By Jack McKessy
With the NFL free agency period just under a month away, the New York Giants have some big decisions to make with their roster. The Giants are frighteningly close to entering the 2021 league year over the NFL’s projected salary cap, according to Over the Cap, which is projected to drop by over $20 million from last year’s cap due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If New York wants to make any offensive or defensive splashes in free agency and have room to sign their draft picks, they’ll need to make some changes to their roster and possibly restructure some current contracts.
There are question marks around the futures of several current players. Tight end Evan Engram has struggled with dropped passes, offensive tackle Nate Solder has underperformed from the start with one of the team’s worst contracts in recent memory, and guard Kevin Zeitler’s performance declined in 2020. But the most obvious move the Giants could make this offseason is cutting wide receiver Golden Tate.
Tate hasn’t been the same receiver he was early in his career since coming to New York in 2019. The slot receiver who stood out for his ability to generate yards after the catch has not been reaching the same levels of productivity in the last two seasons. In fact, his two years with the Giants have made up the worst two-year stretch of his career since his second and third seasons in the NFL.
In 2019, Tate recorded fewer than 700 yards and 50 receptions on the season for the first time since 2012. His yardage was even worse in 2020, as he finished last year with a mere 388 yards on 35 receptions. Tate also finished the season with just two touchdowns, the fewest in a year since his zero-start rookie campaign.
Since almost every skill player’s performance declines with age, you’d hope a veteran receiver like Tate would make up for it in other ways, but his frustrations ballooned this past year. In the Giants’ Week 8 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tate caught two passes, the latter being his second touchdown of the season. After his first catch, he seemed to yell, “Throw me the damn ball” to the Giants’ sideline. Then, after scoring later in the fourth quarter, Tate yelled: “Throw me the ball” into the camera behind the end zone. As a result, the Giants benched him for their game the following week against the Washington Football Team; that touchdown ended up being his last score of the season. It’s not necessarily a character concern as it is Tate’s own dissatisfaction with his decline in targets and productivity.
While it’s true the Giants desperately need receivers, it has become apparent that Tate is not a good fit in New York. This, combined with the tough position the Giants are in with a lack of cap space, seems to be a clear indicator to cut Tate. But, as has been the case with him, the situation is a bit more complicated.
If the Giants choose to cut Tate at the start of the league year, they’ll save around $6 million in cap space but eat over $4.5 million in dead money. Alternatively, New York can wait until after June 1, when the dead-money hit becomes spread out over the next two years rather than taking it all on this year. If they wait, the Giants will save about $8.5 million while only taking a $2.35 million hit in 2021. So, what’s the right move? That’s really up to the Giants, and more specifically, it’s up to general manager Dave Gettleman.
With the first option, New York frees up money early to jump into the free agency market, but it saves less money on Tate’s contract and therefore can’t spend as much. Otherwise, the Giants could wait for June and have more freedom to spend. Of course, this option might mean the Giants miss out on free agents who sign earlier in the offseason. The decision to cut Tate seems easy, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t happen this offseason. What’s harder to predict is when the cut will happen. Will the Giants prioritize saving money to spend big late, or will they prefer to jump into the free-agent market early?
- Jun 28, 2022
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