David Diehl is a 10-year NFL veteran who knows how the system works. And as he told Tom Rock of Newsday, he's aware that he could be the next New York Giants veteran to be released in advance of free agency:
"The thing you realize at an early age is that as an NFL player you have an expiration date on you and it comes with a price tag," the offensive lineman said Tuesday. "That's the way that it always goes. Nothing has been said to me yet, but that's all things you can't control. The only things you can control are the way you prepare each and every day, getting myself healthy, and whenever that comes about we'll deal with it. But as of now, nothing has been said."
Diehl, who will turn 33 in September and is preparing for his 11th NFL season, is due to earn a base salary of $4.475 million in 2013. It is the last year of his contract with the Giants. If the team signs free agents-to-be Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe and thinks that James Brewer is ready to take over at right tackle, there may not be room in the starting lineup for Diehl. And therefore, there may not be room on the roster for him and his salary.
Diehl's last couple of seasons haven't been his best, though he did play left tackle during the Giants' run to their Super Bowl title in 2011-12. He struggled at right tackle this year and lost playing time to Sean Locklear, and Pro Football Focus graded him out as the 60th-best tackle in the league for the 2012 season. The salary number is high for a 32-year-old who's shown signs of decline.
Yet, the Giants value Diehl for his versatility (he can play any position on the line) and could decide, for a lesser price, to keep him around as a backup even if Brewer or someone else takes over at right tackle. So don't assume Diehl's a slam-dunk to be cut just because you think he should be.
Same with cornerback Corey Webster and his $7 million salary. Webster played poorly in 2012 but very well in 2011, and the Giants don't have any obvious in-house options to replace him if he leaves. They probably can't carry him at that number, but the fact that he and Diehl weren't cut in the purge that sent away Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Canty and Michael Boley a few weeks ago indicates that the team considers their cases more complex.
The Giants right now appear to be evaluating the situations with their own free agents, especially Beatty, and if costs get too high for the guys they decide to keep, that could impact what they do with some of the pricier veterans.