Giants must plan for entry-level players to enter final years with contracts

If you think Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones reaching free agency at the same time is creating headaches for the Giants, look away from 2024.

Next season marks the final year of contracts for safety Xavier McKinney, left tackle Andrew Thomas and defensive tackles Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence. In other words, general manager Joe Schoen faces a balancing act this offseason by negotiating with unrestricted immediate free agents and also engaging in early extension talks with the other young basics in the game. a playoff team.

“UFAs will probably be the priority from the start, but we will take that into account as well,” Schoen said. “We’re not just planning the 2023 offseason. We’re looking to ’24 and ’25. What’s on the horizon? How will that affect us moving forward? We’re going through a bunch of different scenarios.

McKinney, 23, has missed eight games this season after breaking his hand and severely weakening three fingers in an all-terrain vehicle crash in Mexico over the bye week. The Giants didn’t withhold his salary for a breach of contract, but did that change the defensive co-captain’s view as a cornerstone of the franchise?

Joe Schoen speaks to the media on January 23.
Joe Schoen speaks to the media on January 23.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

“Not for us,” Schoen said. “He is a young man who made a mistake. Initially, it was not about football. It was more about his well-being as a young man. We all make mistakes and we need to learn from them. He fought to come back. I’m just glad he got to play again. He’s a great guy who we look forward to working with. »

Lawrence, 25, had a breakout season with a career-high 7.5 sacks and remained a dominant player. He made his first Pro Bowl and was a second-team All-Pro, after the Giants were thought to have turned down a trade offer for him at the deadline.

Lawrence is signed on a fifth-year option for $12.4 million next season, but pundits predict the top of the defensive tackle market will explode to between $20 million and $25 million a year. Jets star Quinnen Williams has threatened to skip all voluntary offseason activity if he were to play on his option instead of a lucrative extension.

“Dexter has done enough [to enter talks]”, Schoen said. “Dexter played very well. A great person, a great teammate, happy to have him there. We have certain ceiling space and certain tools at our disposal, and we will determine how we want to use them. .

The Giants may be more patient with 24-year-old Thomas by exercising his fifth-year option (a no-brainer before the May deadline) to secure him for 2024 at around $14.5 million, or about $3 million off. less than he would have been without a 2022 Pro Bowl snub. Thomas was a second-team All-Pro.

Dexter Lawrence leaves the field after the Giants' loss to the Eagles on Jan. 21.
Dexter Lawrence leaves the field after the Giants’ loss to the Eagles on Jan. 21.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

Andrew Thomas
The Giants can exercise the fifth-year option on Andrew Thomas.
Getty Images

Williams, 28, is in a different boat than the others, having already landed his big second contract (three years, $63 million). The last year of that extension is 2023, by which time he must count $32.2 million (the third-largest charge among all non-NFL quarters) against the cap.

Williams suggested on Sunday that he might be open to a pay cut from his $18 million salary, but quickly backed it down, possibly confused with the alternative of a restructuring to lower his cap but add more years to agreement. The Giants could cut Williams for $12 million in savings versus $20.2 million in savings.

“We haven’t discussed it yet,” Schoen said. “I like his quote that he would be interested in a pay cut – [media] did a good job, whoever asked him that. He didn’t talk about it in his exit interview. … If we have to open money, I wouldn’t rule that out.

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