On the surface, the NFL Scouting Combine is about the draft. But there is another checkpoint much closer on the calendar - free agency.
So, while 32 general managers and their staffs evaluate the incoming crop of rookies, they must also make decisions about their veterans. Some have more than others, and Joe Schoen is one of them.
"We'll start making those soon," the Giants' general manager said Tuesday afternoon to the gathered media in Indianapolis.
The new league year, and thus free agency, will begin March 16 at 4 p.m. ET. The Giants currently have 22 pending unrestricted free agents, three restricted free agents, and five exclusive rights free agents.
When he took over less than six weeks ago, Schoen knew his first priority was fixing an unhealthy salary cap situation. It will require shedding tens of millions of dollars from the payroll, and the clock is ticking.
"We're still meeting this afternoon into tomorrow, but it's kind of 'if this happens, then this,'" Schoen said. "There's a lot of contingency plans that weigh on some of the decisions that we're going to make. We're getting together with some of the agents of the players on our current roster and starting some initial conversations on different things. But sooner than later, we'll start making the necessary moves to get under the salary cap and start planning for the 2022 season."
The challenge for every general manager is balancing the present with the future.
"If we don't get to where we have money that we can do something in free agency, then it's going to be hard," Schoen said. "Back to my introductory press conference, we want to be able to be competitive today and also build for tomorrow. I think if we're able to do this the right way, I think there's a real possibility that we're going to be able to do that."
There are many ways to make cap room, and Schoen won't rule out any avenue.
"Whether it's trading player for player, I'll listen to anybody," Schoen said. "If it's trading a couple of players, I'm not going to say we're open for business on the entire roster, but if anybody is going to call and they're interested in any of our players, I'll certainly listen. Again, we're in a situation where unfortunately we have to get under the salary cap and we're not in very good salary cap health. I'm not going to say 'yes' to every deal, but I'm definitely going to listen and I'll be open to the situations that are best for the New York Giants."
The same goes for the draft.
The Giants currently hold nine picks, beginning with the fifth and seventh overall selections. Regarding the first round, Schoen said he will sleep well at night if he finds seven players that he likes this week in Indianapolis because he knows he will be able to get two of them. If not, he is willing to move.
"I'm open for business," he said. "If somebody wants to move up and we move back or get a 2023 pick, again, I'll be looking to do what's best for the New York Giants in 2022 and beyond. Compete today, build for the future."
View the players set to become free agents when the new league year begins March 16.