The Giants went into the free-agent negotiating period scouring the market for veteran safeties, even though they had Antoine Bethea on the roster. The reason for this was obvious: There were no plans to keep Bethea on the roster.
Thus, it comes as no surprise the Giants will not pick up the 2020 option on Bethea’s contract as the NFL business year opens up Wednesday. By shedding Bethea’s contract, the Giants gain an immediate $2.75 million in salary-cap space. The Giants entered free agency about $73 million under the cap, and that space took a hit with nearly $63 million allotted to new contracts to free agents and shaving off $16.1 million on the franchise tag for defensive tackle Leonard Williams.
Bethea, signed as part of the influx of players former Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher worked with in Arizona, started all 16 games last season and, at 35 years old, played a career-high 1,132 snaps on defense, almost never coming off the field. Bethea, in his 14th NFL season, led the team with 110 tackles as a deep free safety, but he did not make much of an impact, although he was a respected presence in the locker room.
This news was expected, and Bethea anticipated it late last season.
“I have to be a realist and say, ‘It may be it,’ ’’ Bethea said, acknowledging that Jabrill Peppers and Julian Love were returning young safeties. “There’s a lot that goes into bringing a guy back for year 15 that is 36 (in July). I just know what it is, having Pep here, a good young safety, the way J-Love has stepped in and played well.’’
The Giants will look to add a veteran safety, but will not break the bank to find one. Another one of their players, safety Michael Thomas, is an unrestricted free agent.