Some time in the next two weeks, the Giants brass will summon cornerback Prince Amukamara to the second floor of their facility and inform him of their decision on his future.
It will be either: a) The Giants want Amukamara on their roster for 2015 at a price of $6.898 million or b) They want him on their roster this season for $1.5 million but don't really think he's much more than an average cornerback, and not deserving of almost $7 million for a single season.
It's a tough and awkward spot for Amukamara and the Giants that is dictated by the league's latest Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The Giants have until May 3 to pick up a fifth-year option on Amukamara's rookie contract.
The option year is for the average salary of the NFL's Top 25 paid cornerbacks last season, minus the two best compensated players at the position. That comes out to $6.898 million for cornerbacks No. 3-25 last season. The Baltimore Ravens have already committed that to cornerback Jimmy Smith, the 27th-overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
As of this past weekend, the Giants haven't informed Amukamara (the 19th overall pick out of Nebraska in 2011) of their decision. Soon enough, they will be forced to disclose whether they want to guarantee him that '15 salary or likely risk losing him next offseason.
The almost $7 million would put him on par with the Giants' biggest offseason acquisition this year, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and several other No. 1 cornerbacks. Rodgers-Cromartie signed a five-year, $35 million deal last month.
Cornerbacks in the $7M Range
Jason McCourty (Titans) $7.173M
Ike Taylor (Steelers) $7M
Rodgers-Cromartie (Giants) $7M
Alterraun Verner (Bucs) $6.44M
It's not a cut-or-dry decision on Amukamara. The 24-year-old has been good -- but not great -- in his three seasons with the Giants. Amukamara was Pro Football Focus' 34th-ranked cornerback last season out of the 110 players that qualified at the position. He was first among all corners in tackling efficiency against the run after starting 16 games and finishing with 85 total tackles.
But the Giants loaded up on the cornerback position this offseason. They signed Rodgers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond, Zack Bowman and re-signed Trumaine McBride. Rodgers-Cromartie was signed with the full intention of being the team's No. 1 cornerback.
"Are you the best receiver of their team? [He's] following you then," coach Tom Coughlin said last month at the NFL Meetings.
It's hardly a surprise to Amukamara, and it doesn't seem to hurt his pride one bit.
"I would assume that since they gave him big money. They weren't going to use him as the No. 2, No. 3 corner or put him in the nickel," Amukamara said last week in a phone conversation from Nebraska with NJ.com. "I assume they did have big plans with him. I think that is great. I'm still going to compete to be at that level and it will be great if both corners are playing at a No. 1 corner level. It's only going to help us."
Amukamara's goals entering the season are still to be the team's No. 1 and league's best cornerback. Those are lofty aspirations. Despite a steady improvement in his three years with the Giants, it would take a great leap to fulfill his own desires.
The Giants likely don't see that as probable, as evidenced by their interest in several of the top free-agent corners. They were hell-bent on adding a No. 1 cornerback this offseason.
So where exactly does Amukamara fit in? What do the Giants have in store for him now and into the future? What do they want to invest in him for a single season?
It could be a wait-and-see situation. Thurmond and Bowman both came on one-year deals. If the Giants don't pick up Amukamara's fifth-year option, he'll also be playing on the final season of his deal. It would set up a likely may-the-best-man-win situation for the future.
At the very least, Amukamara should finally be playing in a defense that best suits his skills. He's a physical corner who thrives on making contact with receivers near the line of scrimmage. Now he has others capable of playing a similar style.
Rodgers-Cromartie and Thurmond are both big, physical corners. All signs point to the Giants playing more bump-and-run coverage than in the past. That should only help Amukamara. It plays to his strengths.
"That's the name of my game," he said. "That's what we did here at Nebraska. I enjoy challenging the receivers from the line. I think that is going to be great. I'd be very happy if that becomes most of our game plan."
He'd be equally as content if the Giants secured his services for the 2015 season at close to $7 million, with the potential to negotiate a long-term deal some time in the next two years. It's all on the team's shoulders now, and will be relayed to him some time in the first two weeks of the Giants offseason program.