Giants assistant GM Kevin Abrams is the club’s salary cap expert.
Abrams is the lead negotiator with player agents in free agency, the Giants executive who bids, argues and finalizes the terms of contracts for big fish like wide receiver Kenny Golladay.
Abrams, therefore, was the spearhead of the Giants’ free agency spending spree this March that included doling out $118.5 million in total guarantees to their top four signings alone.
So when he admits that shelling out so much money could make 2022 salary cap management “a little bit of a challenge,” it’s coming from the Giants decision-maker who knows the NFL’s and team’s finances best.
“I think 2022 could be a little bit of a challenge depending on where the cap goes to,” Abrams said in a Tuesday press conference. “And then beyond I’m more optimistic that nothing we’ve done this year puts us in any precarious position. But next year could be a little bit of a challenge.
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“We’ll see,” Abrams added. “It’s gonna depend on science and state legislatures and fans in stands and a lot of variables, and we’ll see how it goes. I don’t think we’re in a bad spot cap wise, but next year could probably be a little more challenging than the other years after that.”
Abrams is mostly commenting on the uncertainty of the 2022 league salary cap. He and the Giants are prepared for any outcome, and he’s not worried about pivoting if need be.
He’s just being honest; this year’s cap dropped $15.7 million from last year’s to $182.5 million. And even if it increases next year, the raise could be marginal depending on a host of factors.
The Giants hold about $5 million in cap space at the moment. But next year, even if the league’s salary cap hypothetically rises to $203 million, the Giants project at only $15 million in cap space, per overthecap.com, the sixth-lowest in the NFL.
The reason is because of how Abrams had to structure contracts to fit this year’s big-ticket players under the 2021 cap. He pushed money into the future for the purpose of upgrading the Giants significantly here and now.
Leonard Williams’ cap charge is $11 million for 2021 but skyrockets to $26.5 million in 2022. Golladay’s charge is $4.4 million this year and $21.15 million in 2022. Adoree Jackson’s jumps from $6.1 million in 2021 to $15.5 million in 2022. Kyle Rudolph’s goes from $4.75 million to $7.25 million.
Abrams even had to tack a void year on the end of Golladay’s four-year contract — which is not the Giants’ style — to prevent the cap hits from being even higher.
This was the cost of being aggressive in a year with less room to spend. This was the price of the Giants putting so much emphasis on winning in 2021, for better or worse.
“We don’t know what next year’s gonna look like yet, so we’re making some conservative assumptions,” Abrams said. “We were aggressive this year. We had to do probably a few cap practices that we normally, typically try to avoid, but with a lower cap number and some plans to be aggressive we had to do some of those things. And we know next year’s number could be a low number again, and we’re prepared for whatever the outcome is.”
The Giants’ expenditures still are staggering when written out on paper. Williams landed $45 million in total guarantees, Golladay got $40 million, Jackson got $26.5 million and Rudolph hauled in $7 million.
Almost unanimously, current and former executives polled by the Daily News believe the Giants overpaid for Golladay, Jackson and Rudolph. Other sources who understand the cost of doing business in free agency still questioned why the Giants went all-in so unexpectedly, in particular on players with recent injury histories.
It wasn’t a surprise around the league that the Giants were active in free agency at all. There was solid intel prior to free agency that they would be aggressive to upgrade their team.
What wasn’t expected was the amount of money they would spend to land players at all costs like they did with Golladay, who didn’t have a strong market but still got a startling four-year, $72 million deal in New York.
GM Dave Gettleman defended the Giants’ payouts.
“We feel like we got… four high-dollar guys at very good value, for their positions, for the whole nine yards. So we feel very good about what we’ve done,” Gettleman said.
Abrams assured that he knew prior to free agency that he would be spending big.
“We did, yeah,” he said.
Asked if he believes a team can overpay a player, Abrams said: “Certainly you can overpay a player. The danger of free agency is that it’s more auction than it is negotiation, but we know what we think the market is for a position, we know where we think players fit within that market, and we’ll set those parameters of where we’re willing to go to get a player well in advance of the beginning of free agency.
“Ideally you come in lower obviously than what you think your ceiling of comfort is, but we do identify what those parameters are before we even begin the process,” he added.
There were obviously players that the Giants pursued and failed to land, as well.
They went hard after Rams edge Leonard Floyd, who returned to L.A. They reportedly also wanted Chargers TE Hunter Henry but saw him sign in New England.
Abrams granted that “it’s always a bit of an unknown who the players are… (that) you will be able to attract.” But said “there were no surprises” when it came to spending so much cash.
“We knew we were gonna be aggressive,” he added.
He said ownership’s support emboldened the front office to go out and make upgrades, well aware that fewer teams would have money to spend this year.
“I think we thought that there would be some opportunities because there might be fewer buyers out there,” he said. “We think that our plan was to be aggressive from the beginning, though, and we knew that we had ownership support, which was probably uncommon this year to be as aggressive as we were, and we had our targets. And as the market played out, it became apparent to us with the targets that we wanted to go and pursue who was going to be available at the right price for us.”