Quarterbacks with a Super Bowl ring just about never reach modern day free agency while still in their mid-30s. Yet that's a possibility for the Giants' Eli Manning. Yet here's why New York is wise to wait on giving Manning a big new extension.
Is Manning a Hall of Famer right now like brother Peyton is? Good question. Those two Super Bowl rings certainly speak volumes, which is one more than Peyton has. However, while Peyton probably goes down as the greatest regular-season quarterback ever, Eli's just middle-of-the-road.
Manning, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2004 draft by San Diego but then immediately traded to the Giants, has been a starter since about halfway through his rookie season when New York went 1-6 under him. Overall, the Giants are 91-76 when Manning starts, and he has every single game since 2005. That's durability. Eli's career completion percentage of 59.0 percent would be good for someone from the 1960s-90s but not now, not when it's so much easier to throw these days and all the rules benefit quarterbacks and receivers. Eli has thrown for 39,755 yards, so he could reach 40K in Week 1, with 259 touchdowns and 185 interceptions, which is a lot. He has never led the league in any significant category other than interceptions, which he has done three times -- last in 2013 with a career-worst 27.
Manning does have those two titles, courtesy of upsets of the Patriots on the NFL odds, and an excellent 8-3 career playoff record, although he hasn't led New York there since winning the Super Bowl in the 2011 season. His completion percentage in the postseason is 61.5 percent, his touchdown percentage is up and his interception percentage down. So he knows how to raise his game.
No Big Ben Money Yet
The 2004 draft was a great one for quarterbacks. The Giants chose Philip Rivers at No. 4 overall and sent him to San Diego in the Manning trade. Rivers has had a fine career but no Super Bowl appearances. He can become a free agent after this season. Ben Roethlisberger went No. 11 overall to Pittsburgh, and he also has won two Super Bowl rings. Pittsburgh didn't wait to extend his contract, recently giving Big Ben a five-year, $99 million extension.
Manning will earn $17 million in salary in 2015 and count $19.75 million against the cap. The Giants and Manning's representatives have had some cursory talks, but the team is comfortable letting Manning play out his deal even though redoing his deal now could save the team some $11 million in 2015 salary-cap space. You can see the Giants' argument. They realize Manning probably will ask for more than Roethlisberger got. Plus Manning will be 35 in January and has been rather inconsistent the past few seasons. Those who place NFL picks know that in 2013 Manning was not very good at all, completing just 57.5 percent with only 18 touchdowns, those 27 interceptions (and four fumbles) and with a rating of 69.4 that was his worst since his rookie year.
Last season, Manning threw two interceptions in each of the first two games in a new offense and New York lost both. He also had an ugly five interception game in a loss at the 49ers on Nov. 16. But Manning and the Giants closed the season fairly well thanks to the emergence of stellar receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Thus Manning's season-ending numbers looked good: 63.1 percent, 4,410 yards, 30 touchdowns, 14 picks and a 92.1 rating that was the third-best of his career. Maybe Beckham is enough to extend Manning's career.
Why I like not extending Manning yet is fourfold: 1) make sure last year wasn't a bit of a fluke both for he and Beckham; 2) tie Manning's future to that of Coach Tom Coughlin, who is very much on the hot seat in 2015 and probably in his last year; 3) give Manning the motivation of playing for that huge new deal, which worked out quite well for Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens in their 2012 Super Bowl season; 4) the team can always franchise Manning next season and not get stuck like the Bears are with Jay Cutler -- Chicago would love to move on from Cutler but his big extension from 2014 all but makes that impossible this year.
It would be interesting to see if New York took a quarterback in the draft. It won't happen at No. 9 overall but maybe there's an intriguing prospect in Round 2 or 3 whom the Giants could take and sit behind Manning for 2016.