After cutting Webster's salary and restructuring Baas, it sounds like Giants were about $10 mil below the cap. After adding the money to sign Cullen Jenkins, it may be yet a bit less. Though in reality, the 2013 hit for Jenkins is probably small: he got a $2M signing bonus which is spread over 3 years and probably modest 2013 salary. Sounds reasonable, but:
1- Giants tendered Cruz, A. Brown and S. Brown for a total of about $7M. If they get an offer from another team, it could drive it up even more. Now that Vikings have traded Harvin and they have a lot of cap space, they could make a play for Cruz.
2-Later this year Giants will need $4-5 mil in cap space to sign draft class.
3-Giants are letting Bennett and Phillips go on the market. To retain them would require more money. You have to assume that Phillips will go, especially since they tendered S Brown, but it's not clear that they have the talent on the roster to replace Bennett (wouldn't it have been nice if Adrien Robinson got on the field last year?)
4-There is no room for any but the cheapest free agents, without much more cap work.
How did we get into this mess?
I think every team that has a big cap commitment to a franchise qb is in the same mess that the Giants are in. In the last CBA, the salary cap kept climbing every year, so teams signed players with a signing bonus, but little up front salary and the larger salary on the back end. They assumed that they would either be able to afford the player later because of rising cap numbers or would cut him if his performance was not up to par with the salary. The new CBA seems to me like it is greatly in favor of owners, taking a lot of sources of income out of the defined revenue pool that comprises the salary cap. The cap now is actually less than it was in 2009, the last capped year of the previous CBA (remember 2010 was uncapped year). So teams that are suffering are those that had long term cap commitments to key players, expecting the cap to rise, as well as stupid teams like the Jets who pay big money to old/ bad players. The major commitment (if you know what you are doing) a GM will make is to a franchise qb. Eli has the highest cap hit of any qb, so that is part of Giants problem. Note that Ravens signed Flacco and dumped Bouldin the next week because of being short on cap space (also because Bouldin was aging).
As far as Cruz, I think it may not end well for Giants; and the Vikings are indeed a logical choice to do the damage and pick up Cruz. They have cap space, they just got rid of their star Harvin and have a hole to fill. They also have a young QB that does not take a lot of cap space so they won't get into trouble for another 3-4 years. However, if Vikings don't make a play for him, I'm not sure there will be too many other suitors. You need to be a team that: (1) is a player/weapon away from contending for SB (2) have cap space (3) are willing to make a commitment to a slot receiver that is comparable to what an outside WR would get (4) are willing to overpay Cruz because if they offer him just a "reasonable" contract, Giants will match it.
Don't get me wrong: I love Cruz; and Bennet showed the Giants something last year also. But let's remember: Eli is the key. The last two SBs that the Giants won, they had Kevin Boss and Jake Ballard as TEs, not exactly a pair that is going to make anyone forget Mark Bavaro anytime soon. In 2007, Giants had Steve Smith in the slot, who was a very nice player, but in retrospect, he was made to look much better than he really was by the QB. Smith broke the Giants franchise record for catches by a WR, since broken by Cruz. My point being: Giants need a good player in that slot, and Cruz is one of the top 3 players at that position, but it is Nicks and Eli that make this offense tick. I would like to keep Cruz, but it won't kill the Giants if they don't. Maybe Jernigan can actually get on the field this year and we can see if he can play.