Giants release Armstead

Wednesday was certainly not one of Jim Fassel's better days. He had to tell LB Jessie Armstead and LT Lomas Brown, among others, that the Giants would no longer require their services.

On Thursday the Giants will make the unthinkable - the release of Armstead - become official, announcing the release of six players - Armstead, Brown, TE Howard Cross, S Sam Garnes, CB Dave Thomas and QB Jason Garrett. Of those players, only Garnes and Garrett have a legitimate chance to be re-signed by the Giants.

The club, which released RB Joe Montgomery earlier in the week, will hold onto G Glenn Parker for now and waive him after June 1, when the cap savings will be much greater. The Giants had to shave more than $10 million to get under the $71.1 million salary cap for the start of free agency, which begins on Friday.

It was originally believed that New York would have to re-do the contract of either QB Kerry Collins or DE Michael Strahan ($12.26 million cap figure in 2002, the league's highest) in order to get under the cap, but that wasn't the case. Both players are entering the final year of their contracts. The Giants were able to restructure the deals of a handful of players (something they were hoping they wouldn't have to do), including LB Micheal Barrow, DT Keith Hamilton, C Dusty Zeigler and CB Jason Sehorn. As for Armstead, reports last week that the club planned to release the 'backer weren't proven correct until early this week, when the Giants made the tough decision to part with their five-time Pro Bowl linebacker.

Armstead, whose cap number for next season was scheduled to be $5.6 million, will hope to catch on elsewhere, with John Fox's Carolina Panthers a strong option. For now, the Giants will turn their attention to re-signing unrestricted free agent S Shaun Williams, and may need to do more finagling to fit him under the cap.

Those familiar with management's thinking have admitted that the Giants aren't going to have the financial maneuverability to make a big splash in the free agent waters this off-season, but will be in great position come next off-season.

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