The New York Giants were able to keep the left side of their offensive line together this offseason, which should be considered a monumental victory given that it was accomplished in a salary cap friendly manner. However, now that the left side off the offensive line is set in stone for 2013, it's time to address the right side, namely right tackle David Diehl.
Diehl had the worst season of his career in 2012. His footwork was poor, he was weak at the point of attack and was the weak link on an offensive line that wasn't impressive to begin with. Although Diehl is a two-time All-Pro and was an instrumental aspect of two Super Bowl championships, his play has been in significant decline for the last two seasons. He's no longer a starting caliber right tackle in the NFL, which presents a slew of problems for the Giants to solve between now and Week 1.
The Giants have $3 million of dead money committed to Diehl for 2013, regardless of any contract restructure that takes place. However, for a player that is no longer worth anything more than the veteran minimum, a base salary of $4.45 million is absurd. The Giants should be able to negotiate that down closer to $1 million, which is fair value for a player that is probably not going to receive anything more than that on the open market and is nothing more than a backup at this point in his career.
Although the situation appears relatively cut-and-dry, it's always a complicated endeavor when asking a long time veteran leader to take a pay cut. There are pride issues involved, as Diehl has to be willing to accept a massively reduced salary and role for the 2013 season. For a player that is used to being relied upon in key situations, that can take some time to accept.
However, the Giants can not afford to pay Diehl anywhere near $4.45 million in 2013. With Victor Cruz's contract situation coming to a head, the team is going to need all he salary cap space they can get. By restructuring the likes of Eli Manning, Antrel Rolle and adding a voidable year to the end of Chris Snee's contract, the team has some room to maneuver. Even so, if the team is going to pay Cruz a salary commensurate with his market value, David Diehl's salary needs to be reduced significantly. There are no two ways around it, and the fact that Diehl has not agreed to restructure yet is likely inhibiting Cruz from signing his contract.
The longer the offseason drags on, and the less salary cap room teams around the league have, the less leverage Diehl has in his contract negotiations. As teams continue to fill out their depth charts, Diehl is likely choosing between playing for between $1-1.5 million this season for the Giants, playing for the veteran minimum somewhere else or retirement. If he can come to terms on an agreement with Big Blue, he deserves a spot on the roster. Diehl can still provide quality depth at four positions along the offensive line, which is a valuable commodity.
However, that value has a limit that the Giants front office must decide on and stick to, as the team needs all the salary cap room possible to ensure enough salary cap space to sign Cruz and their incoming draft picks. If these tasks are accomplished, the Giants will have had an extremely successful offseason. If Victor Cruz is forced to sign his tender and play this season without a long term contract, he likely walks in 2014. The team needs the salary cap room to sign him now, and that all starts with clearing as much of Diehl's astronomical cap hit as possible.
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