Eli Manning must earn his new deal -- and that's a good thing for him and Giants
Eli Manning has clearly been put on notice by the New York Giants.
The big question is why it took so long for them to get the message across to their two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
While he may not think so at this moment, it's probably good news for the quarterback.
Manning has one year to go on his contract, and the Giants will pay him $17 million for his services. While that sounds good to 99.99 percent of us, it's actually below the going rate for an NFL starting quarterback, especially one with Super Bowl rings to his credit.
A new standard was set for veteran quarterbacks last week when the Pittsburgh Steelers signed their longtime signal-caller and two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger to a four-year, $87.4 million deal.
The Giants are aware of Manning's status, and they don't seem to mind that he doesn't have a contract for the 2016 season and beyond at this point. Owner John Mara addressed the issue and gave a lukewarm endorsement to the idea of making sure that Manning finishes his career with the Giants.
"We'd certainly prefer to do it (sign an extension) before the season, but if it doesn't happen, we're still going to line up and play," Mara said during the owners meetings in Arizona.
In other words, Mara would like to see Manning prove that he is still capable of playing consistent football over a 16-game season before the team commits to him for the closing years of his career.
Manning, 34, has struggled quite a bit since the Giants' last Super Bowl season in 2011. They have been a woeful 13-19 over the last two seasons, and that kind of performance does not make their starting quarterback worthy of a Roethlisberger-like extension.
That does not mean agent Tom Condon is not going to try to get it for his client. Condon has been one of the NFL's most powerful agents for years, and it's a blow to his client to have to prove himself at this stage of his career.
While the Giants are rarely critical of their quarterback publicly, the truth is that he has not played up to the six-year, $97.5-million contract he signed in 2009.
There is certainly legitimate hope that Manning can prove himself worthy in the 2015 season. He was much better last year than he had been in his two previous seasons. The addition of rookie Odell Beckham Jr. gave the Giants passing game new life, and there's no reason to think Beckham (91 -- 1,305 -- 12) won't be even better in 2015 than he was last year.
Additionally, the return of explosive Victor Cruz (missed 10 games due to torn ACL) could give the Giants one of the most dangerous downfield passing attacks in the NFL. They will certainly need to be, if they are going to compete with "genius" Chip Kelly and the high-powered Philadelphia Eagles offense as well as the defending division champion Dallas Cowboys.
After a disastrous 2013 season in which Manning completed just 57.5 percent of his passes for 3,818 yards and had an 18:27 TD-interception ratio, the Giants quarterback looked like a new man as he completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 4,410 with 30 TDs and 18 interceptions last season.
More than anything, the 2014 season was good for Manning's confidence. It showed him he could still put the ball on the money on medium- and long-range passes after two years of shoddy play.
If Manning really wants a new contract, he should not want to get a deal that is similar to the one that Roethlisberger signed. He needs a better deal than that, and if the Giants are going to come across with that kind of payday for him, Manning has to earn it.
The Giants have shown they believe that they don't have to go another season without making the playoffs. They would not have brought head coach Tom Coughlin back to coach one more season if they believed that a full rebuilding effort was needed. Coughlin will be 69 years old at the start of the season, and he's not changing anything at this point in his career.
The Giants may have been 6-10 last season, but they are gearing up for one more run with the old gang -– and a few shiny new pieces.
Should the Giants make the playoffs and Manning stays healthy during the run, he will almost certainly get his Roethlisberger-like deal.
However, if the Giants get near the top of the NFC or even make a run at the Super Bowl, Manning may just get a deal that exceeds the one that Big Ben just signed.
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