NFL Salary Cap Set at $167 Million

A look at where the New York Giants stand ahead of free agency.

The 2017 NFL salary cap will be $167 million, according to NFL Network’s Judy Battista.

The cap figure comes in $1.1 million under the estimated $168 million figure that had been floating around per earlier reports.

With the 2017 cap set, and the Giants already in the hole for $17 million after applying the non-exclusive franchise tag on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, where does that leave the Giants in terms of space? And how can they clear out more room if necessary to accomplish everything they need to do?

Let’s break it all down.

How much space do the Giants have?

As of March 9, the day the Top 51 rule goes into effect (more on that here), the Giants are projected by Spotrac to have $16.95 million in cap space, a figure that includes the Pierre-Paul franchise tender and the $1.8 million cap rollover from 2016.

This figure does not, to the best of my knowledge, include any restricted free agent tenders made to one or both of running back Orleans Darkwa and defensive end Kerry Wynn. If both of those players are tendered at the original round tender, that is estimated to knock an estimated $2.5 million off the available cap space regardless if they sign those tenders right away.

How much money do they need to allocate for their draft class?

According to Over the Cap, the Giants, who hold the 23rd draft slot this year, will need approximately $5.504 million for their 2017 rookie class. Deduct that estimate from the $16,95 million Spotrac estimate and the Giants technically will have $11.446 million of space to begin free agency with.

Can the Giants be competitive in free agency?

If you’re looking for the Giants to make the splash they made last year, forget it; it’s not happening. The Giants will be able to spend in free agency, but unfortunately, they probably won’t be able to afford filet mignon as they did last year (unless the filet mignon is marked down in price).

In other words, the Giants probably aren’t going to be in a position to afford Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth. They might even have to wait for the initial wave of free agency before attempting to do what they want to do.

My guess is the Giants will sign one big-ticket free agent and we will potentially see a lot of Minimum Salary Benefit Contracts to come after the initial wave of free agency calms down after a few days.

What about if they sign Jason Pierre-Paul to a long-term deal? Will that help?

It will, but it really depends on how much his first-year cap number is. What teams typically do is give a player a low base salary in the first year of a multi-year deal because the player is getting his signing bonus up front. The base salary then jumps up the following years.

So let’s use Olivier Vernon’s contract as an example. Vernon’s base salary in 2016,. the first year of his deal was $1.75 million. This year, that total is jumping up to 11.75 million.

now for accounting purposes, and taking into consideration roster bonuses, signing bonuses and workout bonuses, Vernon’s total cap hit in 2016 was $13 million; this year it jumps to $16 million.

So what I’m getting at is if the Giants can get JPP’s first-year cap figure $3 to $4 million less than what it is now ($16.934 million), then figure that’s $3 to $4 million that can be kicked over to a free agent.

Can they clear more cap space if need be?

Absolutely. Some potential targets whose base salaries could be adjusted to clear more space include, in no particular order, running back Shane Vereen ($3.15 million base salary), cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ($6.98 million base) and linebacker J.T. Thomas ($2.975  million base).

If the Giants were to cut each of those salaries in half they could easily clear at least $6.5 million in space.