didn’t pan out; nobody knows much about Webb yet (aside from him having a strong work ethic), given that he hasn’t taken a regular-season snap. The Giants’ future at quarterback is murkier now than it has been at any time in the past 15 years. Manning is nearing the end of his career, and his successor appears to be in question.
The game plan: Manning isn’t going anywhere, at least not yet. Since new general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur were hired, they have made it clear that they want him as their starting quarterback in 2018. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have options, and they would be negligent not to explore them. The Giants will closely vet all the draft’s top quarterbacks and could end up with a new face of the franchise. Or they could roll with Manning for another year or two and hope Webb proves to be his ultimate successor. Or they could choose to worry about the position down the line. There are plenty of choices and uncertainty. But this is likely a rare opportunity to land the new regime’s quarterback of choice in the draft. It would seem to be too hard to pass up. The last time the Giants had a top-five selection, they turned it into Manning. That worked out OK (see the Quest Diagnostics Training Center trophy case). In the meantime, Manning remains the starter for at least 2018, Webb will likely serve as the backup, and a high draft pick or veteran free agent will likely be added to the mix.