When the New York Giants hired general manager Joe Schoen in January, a massive overhaul to a roster that went 4-13 in 2021 and was $12 million over the salary cap limit was expected. Now, the purge has officially begun.
On the morning of March 2, tight end Kyle Rudolph posted a message on Twitter, thanking Giants fans, teammates, staff and the organization. The post signaled that he was being released after one season with the team.
Later in the day, the Giants made it official, announcing they’d released Rudolph, 32, along with running back Devontae Booker, 29.
By cutting Rudolph, the Giants cleared $5 million in cap space. Rudolph was projected to account for $7.4 million against the cap in 2022, and his contract has a dead cap hit of $2.43 million.
In March 2021, former general manager Dave Gettleman signed Rudolph to a two-year, $12 million deal in free agency. Later that month, Rudolph announced that he would require foot surgery, a procedure that kept him out of the majority of training camp. Despite the news, the Giants chose to keep the initial terms of his contract.
Rudolph was a two-time Pro Bowler and one of the NFL’s best tight ends during his 10 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, but he was unable to recapture his previous form with the Giants.
Last season, Rudolph accumulated just 26 receptions for 257 yards and one touchdown in 16 games. With Schoen looking to clear about $40 million in cap space, Rudolph became the first victim of the team’s effort to create financial flexibility.
Tight End Options
With Rudolph gone, and tight end Evan Engram, 27, not expected to be re-signed when free agency starts on March 16, the Giants will have a major hole to fill at the position.
At the moment, Kaden Smith, 24, is the only tight end left on the active roster. But Smith also appears to be a candidate for release in order to clear more cap room. He appeared in nine games in 2021, catching only three passes for 33 yards. By releasing Smith, the Giants would save $2.5 million in 2022.
If Schoen achieves his goal of clearing enough cap space, the Giants could pursue tight end Robert Tonyan in free agency. Tonyan, who will be 28 when the 2022 season begins, broke out on the Green Bay Packers‘ offense in 2020 with 11 receiving touchdowns. In 2021, he played in just eight games before injuring his ACL on October 28 and missing the rest of the season.
Beyond pursuing a productive veteran on the free agent market, the Giants could select a tight end in the NFL draft as well.
Additional Cap Casualties
Although Rudolph was the first cap casualty by the Giants’ new GM, he certainly won’t be the last.
Additional veterans on the Giants roster who could be released in the coming weeks include Blake Martinez ($8.5 million), punter Riley Dixon ($2.8 million), wide receiver Sterling Shepard ($4.5 million), wide receiver Darius Slayton ($2.5 million), center Nick Gates ($2.1 million) and Smith ($2.5 million).
Running back Saquon Barkley ($7.2 million) and cornerback James Bradberry (12.1 million) are potential trade candidates. If the Giants are unable to find a trade partner for Bradberry, he could be released as well.
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