The Giants made an interesting business decision on Monday, giving them a real shot at re-signing Markus Golden at some point this offseason, though it’s unclear how exactly he’ll feel about their maneuver.
Let’s get into what exactly happened, what it means and everything else to know.
What did the Giants do?
They applied the rarely used “unrestricted free agent tender”, per ESPN’s Field Yates.
What does that mean?
It binds him to the Giants if he doesn’t sign with another team by July 22, unless they withdraw the tender. They’d hold his rights until the Tuesday after Week 10, if he doesn’t sign the tender before then.
Between now and July 22, he’s still permitted to pursue signing a contract with other teams, though that will count toward the 2021 compensatory pick formula.
But I thought free agents don’t impact the compensatory formula anymore as of 4 p.m. on Monday?
This is the exception to that rule. Any team that signs Golden will impact the compensatory formula, depending on the salary and length of the contract.
Has it been used before?
At least once. The Patriots used it on running back LeGarrette Blount, though he eventually signed with the Eagles and didn’t wind up returning to New England. It allowed the Patriots to receive a seventh-round pick in 2018.
How much is the tender worth?
It is worth 110% of the players’ previous year salary. For Golden, that was $3.75 million, so he’d mathematically be eligible to earn approximately $4.125 million, though Over the Cap estimates that it would actually equal $4.098 million plus a $25,000 workout bonus and $1 million in incentives. Golden earned $1 million extra in performance-based incentives in 2019 after getting 10 sacks.
Does the tender count towards the salary cap?
This is not like a restricted free agent tender and, per Over the Cap, won’t count towards the Giants’ cap until July 15. Right now, the Giants have more than $15 million in cap space.
So, what if Golden signs with another team before July 22?
There’s nothing the Giants can do about it. They’d technically be eligible to receive a compensatory pick, but as of the compensatory deadline the Giants had signed more compensatory-eligible free agents (Blake Martinez, James Bradberry, Kyler Fackrell, Levine Toilolo) than they’d lost (Michael Thomas), so it’s unlikely they’d actually receive any compensatory picks.
If that’s the case, why are the Giants doing this?
From a business perspective, it’s a smart move for the organization. Golden has lasted on the market longer than anyone has expected, as have other top pass rushers like Jadeveon Clowney and Everson Griffen. It’s conceivable that, after the compensatory deadline passed, another team would’ve been willing to pony up to bring in a player coming off a 10-sack season.
By putting the compensatory formula back on the table, it reduces the likelihood other teams would be willing to go too far above that $4.098 million figure, if they even pursue him at all. We’ll get into the ramifications for the Giants’ relationship with Golden, but from a business sense this could ultimately force a talented pass rusher to return to them at a reduced rate from what he was likely seeking on the open market.
For a team that ignored adding edge rushers in the draft and only signed one (Fackrell, 1.5 sacks in 2019) in free agency, that’s an appealing proposition.
Why don’t more teams do it?
As Over the Cap adeptly explained, typically the cost is potentially too high if it’s a player worth tagging with this tender. If the Seahawks had tendered Clowney, for example, that would’ve cost significantly more.
There’s also the relationship with the player to consider …
Why not just re-sign him regularly?
It’s a fair question. The Giants are acting frugal with a player that was a revelation for them last season. Golden signed on a one-year, prove-it deal — after since-fired defensive coordinator James Bettcher pushed the Giants to sign him — and came in, was far-and-away their most productive pass rusher (10 sacks, 15 hits) and a leader in a young locker room.
It would be understandable if Golden viewed this as a slap in the face, as the Giants are both limiting his potential market and his earning potential after he clearly outperformed his contract in 2019.
Of course, it’s entirely possible the market would never have materialized for Golden anyway, but the Giants didn’t really give it much of a chance to have a second life after the NFL Draft.
What if Golden decides not to sign the tender?
Well, then he’d be stuck with the Giants through Week 10, unless they pull the tender and let him back into unrestricted free agency without being tied down by the tender.
They also could still attempt to sign him to a richer, different contract, in theory, though that ship seems to have sailed.
After the NFL Draft, general manager Dave Gettleman had indicated the Giants were happy with their group of pass rushers, though he left the door open for more moves being made.
“We’re going to constantly evaluate,” Gettleman said on Saturday. “Roster building is a 12-month season. At the end of the day, we feel good about where we’re at and we’ll continue to try to improve it. We’re gonna take a look at what we got, and part of it is gonna be scheme.”
Well, by July 22, the roster might keep growing.
Whether Golden likes it or not.
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Zack Rosenblatt may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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