Alec Ogletree among likely cuts as Giants prep for free agency

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Dan Graziano explains why a proposed 17-game season could be a deal-breaker for players and could possibly lead to a 2021 work stoppage, among other things. (1:35)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's decision time. This next month or so is when the New York Giants have to get their finances in order in preparation for NFL free agency.

The Giants already have $64 million in salary-cap space available for the 2020 season. That number can easily balloon to more than $80 million with a few moves. It can get close to $95 million if they decide to let loose before the negotiating window for free agency opens on March 16.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Likely cuts

Alec Ogletree, inside linebacker

2020 salary: $10M | Dead money if cut: $3.5M | Cap savings: $8.25M

Ogletree is slated to be the NFL's fourth-highest-paid inside linebacker this season behind Bobby Wagner (Seahawks), Kwon Alexander (49ers) and C.J. Mosley (Jets). But he's nowhere near that class. There was a reason the Rams were so eager to trade him several years back. Ogletree had a 52.7 grade in coverage this season, per Pro Football Focus. That has him buried in the bottom half of the league among inside linebackers. It appears likely the Giants will get out of the remaining two years of this deal, despite Ogletree providing a veteran presence as a team captain.

Kareem Martin, outside linebacker

2020 salary: $4.8M | Dead money if cut: $1.17M | Cap savings: $4.8M

The Giants allowed Devon Kennard to leave in free agency and cut Romeo Okwara in training camp in 2018, in part because Dave Gettleman signed Martin to a substantial deal in his first offseason as general manager. Martin was supposed to blossom in a bigger role with familiarity in James Bettcher's defense. It didn't happen. He had 1.5 sacks in two seasons and became a backup/rotational player in 2019, when he missed a good chunk of the season with a knee injury. Martin's salary and role are disproportionate, making this seem like a rather easy decision.

Antoine Bethea, safety

2020 salary: $2.75M | Dead money if cut: $125K | Cap savings: $2.75M

He was a veteran presence in a young, raw secondary who could serve as a coach on the field as an extension of Bettcher. But Bettcher is gone and Bethea, 35, appeared to have lost a step or two last season despite leading the team with 110 tackles. The dead money if he is cut is minimal, and his salary is also nominal if he's a starting-caliber player. However, based on last season, it's hard to imagine that the Giants would be comfortable with Bethea as their starter opposite Jabrill Peppers -- especially considering Julian Love should be able to provide comparable results at a much lower cost.

Rhett Ellison, tight end

2020 salary: $5M | Dead money if cut: $2.2M | Cap savings: $5M

Ellison's $7.2 million cap number for 2020 places him 12th among NFL tight ends, but his production doesn't warrant that type of investment. He has been a serviceable blocker (65.4 grade last season, 16th among tight ends) but hasn't produced much as a pass-catcher. One option would be to negotiate a pay cut. The other would be to search for a more affordable blocking tight end.

Unlikely cuts

Golden Tate, receiver

2020 salary: $8M | Dead money if cut: $7.1M | Cap savings: $3.4M

Tate was suspended the first four games of last season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. That voided all of the remaining guarantees on the $37 million deal he signed last offseason, which gives the Giants the option to move on. But it's clear they still believe Tate is a quality player; they were happy with what he provided (49 catches, 676 yards, 6 TDs in 11 games) post-suspension, and cutting him would bring back $3.4 million. Maybe severing ties with Tate would be realistic if the Giants were tight against the cap and desperately in need of money. It seems unlikely now, especially considering Tate's versatility fits what coach Joe Judge is trying to accomplish. Tate, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton give the Giants a solid group of wide receivers for quarterback Daniel Jones in Year 2.

Nate Solder, offensive tackle

2020 salary: $13M | Dead money if cut: $13M | Cap savings: $6.5M

The Giants converted $7.5 million of Solder's 2019 base salary into a fully guaranteed roster bonus that will count against their salary cap in 2020 and 2021. You don't do that with a player you're going to cut the following offseason. The Giants already have a hole at right tackle. Creating one at left tackle would be difficult -- and costly -- to fill, especially with $6.5 million of cap space created if Solder were cut. Despite his struggles, Solder still ranked 46th out of 81 tackles this past season, per PFF. The Giants are likely going to have to deal with a middle-of-the-road tackle for $13 million for at least one more season. They can draft a tackle this year and hope he develops into a starter who can take Solder's place in 2021. It also probably doesn't hurt that Solder's best years came with Judge watching as an assistant with the Patriots.