General manager Dave Gettleman on Wednesday declined to commit to Manning for next season, despite being complimentary of his ability and statistics this season. Manning, who turns 38 on Thursday, has one year remaining on his contract and is set to count $23.2 million against the salary cap in 2019.
"I'm committed to making the best decision in the interest of the New York Football Giants," Gettleman said when asked if Manning would return for his 16th season. "We're in the evaluation process. OK, I know that you guys want answers now, but very frankly I didn't come in [New Year's Day]. I'm going to do what I do, which is get in my office and watch film. ... My commitment is to make this team the best team it can be. And if that happens to have Eli playing quarterback, it does."
Gettleman was a bit more settled on Beckham's being with the team next season. The Giants signed Beckham to a five-year deal this past summer that could be worth up to $95 million, making him the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history.
But Beckham played just 12 games because of a quad injury and there has already been speculation that the Giants could look to move him this offseason. His contract would leave the Giants with a somewhat digestible $16 million in dead money if he was traded.
"We didn't sign him to trade him," Gettleman said with a laugh.
So he'll be in New York next year?
"You heard what I said," Gettleman said.
Beckham finished with 77 catches for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns. He also threw a pair of touchdown passes.
Whether he will be catching passes from Manning next season seems probable but not certain. Gettleman and Manning had an extensive "no-holds-barred" conversation on Monday, initiated by Manning, the day after the Giants completed a 5-11 season in which they missed the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons.
"We left it at [being a fluid situation]," Gettleman said. "We had a great conversation. He's a mensch."
Manning still wants to play next season.
"I do. I do," he said during an interview on WFAN with Mike Francesa.
But Manning made it clear he would prefer to remain with the Giants. He was noncommittal about his desire to play with another team if things didn't work out in New York this offseason. Manning said that was something he would have to figure out if that is how his current situation unfolded. It would be "hard to imagine" being in a different uniform.
That potentially leaves open the possibility that we have seen the last of Eli Manning as an NFL quarterback?
"We will see," a seemingly unsure Manning said.
Sticking with Manning is not strictly Gettleman's decision. It's an organizational decision after the Giants passed on drafting a quarterback at No. 2 overall in last year's draft, in favor of selecting running back Saquon Barkley. Gettleman expressed no regrets some eight months later.
Gettleman said that coaches and personnel department evaluations will be part of assessing Manning's future. He stressed leaning on coach Pat Shurmur, who has experience developing quarterbacks. Shurmur has been especially complimentary of Manning in recent weeks.
"So I'm certainly going to listen," Gettleman said.
Manning finished with 22 total touchdowns and 15 turnovers this season. His 21 touchdown passes were the third fewest among quarterbacks who started all 16 games. Only Oakland's Derek Carr and Denver's Case Keenum threw fewer.
But Manning did play better in the second half of the season once the Giants' offensive line solidified to a degree. Thirteen of his 21 touchdown passes came in the second half, when the Giants split their eight games. He also had a career-best 66.0 percent completion percentage and threw for 4,299 yards.
It was an improvement on last season, when the Giants finished 3-13 and Manning had his least productive season since his rookie year.
"If you think about it, the guy was running for his life last year," Gettleman said. "This year we calmed it down once we got rolling, once everyone got comfortable with the offense. Eli had -- if you're going to look at stats, it wasn't too shabby what he did.
"Obviously you want to win more games. We've got to continue to improve the roster."
Gettleman seemed to be impressed, in part, by what he saw late in the season, which is likely to play heavily into the decision. "In December, we scored 36, 35, 27, we scored 40," Gettleman said. "How did that look? He still can make NFL throws. He still got it." Despite the uncertainty, that sounds like a player more likely to return than not.