Giants’ Restricted Free Agency: A Quick Peek

With free agency right around the corner, let’s take a peek at the Giants’ internal restricted FAs and what their options are….

ERFAs:  C Jim Cordle, DE Adrian Tracy and DL Justin Trattou

ERFAs , or exclusive rights free agents, are players with less than three accrued NFL seasons. They cannot sign with another team and, because they have few options, usually sign the tender offered to them by their current team.  We expect the Giants will tender all three. Cordle has been around for a few seasons and can play guard as well as center. They’ve waited to reap the benefits on Tracy, so he’ll be back. Trattou spent the majority of 2012 on IR and wasn’t released, so he’s in the plans somewhere as well. Nothing is guaranteed, of course. They have to make the roster first.

RFAs: RB Andre Brown, S Stevie Brown and WR Victor Cruz

RFAs, or restricted free agents, are players with three accrued seasons whose contracts are expiring. They can accept offers from other teams, but their old team has the right of first refusal and can match the offer. These players will all be assigned tenders with attachments. That means should  the Giants decide not to match an offer, they will receive compensation in the form of  a draft pick, or picks, from the team that signs the player. In certain cases, a trade can be worked out to circumvent this process should the demand for the player be high.

There are three levels of tenders; a first found (worth $2.879  million), a second round $2.023 million) and a third option (approx $1.323 million) which compensation is based on the player’s original draft position, called an original round tender. If the player was not drafted, they would be assigned a right-of-first-refusal tender, also worth $1.323 million. There is no compensation in the form of draft picks attached to that option.

Andre Brown is coming off a broken leg, so it is unlikely teams will risk a high draft pick by offering him a contract. Not the same can be said for Stevie Brown or Cruz.

Stevie Brown, 25, started in only 11 games last season and turned in one of the best performances by a DB anywhere. He was second in the league in picks (8) and first in INT return yards (307). Needless to say, he has plenty of upside. We think the Giants will place a second-rounder on him unless they lock him up beforehand. They obviously want to keep him, but in this crazy league you never know. He could get an offer they can’t – or won’t be able to – match.

Cruz’ situation is the one the Giants will be concentrating on.  If a deal cannot be struck before free agency begins, the Giants will place a first-round tender on him. That alone may not keep the wolves from the door. He is easily worth a first-rounder, but he is demanding top dollar. There is no doubt he belongs here in New York (and wants to stay), but one can never tell. This will probably be Cruz’ best shot at making big money in his career, so his agent will want to make it count. Lots of scenarios to ponder on this one….

Worst-case scenario is Cruz gets bowled over by a team, the Giants can’t match and cash in on the draft pick. Best-case scenario is that he never sees the light of day as a free agent. Hope for the latter. Our guess is a deal gets done, or the Giants match another team’s offer. Hard to see him not getting several offer sheets sent his way, so the Giants are basically on the clock here. Will they sit back and wait, or lock Cruz up before the deadline..?. Cruz also has not ruled out a holdout, but first things first. Let’s see what happens before March 12.

Again, here’s the deadlines/schedule for free agency:

March 12 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit Qualifying Offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.

March 12 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit a minimum salary offer to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2012 contracts and who have fewer than three seasons of free agency credit.

March 12 — All 2012 player contracts will expire at 4:00 p.m., New York time.

March 12 — Top-51 Begins. All clubs must be under the Salary Cap prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time.

March 12 — The 2013 League Year and Free Agency period begin at 4:00 p.m., New York time.

March 12 — Trading period begins at 4:00 p.m., New York time, for 2013 after expiration of all 2012 contracts.