Giants need a method to cap madness

Kerry Collins supposedly is seeking a $100 million contract from the Giants. Supposedly.

"I hope he gets it," says teammate Michael Strahan. "If he gets that kind of money, I hope it's [the new contract] done before mine."

Settle down, Michael. Collins is not going to get that kind of money. He's probably not even asking for it.

That $100 million figure is preposterous and most likely inaccurate. David Dunn, who is Collins' agent, is too experienced to leak a ridiculous figure like that and risk having his client become a greedy target for Giants fans.

And certainly the Giants aren't going to imply they will pay that kind of money to their quarterback when they have no intentions of going anywhere near nine figures.

That being said, it's also becoming obvious the cap relief many expected the Giants to receive from both Collins and Strahan isn't going to materialize, either. Redoing the final year of each contract, turning a humongous 2002 base salary into a signing bonus that could be spread out over the life of an extended deal, was one way the Giants were expected to clear some cap room for this season.

Strahan is set to make $8 million this season, Collins $4 million. Do the math: That's $12 million in salary of a $71.1 million cap devoted to two players. That leaves less than $60 million to cover the other 50-plus.

But let's look at one reason the Giants decided to release Jessie Armstead this week rather than wait for June 2, when they could have cleared more 2002 cap space. They did not want $2 million in dead money on next season's cap. That's especially true since their top divisional rivals, Philadelphia and Washington, will be able to play the market this year. The Redskins already have started by signing Armstead and former Tampa Bay wide receiver Reidel Anthony.

Restructuring either or both of the big contracts would ease the Giants' current situation, but once again could put the squeeze on them in 2003. It also will require a long-term commitment to a pair of players who, while certainly valuable to this team, may suffer from what has transpired in the past few days around the league.

Salary cap problems have forced several clubs to make drastic cuts. Mike Nolan, the Ravens' new defensive coordinator, was greeted Friday at the NFL scouting combine workouts with a "Congratulations - I think." Nolan has had about half his starting unit pulled out from under him by a team that has incurred the greatest blood-letting in salary cap history. Even quarterback Elvis Grbac left the building after just one season as the Ravens starter.

No team really seems to have figured out this salary cap thing in a way the others can follow and prevent this mad slashing come the first of March every year.

Until someone comes up with the magic formula - if there is one out there - you will always read how some coach hated to cut one of his top players, but had no choice.

The Giants may be trying to buck the tact they and many other clubs have adopted, playing from year-to-year, by making a preemptory attack on the future. Get things in shape now, then play with the house money down the road.

If that's the case they must think a little harder about making long-term commitments to players even as successful as Strahan and Collins have been. Granted the Giants will be rolling the dice if they do not lock up these two players. A return to the success of the 2000 season - with Collins on fire at quarterback and Strahan threatening his own single-season sack record on defense - could price the two out of the Giants' reach.

Right now, however, it looks like both will have to shrink their original asking prices if they are to get anything done this off-season.

"I'm not worried about [my contract]," Strahan said. "They pay me plenty of money and I've got one year left. I'm not impatient."

Good thing. It doesn't look like anything will get done quickly with either him or Collins, and the Giants will just have to find other ways to get themselves in better cap position during the next few months.
approx. july 1, 2002