For the future of one long-term Giant, the writing has been on the wall since early last year. Having had already taken a pay cut last offseason just to remain with the team, defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka was going to need a special effort in 2014 to convince the Giants to retain his services beyond the 2014 season. The 2006 first round pick has served the team solidly at both defensive end and outside linebacker throughout his time with Big Blue, but the 2014 season could not have gone much worse for the two-time Super Bowl winner. His struggles this past year opened eyes and raised questions over how much Kiwanuka even has to offer still at the NFL level. With just 2.5 sacks in 10 games and a major piece in one of the league’s worst run defenses, there is next to no chance the Giants will be keeping Kiwanuka with his release coinciding with a $4,825,000 relief in cap space.
Kiwanuka’s value drops even more when New York’s overall defensive end situation is taken into account. Jason Pierre-Paul is set to become a free agent next month, and a priority for Jerry Reese will be to retain Pierre-Paul either on a long-term deal or by using the franchise tag. It certainly does not help Kiwanuka’s case either that he was significantly outplayed by Robert Ayers and budding 2nd year defensive end Damontre Moore, who seized the opportunity provided by Kiwanuka’s placement on injured reserve following the Week 12 loss to Dallas. Even in a worst-case scenario where Pierre-Paul hits free agency and the Giants place defensive end at the top of their needs list, Kiwanuka figures to play no role in the solution when factoring in age and recent performance.
Is there any hope for Kiwanuka, then? The Giants are sure to cut Kiwanuka, but is he a player the Giants could look to bring back down the road on a lesser deal? His eventual departure from the Giants is hardly going to spark a bidding war for his services, and there is one thing that could work in his favor. As of right now, he is the only player on the Giants roster that is a holdover from Steve Spagnuolo’s first stint in New York. It is by no means a necessary trait for a first-year coordinator to have players with previous system experience under his command, but it does help ease the transition to have veterans to lean on and it could get Kiwanuka if nothing else into Giants camp.