Why OBJ’s Contract Extension May Have to Wait

Since the start of the New York Giants offseason program, receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has done all the right things in terms of showing up for the voluntary program (including the minicamp held before the draft) and keeping himself out of any more situations that might result in the unfavorable optics.

Still, with Beckham set to enter the option year of his rookie deal, team co-owner John Mara has apparently not changed his stance regarding any sense of urgency to get Beckham signed to a long-term extension this year.

“I wouldn’t say a sense of urgency,” Mara told reporters last night  at the United Way of New York City’s 25th Anniversary Gridiron Gala.

“The contract will get done when it’s supposed to get done.”

Mara, who created a stir at the league meetings back in March when he declared that not even Beckham was “untouchable” in terms of his Giants future, has since backed off that statement, instead emphasizing that he doesn’t want to see Beckham traded.

However, one thing he has remained consistent with is not wanting to put a deadline on beginning or completing any negotiations.

On one hand, the Giants are taking a huge gamble if an NFL Network report about Beckham not wanting to set foot  on a football field without a new contract, comes to fruition. Beckham is going to be an integral part of Pat Shurmur’s offense, and to not have him on the field would be a significant blow.

On the other hand, the Giants have all the leverage as if Beckham were to hold out for the entire upcoming season, his contract would toll (carry over) to the next season unless he reported by Week 10.

The most likely scenario though is the Giants might not have any choice but to wait to extend Beckham because they don’t currently have the salary cap space necessary to give Beckham a new deal that would average about $17 million per yea.

According to Over the Cap, the Giants need $9,723,575 to sign their rookie draft class, but because of the Top 51 rule being in place, the Giants actually need $6,843,575 in functional cap space.

According to the NFLPA, the Giants currently have $9,193,072 of cap space. That means they’d be left with approximately $2,349,497 of space for in-season emergencies and such—hardly enough to devote to what would likely cost them upwards of $4 million for the first year of Beckham’s new deal.

So why not just move some money around from other contracts to make room? Besides finding a player who is willing to agree to a contract restructure, the problem with that thinking is that of the Giants’ top-10 highest salary cap figures, only cornerback Janoris Jenkins doesn’t have any guaranteed money due to this year.

The Giants sort of put themselves in a bind when they dumped several high-priced contracts this offseason. Of the seven players who appear on the dead-money list, five count for at least $1 million in dead money, with defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s $15 million in dead money leading the way.

Per Over the Cap, the Giants have $21,102,819 in dead money, currently the third highest total in the league, behind Buffalo ($36,389,875) and Dallas ($24,019,409).

The Giants could, if they find a player willing to redo his deal and have most of his base salary converted into a signing bonus that can be prorated over the remaining life of the contract, go that route.

However, with the current CBA set to expire after the 2020 season and there being early rumblings of a work stoppage looming on the horizon, players and their agents might be reluctant to shift money around or agree to “fake years” on a deal that might otherwise bind their clients to a team longer than necessary (since it’s presumed adding extra years to a deal would create a situation where those years would “toll” (or carry over) if they are indeed lost.

The point is that even if the Giants wanted to get something done with Beckham this year, the numbers don’t favor them doing so given the current circumstances. To make this work, the Giants would, for example, have to see if quarterback Eli Manning, who already received a $5 million roster bonus, might be willing to lower his $10.5 million base salary in exchange for an extra season and more money up front.

It would be a major surprise if the Giants took this course of action, though, given the risk of perhaps extending Manning another year to lessen a cap hit could backfire if his skills suddenly drop off a cliff.

The best and most likely course of action regarding Beckham is to wait until next year. He’s guaranteed $8,459,000 for this year, which is far less of an “insult” than the $1,839,027 base salary he made last year.

While the Giants remain optimistic that Beckham will make a full recovery from his broken ankle suffered last year, it probably wouldn’t be wise to rush into a new deal now even if they had the money, not without first seeing how he responds once being fully cleared for football activities.

And if things were to progress to where Beckham resumes his pre-injury production but is unable to come to terms with the Giants on a new deal, the Giants, who as of right now have a projected $39,522,000 of cap space for 2019, could always deploy the franchise tag on him in 2019.

The drawback regarding that move, though, is the Giants won’t have as much leverage as they do now. If they were to franchise Beckham next year, the receiver could realistically decline to sign the franchise tag and not be in jeopardy of having his contract toll (since he wouldn’t have a contract) nor missing out on any pensions or benefits that come after a player puts in so many years.

The ideal situation for the Giants is to get Beckham extended next offseason, before the start of the free agency period and before things have the potential to become contentious.